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Q: Non-Chinese chains, and English (or other related language)...

So, I went to Subway the other week. (The US fast-food joint, not the transport medium)

 

The (middle-aged) trainee was on with her (equally middle-aged) trainer - and no-one else.

 

I was, of course, asked what I want.

 

My Chinese sucks, but hey... the menu has Entglish names! So, I said "melt" (not knowing the name of that in Chinese... I could have chosen the Yidali BMT... but that's not what I wanted!)

 

Ting bu dong...

 

WTF??

 

From there, long ensuing battle where-in I finally got my Melt, after much gesturing and all, and think I got my point across about all staff should have the minimal English skills (in a US owned joint) to know the menu items, and in this case, the ingredients.

 

Now, I'm not a fool.

 

I certainly don't expect that at 99% of the places I go... such as the Chinese restaurants.

 

But I do think that foreign owned places, that have menus in English or other languages, should hire staff that can actually use those words!

 

I mean, in this case, the stupid thing was, she seemed unable to even read the menu... one little word - 'Melt' - was too much for her!

 

Am I being too "Why doesn't China change to how I want it?" or do I have a legit point??

 

(FTR - this was in a T1/2 capital city, near a major university that has a large number of international students...just around from a major transport hub...and around the corner from a major foreign investment/money-type place.... so it ain't in Bumfuck nowheresville.)

 

(2 things...

 

Firstly, 'middle-aged' was mentioned cos it's relevant... the younger generation were all brought up knowing our alphabet, and can speak some words. The older generation don't have that luxury).

 

Secondly, I'd expect the same anywhere else in the world... if you're in an area that has a large percentage of a certain population - like Canada in an area with a 30%+ population of Chinese immigrants  - then Maccas etc ought to have some staff who speak that language (google the story)

5 years 24 weeks ago in  Business & Jobs - China

 
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Posts: 1893

Emperor

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They should just have computer terminals where you can punch in your own order. Be able to save on service staff and actually clean the washrooms instead.

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
Posts: 2494

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I dont think thats too much to ask at all.

Fortunatly i dont think its a regular problem. Im a subway feind. And been to them all over. Generally if i see one. Im going. Screw all plans. But a place like that has alot of turnover. And doesnt pay all that well. So instead of finding people that know english and expect to be paid for that skill they hire people and expect them to learn the menu quickly. Perhaps next time you.go she will have improved.

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
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An employee with a proper level of English can easily get a more interesting job with a better income ? I wonder how much a Subway employee get as an income... A relative of my wife makes about 4000/5000 per months for a job she likes, with a bachelor in English. She can follow simple conversations, but not much more.

There's a subway at my workplace. Most people who eat there are executives-leve people from the surrounding companies. Most of them are Chinese, but there's one or two foreigners quite often. The manager of the shop seems to have no problems with taking orders in English. The other employees, it's variable Tongue

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
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Of the "international" .... who am I kidding, "American" chains, I find Star Bucks to have best staff. They always have one person with good English, and some with at least understanding that there might be other languages than Mandarin. 

McD, Subway etc are all the same. We do have a couple of burger kings here in town where it seems the "managers" are all able to do some basic English. 

 

But English is not the problem. One doesn't get the correct order even if it is placed by pointing on a menu without any doubt. 

 

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
Posts: 145

General

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Findind catering personnel with an attention span of more than 10 seconds is already a "high requirement" here, so, about speaking English... big fast food chains are actually not that bad. Except Subway, I find it quite random sometimes on the personnel but also on the quality of vegetable and supply. Obvious lack of regular checks. Mc Donald's seems to follow a no discrimination policy, I often see older aiyis at the kitchen

Starbucks has one centralized and dedicated training center (per city) where future employees have to learn their English and attitude by heart.

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
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I read somewhere that subway is not one of the better franchises as far as quality control and protecting the franchisee goes.

I doubt having English speaking staff would be a requirement.

 

That being said, the subway I go to has staff who speak English sometimes. There seems to be a high staff turnover and  I suppose it's not always easy to find people in a hurry to replace the girl who didn't show up that morning.

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
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My love of sandwiches brings me to subway alot...also its easy to take to work for a lunch break. While my conversational Chinese is pretty bad, i know all the food words. And while asking the (probably) low wage employees to speak english is just not going to be there all the time, I do agree that they should learn every word of there menu in English. Because its so easy, and the menu is small, and it doesnt change. Ordering there is the simplest process ever. And learning 5 breads, some meats, and 8 veggies is not too much to ask. 

 

 

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
Posts: 1559

Shifu

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Welcome to my world.  Well, except for the fact that my podump little town doesn't even have a Subway.  Nearest one would be in Hangzhou....which I guess is the one you were talking about in the first place!

