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Starbucks opens 'silent cafe' in Guangzhou

Xinhua | Updated: 2019-05-20 13:39
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An employee able to communicate in sign language works the counter at Starbucks China's first store with sign language capability in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district, May 19, 2019. [Photo provided to]

GUANGZHOU - Starbucks has opened a "silent cafe" in Guangzhou, where about half of the staff are people with hearing loss, as part of an initiative to support the employment of people with disabilities.

"This might be the quietest Starbucks of over 3,800 shops on the Chinese mainland," said Leo Tsoi, chief operating officer of Starbucks China.

Fourteen of the 30 staff at the shop, located in Yuexiu district and officially opened over the weekend, are hearing impaired. The shop has a specially-designed ordering system that allows people to place orders without saying a word.

For example, all the drinks and food are numbered to facilitate the ordering, and customers can also choose to write down their specific needs.

"We cannot hear you but would like to share a tasty coffee with you," said Chen Siting, who works at the store. "I believe more people like me could find a career they are passionate about in the future."

Zhu Jieying, Starbucks' first coffee master with hearing loss in China, is among three of the hearing-impaired managers at the store. Having worked for Starbucks for seven years, Zhu hopes the store could be a platform for people with disabilities to show themselves and explore more possibilities in their life.

"We hope this could be an opportunity to promote employment equality," said Fan Yitao, vice chairman of the China Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.

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