How Language Skills Assessments Make the Food Service Industry Safer

Authored by: Mitch R. Confesor

Versant’s suite of language skills tests can benefit the hospitality industry, addressing safety concerns for the food services sector. In fact, language learning for non-native English speakers in restaurants can definitely translate to food safety and customer satisfaction.

With the U.S. restaurant industry already providing jobs to around 15 million people, it will predictably create more than a million more jobs over the next decade.

A quarter of restaurant employees are in fact foreign-born, compared to less than a fifth for the overall economy. One report notes that more than four out of 10 restaurant chefs in the U.S. are actually foreign-born.

A diversified workforce includes people who are non-native English speakers. As the fastest-growing ethnic group in America, a large percentage of Hispanics find initial employment in the food industry.

Food Safety: Language Skills and Other Barriers

Researchers have largely attributed worker safety and occupational injury to language barriers and a lack of appropriate employee training.

The workplace fatality rate for Hispanic/Latino workers pose the highest of any group, higher by almost half the overall rate.

In fact, occupational injury rates are highest among workers with limited English proficiency, mostly immigrants including those from Asia and Africa.

Aside from assessing English skills for non-native English speakers, Versant also assesses Spanish speaking skills.

language skills are critical in restaurant kitchens

Using Versant’s assessment test for your hiring, native English speakers and non-Hispanic speakers (like Asians) encourage employees to communicate, and connect, better with their Spanish-speaking co-workers.

After all, Hispanics have concerns their supervisors and co-workers, who do not speak Spanish, are less willing to explain things. That is, supervisors often tell Spanish-speaking workers to simply skip food safety handling procedures.

That’s why non-English speakers are more reluctant than English speakers to communicate issues such as safety practices with management.

Versant in English and Spanish

With simultaneous English and Spanish translations, Hispanic workers now find safety, sanitation and health training helpful. They even want more of this training delivered by Spanish-speaking trainers.

Versant therefore addresses language barriers in the workplace, helping improve worker safety and lessen occupational injury. Therefore, it helps eliminate incidents where Hispanic workers ignore spoken or written English instructions on workplace sanitation and food preparation.

In fact, an Iowa State University study sees improvement in knowledge scores after that training. The faculty in its Hospitality Management program was able to validate the sanitation improvements from that study.

Foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $150 billion annually.

Having multiple language skills in the hospitality industry therefore indirectly prevents the onslaught of foodborne diseases. With the single pathogen Listeria monocytogenes wreaking health havoc, foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $150 billion annually.

THINK ABOUT think the WORST-case scenario.

unhappy customer in a nice restaurant

When details about safety instructions get lost in translation, things like food sickness, allergen attacks or anaphylactic shock happen to your customers.

As the study notes, miscommunication within the food service industry can result in potentially life-threatening accidents.

Your business can avoid expenses from discarded food and medical treatment costs. Aside from avoiding lost sales and productivity, you won’t have to suffer the most important thing: a PR nightmare and loss in your business’ reputation.

That’s why, implementing a language training program has become a common practice among many food service businesses. That’s why it’s a good idea to implement language training as an integral part of your organization’s food safety training.

Contact us today to learn how easy and convenient it is to use Versant’s assessment test to screen employees language and communication skills.