Starbucks China opens Signing Store in Guangdong

Global coffee chain opens its first Signing Store in China, staffed entirely by deaf or hearing-impaired people.

Starbucks China has opened its first Signing Store, staffed entirely by deaf or hearing-impaired people.

The store is in Guangzhou, in Guangdong Province which is home to about 4 per cent of China’s deaf population. It is Starbucks’ third Signing Store, following outlets in Washington DC and Malaysia.

Sign language symbols are printed on umbrellas in front of the store, and there are indicators throughout the store. Deaf baristas will wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language.

The store is equipped with a customised ordering system. Customers and partners will be able to communicate using notepads and two-way digital displays. For customers new to sign language, there will be a dedicated area for customers to write down their orders on an electronic board and wireless vibrating pagers will notify customers when their orders are ready.

The cafe also features exclusive artwork and unique merchandise designed by deaf artists.

The initiative aims to offer employment and career-advancement opportunities for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community as well as “a welcoming hub for those passionate about improving accessibility and experiences for all”. It is located near the Guangdong Disabled Association and Guangdong Deaf People Association.

“Starbucks is committed to creating equal opportunities for everyone, as well as a unique third-place experience that addresses a wide range of community needs,” said Belinda Wong, CEO of Starbucks China. “The new Signing Store is an example of how we are building inclusive environments and careers for our partners.”

Store staff, who have been recruited from across China, are fluent in Chinese sign language.

To create an inclusive environment and encourage customers to learn more about the deaf community, the store will also offer sign-language lessons and coffee workshops in sign language.

“The Guangdong Deaf People Association is proud to partner with Starbucks to provide training and opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Yitao Fan, vice chairman, China’s Deaf People Association and president of Guangdong Deaf People Association. “Thanks to Starbucks, deaf partners are empowered to develop their careers in a vibrant and supportive environment, while the store provides a strong platform to drive societal awareness around deaf culture and the needs of the community.”

This story first appeared on sister site Inside Retail Asia.

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