Business Owner…How Good Is Your Spanish?

Anybody who has lived and worked in the Canary Islands for any significant amount of time knows that

Anybody who has lived and worked in the Canary Islands for any significant amount of time knows that business owners must navigate a labyrinth of regulations and procedures to ensure their business operates legally. The Canaries are predominantly touristic so it is only logical to assume that specific laws have been drafted to govern the sector and to assure the quality of the products and services on offer to our visitors.

Current tourism law is by no means new since it was originally passed back in 2010, but the general public are not very familiar with it. Below you’ll find statistics on the number of restaurants and bar-cafeterias in operation on the island, a large percentage of which are owned by foreign residents so there is a large number of restauranteurs who may need to run through the requirements to double-check they are acting correctly.


BAR-CAFETERIA 1169   324 143 9 264 330 99
RESTAURANT 543   171 95 7 155 75 40


This issue I would like to draw your attention to a section of tourism law that affects bar and restaurant owners. Law 90/2010, 20th July oversees tourism procedures in the Canary Islands, an extensive document that goes into excruciating detail about the required characteristics of the buildings where food and beverages are served to the public as well as the manner in which these must function. In its article 7, it states under general conditions and minimum requirements:

  1. a) The establishments must contract staff that speak Spanish”

Yes, you have read correctly, according to that article there must be a Spanish speaking member of staff on the premises at all times. Now, even though it seems extreme, this statement does have its logic in some respects, consider the following:

  1. Those who choose to live in Spain should adapt to the customs and culture of the land
  2. Adapting to the culture would mean that foreign residents should learn at least basic Spanish, the official language
  3. Every customer should be able to receive a decent service in any establishment whether it is owned by a Spanish national or a foreign resident and regardless of the native language of the business owner


On the other hand, legislation of this type seems to infringe on an individual’s constitutional rights. Many may argue that they cannot be told how to use their resources or go to the expense of hiring a Spanish speaking member of staff and if a customer were not in agreement, they have the right to go elsewhere. However, the other side may argue that they should not be forced to speak in a foreign language because nobody on the premises is able to accommodate them.


Even though there have been cases in which Tourist Inspectors have fined restaurant owners for breach of this law, quick-minded legal eagles have managed to have them thrown out of court. Surprisingly, the Spanish were the most outraged at the extreme measures taken by the Canarian Tourist Board!

As a restauranteur, it is in your best interest to take a good look at this law just in case you are in breach without knowing it. Bear in mind that it is a valid law that has been approved by the Canarian Government whether you are in agreement or not. How about dusting off your “Basic Guide to Spanish” books to get a basic grasp of the lingo or even better, why not try conversing with your Spanish customers and neighbours to help improve your language skills?

About Sabrina L. Williams

Although I was born in the UK, I moved to the Canary Islands, Spain at a young age and I haven't looked back. The Canaries is a fantastic place to live, I mean you can do all types of outdoor activities practically all year round because of the great weather. Horses are my poison but the islands are also a superb spot for water sports so they do attract a lot of attention from people around the world. Anyway, enough about that. Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest, scariest yet best decisions I'd ever made and set-up my own business in the middle of a recession. I love what I do as no two days are the same, plus Spanish law keeps me on my toes as it is constantly changing (often without warning!) so there is always something new to learn. As I've branched out in the world of Administrative Consultancy, I decided to create a blog to discuss topics of interest to others in my industry and my clients, share tips and experiences, to see what new ideas people have for improving their businesses and the like so I hope you'll find the time to join me on this venture...

Leave a Comment