Starbucks opens fifth Signing Store

Starbucks has opened its fifth Signing Store globally in Japan, located in Kunitachi City, Tokyo – a neighbourhood with a long history as part of the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Inspired by the passion of Starbucks’ deaf and hard of hearing partners, the new Signing Store builds on the company’s ongoing commitment to connect with the diverse communities it serves and continue to find ways to create a Third Place that is welcoming and inclusive for everyone. 

The store expands career opportunities for more than 19 new and existing deaf, hard of hearing and hearing partners (employees) from across Japan, as well as hearing partners fluent in Japanese Sign Language (JSL). 

The store features unique design elements and enhanced communication options, including: 

  • Interior and exterior signage and green aprons with “Starbucks” embroidered in fingerspelling.
  • Exclusive artwork designed by local artist Hidehiko Kado, a child of deaf adults (CODA).
  • Customised ordering system, where customers and partners will be able to communicate using notepads, pointing menus and contactless speech-to-text voice via two-way digital displays.
  • Digital signage, which lets customers track the progress of their order and invites them to pick up their purchases using a sign language animation.

“Starbucks has been hiring deaf and hard of hearing partners (employees) since we entered Japan in 1996, and these partners have made incredible impacts in their communities,” said Takafumi Minaguchi, CEO, Starbucks Coffee Japan. “Inspired by their passion, we created this store as a place of belonging, where our partners and customers can stay true to who they are and be inspired. This store truly represents infinite possibilities for all.”

Across Japan, deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing partners studying Japanese Sign Language (JSL) have been creating more ways for their customers to connect with the deaf community through sign language, including signing classes at their local stores, as well as coffee education seminars presented in sign language. Since 2018, select Starbucks stores in Japan have hosted “Signing Activity” pilot sessions led by deaf or hard of hearing partners to prepare for the opening of a full-fledged Signing Store.

“The opening of Japan’s first Signing Store is an important moment that represents the incredible passion of our deaf and hard of hearing partners across Japan,” said Ryotaro Sato, shift supervisor. “We want to showcase how the talent of the deaf and hard of hearing community can spark connections, inspire new possibilities, and help our partners grow their careers with Starbucks. We’re looking forward to sharing new experiences with our customers and demonstrating the diversity of communication that they can experience at the Signing Store.”

Starbucks currently employs more than 350 partners with disabilities in Japan, and provides training tools and accessibility aids, flexible work hours and coaching services to help develop their careers. Since opening the first Signing Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016, Starbucks has expanded this unique store model across the world, including in Washington DC, US, Guangzhou, China,  and a second store in Penang, Malaysia.

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