Today the lunchtime buffet crowd at Moni Mahal may include a special customer who is looking for a “bon appétit” served with their butter chicken, thanks to an initiative by Graham Fraser, Canada’s official languages commissioner.
The commissioner’s office has hired marketing-research firm Ipsos Reid to send out mystery shoppers from Aug. 24 to Sept. 30 to downtown Ottawa hotels, restaurants and businesses to evaluate whether services are offered in English and French.
The commissioner’s office wants to assess bilingualism in the National Capital for its 2012 annual report, and one aspect of its study includes understanding the “visitor’s experience,” said spokesperson Nelson Kalil.
Moni Mahal owner Dewan Chowdhury isn’t worried.
“Language is not the big issue, believe me,” he said.
From Bangladesh, he is only able to use a few words to converse with the majority francophone crowd that frequents his restaurant at noon.
He insists that it does not matter. At a small business such as his, customers are not interested in small talk, nor do they expect it. They want quality service, he says.
Stepping out of the restaurant, Joanne Lauzon, a bilingual French-Canadian, disagrees.
“I feel that I should have services in the language I want,” she said. “I learned English to accommodate others. Every restaurant and service should have some bilingual staff ‘ at least one or two people.”