At pop-up cafes in Japan, customers are served by people who stutter.
A cafe or restaurant isn’t the first place you think of as a good employment fit for people who stutter. Anyone who has worked in a busy hospitality business knows that being able to communicate quickly and concisely is vital to keeping impatient customers and stressed managers on side. At the Cafe Where Ordering Takes Time, a new pop-up concept in Japan, things are done differently.
The cafe was explicitly founded to help young people with a stutter gain confidence and potentially land a job in the hospitality industry. The customers know what to expect and 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.