Starbucks just opened its fourth signing store worldwide in Penang – here’s how it’s run

Customers who don’t know sign language can place a written order instead.
Starbucks

Starbucks’ latest offering isn’t a crazy new Christmas drink or an aesthetically pleasing peppermint mocha – but a new store location manned by deaf baristas.

The coffee chain announced the opening of its Penang signing store on Tuesday (Nov 19) morning, in collaboration with the Penang Deaf Association.

This will be the coffee giant’s fourth signing store globally and its second in Malaysia. The first store was launched in Kuala Lumpur in 2016, followed by one in Washington D.C. in 2017, and another in Guangzhou, China in May this year.

Here’s what it looks like:


Located on Jalan Burma road in George Town, the three-storey, 4,600 sq ft store was “designed specifically to meet the needs of deaf and hard of hearing partners and customers”, the Seattle-based coffee company said.

Even the front-of-store “Starbucks” sign is spelled out in sign language.

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Starbucks

According to the coffee chain, the store will employ six deaf employees and seven hearing employees (also referred to as partners) who are fluent in Malaysian Sign Language.

The interior of the outlet looks just like any other Starbucks, aside from a few minor differences, like the sign language used in some displays.
Starbucks

Much like the Kuala Lumpur outlet, the outlet features visual alarms, digital trays and point-of-sale systems with an attached customer display.

Customers who don’t know sign language can place their orders in writing. They can then double-check if it was entered correctly into the point-of-sale system.

A number assigned will appear on the screen above the counter when the order is ready.

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Starbucks

For its first Penang signing store, Starbucks is working with the Penang Deaf Association to provide professional training and development to the store’s staff. This includes internship opportunities and sign language classes for the store’s seven hearing employees, Starbucks said.

Additionally, it can be used by Penang’s deaf community to host sign language workshops, career development seminars, and deaf culture community events.

Razman Tan Abdullah, president of the Penang Deaf Association, said in a statement that the partnership will provide richer career opportunities and sense of belonging to the deaf community in Penang.

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Starbucks

Sydney Quays, managing director of Starbucks Malaysia and Brunei, said that the success of Starbucks’ first signing store in Kuala Lumpur has demonstrated the importance of representation and belonging in the workplace.

“The reason that we chose Penang is because of its rich culture and historical relationship with the deaf community in Malaysia, spanning more than 50 years,” he said.

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Starbucks, which has been operating in Malaysia since 1998, now runs 300 stores employing more than 4,000 people across the country.
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Starbucks

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