Disabled workers warm diners' hearts

Updated:2018-05-14 09:18:39

A worker hands coffee to a customer at Silent Cake bakery in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where most of the 22 employees are hearing-and speech-impaired. [Photo by Chen Hui/Nanfang Metropolis Daily]

  Bakery employees use notebooks, sign language to communicate with each otherand customers

  Despite being full of customers at breakfast, the bakery Luo Yanan works at is quiet but for the clicking and clacking of high heels and cash registers.

  Greeting every customer with a big smile and a friendly gesture, Luo is among the 18 employees who can neither hear nor speak at the Silent Cake bakery in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

  At the entrance are signs that explain: "Most employees in this bakery are hearing-and speech-impaired, so it may take a little longer for you to order and pay. Please be patient."

  Instead of verbal communication, employees use sign language or write things down on notebooks.

  Before placing an order, Luo, who is in her early 20s, takes out the menu and a notebook to let the customer write down the order and payment method. She packs the takeout orders.

  "We haven't had any complaints since we opened in March," said the bakery's co-founder, Zeng Nan. "The customers are friendly and always wait patiently, and some even help clear tables."

  Many of the employees are graduates of Zeng's culinary school.

  Silent Cake has become well-known by word-of-mouth and through social media. Its 40 seats are often full at noon, with long lines of customers. On busy days, it serves more than 500 diners.

  "I started the bakery because many of our physically challenged graduates had difficulty finding jobs. But the success is totally beyond my imagination," Zeng said.

  "It may take an apprentice with a disability three months to finish what's usually a monthlong course because the baker must teach them one by one. But they are all excellent and professional."

  Zhang Xubiao is one such student. He is adept at making soft rolls but also enjoys thinking of fresh ideas for new products. His "constellation" series of 12 different creative breads is popular with younger customers.

  To give the workers a sense of accomplishment, Zeng offers each employee a stake in the business.

  "Opening the shop would have been impossible without them," Zeng said.

  A second Silent Cake franchise will open soon in Guangzhou, serving pastries, drinks and set meals. It will be five times bigger than the first.

  "All the employees here are strong and brave. They smile through their difficulties and stand on their own two feet. They are my role models," said Fan Xiaoyan, a customer with disabilities.

A customer communicates in writing with cashier Yan Ning. [Photo by Chen Hui/Nanfang Metropolis Daily]