Starbucks Opens Second Malaysian Signing Store in Penang

Starbucks Opens Second Malaysian Signing Store in Penang
The store aims to further enrich and empower the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in Penang

Starbucks Malaysia marked another milestone today with the opening of its second Signing Store in Burmah Road, which will be dedicated to offering employment and development opportunities for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community in Penang. The store’s opening was officiated by the Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Tuan Chow Kon Yeow; Her Excellency Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia; and Mr. Sydney Quays, CEO of Berjaya Food Berhad and managing director of Starbucks Malaysia & Brunei, alongside representatives of the Penang Deaf Association (PDA).

Proudly served by Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners (employees), the Starbucks Signing Store in Burmah Road joins Starbucks Signing Store in Bangsar Village II, Kuala Lumpur – the first-of-its-kind for Starbucks globally – as well as locations in Washington D.C., United States and Guangzhou, China as the fourth Starbucks Signing Store in the world and the first in Penang. These stores demonstrate Starbucks commitment to building a company where everyone is welcome, with inclusion at its core.

“We created the Starbucks Signing Store three years ago as a place to celebrate the contributions of our Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners. By valuing the perspectives that people with disabilities bring into the workplace, we were able to provide a uniquely uplifting experience that made people feel represented and gave them a sense of belonging,” said Sydney. “Given Penang’s rich culture and historical relationship with the Deaf community, we hope the opening of the Starbucks Signing Store will be a welcome addition to enrich the lives of many more Deaf and Hard of Hearing persons around the island.”

While these Signing stores were built to be diverse and inclusive working environments, they also serve as centers for driving awareness around Deaf culture and community needs – making them a unique third place experience with far-reaching effects that will positively impact the community. To date, the Starbucks Signing Store in Burmah Road is operated by 7 Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners from across Penang who are fluent in Malaysian Sign Language.

“It is an honor that Starbucks Malaysia has chosen Penang to open its second Signing Store in Malaysia. I believe that through this innovative approach, members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community will feel empowered to develop their careers in a vibrant and supportive environment. Thanks to Starbucks, I am confident there will be an increase in employment opportunities as well as accessibility for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in Penang,” said YAB Tuan Chow Kon Yeow, Chief Minister of Penang.

Starbucks Malaysia partnered with PDA to facilitate the professional training and development of the store partners, including Malaysian Sign Language classes and internship opportunities. In conjunction with the opening launch, Starbucks Malaysia is channeling RM1 from every Vanilla Fig Frappuccino sold on the day to initiate programs alongside PDA that will benefit the community. This campaign will run exclusively at the Starbucks Signing Store in Burmah Road.

“We’re very excited to partner with Starbucks to provide richer career opportunities and sense of belonging to the Deaf community in Penang,” said Razman Tan Abdullah, President of the Penang Deaf Association. “Starbucks stores are a place for many kinds of people to come together, and we’re proud to invite everyone to experience the vibrant Deaf culture that has thrived here in Penang for over 70 years.”

Just like other Starbucks partners, the Signing Store partners are also given a chance at career progression. They can undergo the Coffee Master Program to deepen their coffee knowledge and barista craft. After completing the certification, the Deaf and Hard of Hearing baristas are distinguishable by their black aprons that feature a special embroidery with ‘Starbucks’ in Malaysian Sign Language.

As a strong proponent of equal opportunities and career progression, Starbucks Malaysia has promoted one of their Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners to Shift Supervisor. Nur’aizat Binti Mohd Rosli, who started working at the first Starbucks Signing Store in 2016, will be part of the pioneering team for the Starbucks Signing Store in Burmah Road. Besides providing employment to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, Starbucks hopes to provide them transferable soft skills and a sustainable career path at Starbucks and beyond.

“We commend Starbucks for its positive approach to hiring persons with disabilities, in this case the deaf and hard of hearing,” said Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, the U.S. Ambassador to Malaysia.  “It was only three years ago the world’s first Starbucks signing store opened in Kuala Lumpur.  Its success prompted the opening of a Starbucks signing store in Washington D.C. last year.  Several Malaysian Starbucks employees trained and guided their American counterparts through that opening.  This is a great example of an American company pioneering a successful idea in Malaysia and then taking it out to great results in the wider world.  I continue to take great pride in promoting the commitment to inclusion and outstanding corporate social responsibility work showcased by American firms like Starbucks that operate in Malaysia.”

The new Starbucks Signing Store underwent a transformation where touchpoints around the store have been modified to cater to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners as well as customers alike. Everything about the Signing Store is thought out in detail to provide a safe and conducive working environment, including visual alarms, digital trays, Starbucks Rewards kiosks, and point-of-sale systems with an attached customer display, etc. The three-storey store also features a mural designed by local Penang deaf artist, Lim Anuar.

In conjunction with the opening, Starbucks Malaysia launched a new Signing Store keychain and an exclusive Starbucks card specially designed for the Starbucks Signing Store Burmah Road.

A uniquely uplifting Starbucks Experience

Inside the Starbucks Signing Store, customers will be familiar with what they see and smell: the rich aroma of the finest Arabica coffee, served by partners in the iconic green aprons in a warm, bustling environment. But while Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners engage with customers with the enthusiasm, passion and craft that they expect from Starbucks, they deliver the iconic Starbucks Experience in a uniquely uplifting way.

As customers place their order, they will notice something different, as the usual greeting and sound of baristas calling out beverage orders is replaced by sign language. Customers place orders using a simple menu card which they mark before passing it to the barista and Deaf and Hard of Hearing partners use handwritten notes to communicate with customers. Upon placing the order, each customer is given a number on the receipt and once the beverage has been prepared, the number is displayed on a screen telling them it’s ready.

Strengthening Communities across Malaysia

Starbucks Malaysia has a proud history of employing under-represented groups in the workplace. This includes the launch of the Starbucks VIP Program three years ago to attract mature partners who are 55 years of age and above. As part of the program, Starbucks provides flexible work hours and other benefits for seniors. There are currently more than 10 VIP partners working in Starbucks Malaysia stores, the oldest being 79 years old.

For more information, please visit the Starbucks Malaysia website at

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