At pop-up cafes in Japan, customers are served by people who stutter

The hustle and bustle of a cafe or restaurant isn't a natural fit for employing people who stutter, with impatient patrons and managers rushing servers and making it harder for them to express themselves. Not so at the Cafe Where Ordering Takes Time.

A touring, pop-up establishment, the cafe was explicitly founded to help young people with a stutter gain confidence and potentially land a job in the hospitality industry. By setting customer expectations in advance, the cafe creates a relaxed and accepting environment where servers who stutter or stammer are given time and space to finish their sentences or use a whiteboard if writing feels better. With the knock-on benefit of compelling customers to slow down and practice a bit of empathy and patience.

Arisa Okumura, the cafe's founder, came up with the concept after stuttering discouraged her from working in hospitality. That changed when she moved to Melbourne and got a job at a cafe staffed by people with disabilities. Okumura wanted to create similar opportunities in her native Japan, especially for students who'd like a part-time job in the service industry. She crowdfunded her way to a first pop-up cafe in August 2021, with nine editions following in 2022 and more planned for 2023. Each is open for a day or two and hosted by other businesses and organizations, including universities, museums and bookstores.

Trend Bite

Thanks largely to people sharing personal stories on social media, disabilities are increasingly being destigmatized, leading consumers to champion brands that deliver accessible products and services (more on that in our OMNIBILITY trend briefing). 

But it's crucial to ensure accessibility for employees, too. As demonstrated by the Cafe Where Ordering Takes Time, work environments need to be created where overlooked communities are given opportunities to thrive. Which can then snowball into even more understanding and awareness :-)

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