Analyzing the Language Demands of Food Counter Attendants (2010)

Excerpts from the Final Report of the Occupational English Language Requirements for Food Counter Attendants Project

This report is housed on the Hammond & Associates website, at

The report describes a research study carried out on behalf of Alberta Employment and Immigration in 2010 with the goal of analyzing the English language demands of food counter attendants, and describing these requirements as a range of Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) levels for reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Researchers visited fast food outlets in both urban and rural settings in Alberta, and analyzed orientation and training materials for the relevant restaurant chains. They established benchmarks for both routine tasks encountered in a typical day, and for communication “spikes” that require higher levels of proficiency.

They concluded that for both speaking and listening, routine tasks require a CLB benchmark of 5, with spikes at CLB 6, while routine writing tasks were at CLB 3, with spikes in the CLB 4 range. Routine reading tasks were at CLB 4, with spikes assessed at CLB 5 and 6.

The authors emphasize that what is routinely required may not necessarily be the best basis for defining what is minimally required. For example, on a daily basis, food counter attendants do little reading other than labels and orders, and as these are in a standard format using highly repetitive vocabulary, the minimum for reading proficiency could comfortably be set as a CLB 4.

However, someone at a CLB 4 level of proficiency would not be able to handle the reading requirements of the training and orientation materials, which require skills in the range of CLB 5 or 6. This has important implications for both workplace health and safety and for food safety. The lower benchmark may be sufficient only if employers are committed to providing clear and sufficient support in situations where communication needs are higher.

Get resource
APA citation
Hammond & Associates. Analyzing the Language Demands of Food Counter Attendants 2010. Web. 29 Jan. 2023 <>
Hammond & Associates (2010). Analyzing the Language Demands of Food Counter Attendants. Retrieved January 29, 2023, from
© 2023 Copian Library