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Starbucks takes its signing store concept to China

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Starbucks Corp. has opened its first-ever store in China designed for the deaf and hearing impaired.

The outpost is dedicated to offering employment and career advancement opportunities for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Located in the city of Guangzhou, near the Guangdong Disabled Association and Guangdong Deaf People Association, it is Starbucks’ third signing store to date. (Prior to China, Starbucks opened a signing store in Malaysia in 2016 and in Washington, D.C., in 2018.)

Featuring exclusive artwork and unique merchandise designed by deaf artists, the new store is designed to provide a platform for the deaf and hard of hearing community to unleash its talents. The environment is welcoming and inviting, with wooden frames above the bar area arranged to express the gesture of love in sign language.

Sign language symbols are printed on umbrellas in front of the store, and there are indicators throughout the interior. Deaf baristas wear aprons with the word “Starbucks” embroidered in sign language. The store is equipped with a customized ordering system. Customers and associates can communicate using notepads and two-way digital displays. There is also a dedicated area for customers new to sign language where they can write down their orders on an electronic board. Wireless vibrating pagers notify customers when their orders are ready.

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.

“As a coffee leader deeply rooted in China, for China, 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. This store truly creates a sense of belonging for everyone and is a strong testament to our continued commitment to building a more diverse and inclusive working environment.”

Starbucks currently employs over 100 partners with disabilities in China. Building on its efforts to nurture talent and create more opportunities for the deaf workforce, the company has partnered with the Guangdong Deaf People Association to offer professional skills training, including sign language courses and internship opportunities.
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