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English only at Circus Circus

Controversy over an Auckland cafe’s sign behind a counter shows that in terms of reputation risks, the new normal is looking like the old normal.

A sign asking staff to speak English went viral on Twitter, sparking claims of racism and disgust. The cafe’s general manager calmly explained to RNZ that it was intended to reduce miscommunication between a collection of staff from Nepal, India, China, Bangladesh, and New Zealand; “It’s not fair for someone not to understand their colleague.”

While there were threats to boycott the cafe, there’s every reason to think that with the explanation, customers will continue to return.

The cafe did, sensibly, remove the sign. This works because it acknowledged the complaints by making the sign the problem, without changing the cafe’s language policy. Staff will still be asked to speak English, only now it will be through a more elegant channel – a simple conversation with their boss.

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