 

In my town, we have 3 KFC's, a McD's, a Starbucks, and a Pizza Hut.....that rounds out the non-Chinese restaurants that are available here (oh, and a DQ).  I've never met any English speakers at KFC or McD's or DQ.  Very rarely, I'll get an employee who tries to start off in English at Starbucks or Pizza Hut, but once the first "shen me?" comes out of their mouth, I just resort to my basic Chinese and gesturing.

 

I'm not sure how it works here, but if these locations are all just locally owned franchises, perhaps that Subway owner just put a couple of his ayi's or cousins or inlaws or whatever in uniform and said get to work.  Nepotism far outweighs the need to hire individuals suited to the job at hand.

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5 years 24 weeks ago
 
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Ummm, we had a great debate here on this forum about that Canadian McDonalds story and the Chinese customer who requested a Chinese speaker.  The conversation was overwhelmingly against the woman!  This was a while ago, but If I recall correctly, some even called her a bitch for complaining.  I was one of the few who saw her request as reasonable and defended the idea of a bilingual McDonalds.  Most posters here thought they (the Chinese in Canada) should just learn English.  Now this thread is the tables turned.  Let's see how the comments turn no

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
Posts: 2634

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I like the reference to the thing in Canada, Richmond BC to be more precise. Many, many Chinese in Richmond and they should have no problem getting Chinese speaking employees. English as a pre-requisite for a job at a fast food joint in China may be a little more difficult. Agreed middle-age probably makes it much more difficult. I am amazed at the English I run in to in my little town at fast food joints. The kids are getting it!!  and they enjoy the opportunity to use it.

better than my aging wife/old lady and better than my 25 year old step daughter.

I have sent this to a buddy of mine... a SUBWAY franchisee in San Francisco USA... hope he comes back with a comment and opens a franchise in my town, where fresh stuff is readily available and could/should take over from the greasy shit currently offered.

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
Posts: 544

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I think there's a difference here (though, how significant a difference is up for debate). McDonald's is an American restaurant, and even in China, uses English in the advertising, and on the menus. A company that promotes its "Americanness" could be expected to hire English speaking staff. 

 

In the US, if I went to a Mexican restaurant, I would find it reasonable to expect that I could find Spanish speakers. I could totally understand a Chinese woman going to a Chinese restaurant in Canada and expecting the staff to have Mandarin (or possibly Cantonese) speakers. 

 

I can see this getting into a little bit of a gray area. I wouldn't expect to speak Italian at Pizza Hut, or Mandarin at Panda Express, or Spanish at Taco Bell, since these don't really promote their Italianness, Chineseness, or Mexicanness (outside of a sorta attempt with the food. More or less). However, a Chinese restaurant that promotes a "Chinese experience", and/or makes claims at authenticity, should have Chinese speakers (not the whole staff necessarily, but at least some). 

 

Likewise, the expat bars and pubs around China (and most, if not all, of the bars and pubs are for non-Chinese) that promote a Western theme (as in non-Asian, not Western as in cowboy... though a saloon would be pretty boss), and especially a specific theme (Irish pub, Australian pub, or American sports bar), should hire English speaking staff, since that is part of the package. 

 

As far as McDonald's, Subway, and other of these American chain restaurants... they do have an image of Westernness, and Americanness... but it's not a huge part (at least I hope people don't go to McDonald's expecting "the real American experience"). If they have English on the menu, though, I would say the staff should at least be able to know that much, and I would expect people working at a nominally Chinese restaurant to at least know the menu, if it were written in Chinese.

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
Posts: 706

Governor

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Now that there are so many English speaking Chinese available they can simply hire them... Instead of those who just stare at you as if you have committed a crime

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
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Oh the arrogance. This is China, in a French chain in the states would I demand that they spoke French?

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
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Oh and by the way since you can't figure it out. The English menu is there to help customers who can't speak Chinese. Not as a statement that ,"our staff speaks English." Let me dumb it down for you even further, English menu is there because their staff do not speak English (no guarantee). 

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
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Subway have opened up in Harbin recently and the one near my house has a bilingual English/Chinese laminated board at the counter so people who can't speak Chinese can just point. I can actually order in Chinese, but I thought it was a clever touch.

 

As for the staff not being able to speak English, what do you expect? They're fast food restaurants, not embassies. The vast majority of their customers have no interest in brushing up on their rusty English skills and so there is little point in splashing out the extra money a reasonably fluent English speaker would want. Besides, how far do you want to go with this ridiculous idea? French speakers in Carrefour? Spanish speakers at Zara? Swedish speakers at H&M (at all their stores worldwide)? YOU'RE NOT IN THE ANGLOSPHERE HERE! Take some classes or suck it up.

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5 years 23 weeks ago
 
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