Starbucks Opens Its First U.S. Signing Store To Support Hearing-Disabled Community

Starbucks Opens Its First U.S. Signing Store To Support Hearing-Disabled Community
Cafe & Restaurant

The international food and beverage retailer is set to open a location in Washington, D.C. that caters to the needs of its deaf or hard-of-hearing consumers and employees

Elisa Lewittes
  • 26 july 2018

Starbucks recently announced the opening of its first U.S. based signing store in Washington, D.C. With the concept first debuting in Malaysia in 2016, Starbucks’ signing stores run entirely on American Sign language. As a company whose objective is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” according to the leading beverage retailer’s corporate mission statement, the signing stores serve as an organic brand extension.

Set to open in October of this year, for the D.C. based signing store, Starbucks plans to hire 20 to 25 employees who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, with the requirement that individuals be well-versed in American Sign Language. The store will open near Gallaudet University, the world’s only university solely dedicated to educating and fostering a community of deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Inside the store, employees will wear aprons that have “Starbucks” spelled out in sign language on the front. Hearing employees who are proficient in sign language will wear pins to demonstrate their ability to cater to deaf customers’ needs. Starbucks’ traditional ordering method—the barista asking for a customer’s order and shouting his or her name when ready—poses an obvious consumer pain point for those hard of hearing. To create a more inclusive consumer experience, a visual display will guide guests through the ordering process.

In tandem, the store’s interiors will be decorated with art and a mug designed by a deaf artist. Through these several custom-tailored customer touchpoints, Starbucks will cultivate a niche community within its larger U.S. based network. Howard Rosenblum, chief executive of the National Association of the Deaf, believes that Starbucks’ new initiative will enable the brand to foster a community while simultaneously gaining market share. In a statement, he said “Hiring deaf people or people with disability should not be viewed as a charity but as a way to improve a corporation’s reach across different segments of the market.”

Starbucks corroborates these community-building efforts. Rossan Williams, Starbucks’ executive vice president of retail, said, “This is a historic moment in Starbucks’ ongoing journey to connect with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, hire and engage deaf and hard of hearing partners, and continue to find ways to be more inclusive, accessible and welcoming to all.” Starbucks’ initiative fits with retailers’ focus on ways to diversify their offerings and extend their reach to all community members.

Starbucks

Starbucks recently announced the opening of its first U.S. based signing store in Washington, D.C. With the concept first debuting in Malaysia in 2016, Starbucks’ signing stores run entirely on American Sign language. As a company whose objective is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time,” according to the leading beverage retailer’s corporate mission statement, the signing stores serve as an organic brand extension.

+Asia
+Cafe & Restaurant
+Community
+deaf
+Food
+food & beverage
+hard-of-hearing
+loyalty & membership
+retail
+sign language
+starbucks

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