Staff at new “Signing Store” use hand signs to communicate with customers.

Japan is home to a number of unusual Starbucks stores, including a mammoth multi-storey Reserve Roastery, a branch housed in a traditional Japanese building, and one so stunning it’s been dubbed the world’s most beautiful.

Now another unique Starbucks location has just opened up in Japan, and this time it’s a “Signing Store” with sign language options for hearing impaired customers.

The new store, called Starbucks Nonowa Kunitachi, opened in Tokyo’s Kunitachi City on 27 June, staffed mainly by employees who use sign language as the main means of communication.

According to Takafumi Mizuguchi, CEO of Starbucks Japan, the signing store is based around the concept of “infinite possibilities” and highlights the company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion.

Starbucks currently has two signing stores in Malaysia, one in the United States and one in China, with the new Tokyo opening becoming the first such location in Japan. In the spirit of inclusivity, customers at the new store will be able to order in a variety of ways other than sign language, such as by pointing, writing or speaking into a tablet which then displays the order in writing.

People can learn how to sign too, as each letter of the word “Starbucks” here is displayed with its corresponding hand sign.

The unique Starbucks sign is displayed on staff aprons, with the addition of pins to communicate with customers as well.

Another brilliant touch is the digital display instore, which introduces people to sign language used for daily greetings while also letting them know the hand sign that corresponds with the order number printed on the customer’s receipt. Instead of calling out a name or a number when the order is ready, staff will use the hand signs displayed on the screen so customers can pick up their order.

▼ The digital display is conveniently located at the pick-up area.

The signing store also features a beautiful artwork by Kado Hidehiko, an artist born to deaf parents who started drawing from an early age to express feelings that cannot be conveyed by spoken language or sign language.

As Japan is still coping with the coronavirus pandemic, countermeasures are currently in place at the store to protect staff and customers. This includes limiting the menu to takeout only for the time-being, and the use of transparent “masks” by staff to shield the mouth while also allowing it to remain visible for lip reading, in order to help facilitate communication.

Starbucks’ commitment to creating a workplace where “people with disabilities can shine” is one of the many reasons why the coffeehouse chain has such a huge following in Japan.

For a company dedicated to making inclusivity a priority, their constant limited-edition drinkware and Frappuccino releases really are just the cherry on top.

Source, images: Starbucks Japan
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[ Read in Japanese ]