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  • Chris McMillan

Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe reaches out to new markets

China Daily

17th March 2021

Shanghai's Bear Paw Cafe reaches out to new markets

Shanghai's popular Hinichijou cafe chain, which provides employment for people with disabilities, plans to open up to 100 stores across the country, co-founder Wang Haiqing said.

Also known as the Bear Paw Cafe, the cafe went viral among netizens after the first store was launched on Shanghai's Yongkang Road on Dec 3, which marked the International Day of People with Disabilities.

"We expect disabled staff to make up more than half of our employees," Wang said.

"This is our way of helping more people with disabilities reach their dreams."

Hinichijou has three stores in Shanghai that employ a total of 17 people. Eleven are disabled individuals who have won coffee brewing competitions, while the rest are able-bodied employees who wear bear claw gloves to interact with customers and take orders.

"The rapid expansion is a big challenge for the team, but the strong support from all walks of society, including those from the property management and supply chain, have helped promote the process," Wang said.

She said that to help more people in need enjoy coffee and find a sense of identity, Hinichijou provides free coffee for the disabled.

To cater to a wider audience, Hinichijou recently listed itself on the Meituan food delivery platform. Its Lujiazui store on Meituan has a rated-by-customer score of 5 stars, the highest possible.

"It is not convenient for everyone to queue up at offline stores, so the online takeout is able to meet the demand of that group of people," Wang said.

There are nearly 600,000 certified disabled people in Shanghai, with 136,000 of working age, according to Sun Xianzhong, deputy director of the Shanghai Disabled Person's Employment Service Center.

"While coffee culture has come into people's lives in recent years with all kinds of distinctive and creative coffee shops springing up across the country, we see the market demand for baristas, and the disabled are also very suitable for this position," Sun said.

Fancy coffee making was one of the categories in a vocational skills competition for the disabled staged by the Shanghai Disabled Persons' Federation in 2017, in the hope of encouraging more disabled people to learn coffee brewing skills, he said.

However, there are still many barriers to employment faced by the disabled. Sun said information asymmetry is one of the main obstacles.

"It is necessary to expand and use media platforms and other resources to collect, publish and share the jobs of the disabled," Sun said.

He said society and social units need to have a deeper understanding of the disabled, while disabled people also need to improve their professional skills.

"Only excellent professional quality and high-level professional skills can help the disabled to adapt to changing job requirements," Sun said.

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