Starbucks to open new outlet in Penang for deaf community

by AZALEA AZUAR/ pic by BLOOMBERG

BERJAYA Starbucks Coffee Co Sdn Bhd will open its latest signing store which employs hearing impaired staff in Penang by year-end. Starbucks corporate social responsibility manager (Malaysia and Brunei) Rina Siew said the company chose Penang due to its strong deaf community and long history, as the first deaf school in Malaysia was established on the island.

“With the opening, we hope that we can expand our support to the deaf community. We started with the hiring process which is currently ongoing. There is time to start off with at least six deaf baristas,” she said at the Starbucks signing store’s third anniversary in Kuala Lumpur (KL) yesterday.

According to Siew, the company will deploy its assistant manager from the first signing store in Bangsar Village II (BVII), to work at the Penang outlet.

“It comes with a slow transition…which is why training them to be store managers might take up to four to five years,” she added.

The Penang signing store will create opportunities for deaf baristas to enhance their soft skills such as career attributes, work ethics and teamwork.

Siew also hopes that between 80% and 90% of the staff at the Penang outlet would comprise deaf employees.

“Culture wise, we have to be very inclusive. All the hearing-able workers in the store have to go through a sign language certification course.

“You have to understand the deaf culture and you need to know what works best for them. That’s why you see harmony between the hearing-able and the deaf,” she said.

The first signing store in BVII was opened in 2016 in KL. Currently, the outlet employs seven deaf baristas and two hearing-able staff, namely the supervisor and store manager.

“We always endeavour to create a culture of diversity and inclusion. This is how the concept of the signing store came about three years ago, by offering the deaf and hard of hearing community in Malaysia with employment and career opportunities,” said Siew.