Across China: China's silent bakery
GUANGZHOU, April 27 (Xinhua) -- Full of customers at breakfast, the bakery Luo Ya'nan works at is exceptionally quiet except for the clack of high heels and click of the cash register.
Greeting every customer with a big smile and a welcome gesture, Luo is among the 18 employees that cannot hear or speak at the "Silent Cake" bakery in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province.
At the entrance of the bakery and cashier desk, billboards noting "most of the staff in this bakery cannot hear or speak, so it may take a little longer for you to order and pay, please be patient," can be seen.
Instead of direct verbal communication, staff at the bakery use body language or write things down on notebooks.
In her early 20s, Luo is good at her work. Before placing an order, she takes out the menu and a notebook to let the customer write down their order and payment method, and packs away the take-away food.
"She smiles like an angel," said Li Yingshan, a customer. Li bends her thumb twice to show "thank you" as the billboard illustrates.
"We haven't received any complaint since we opened in March," said co-founder Zeng Nan. "The customers are friendly and always wait with patience, some even help clear the table."
The bakery has become well-known by word-of-mouth in Guangzhou, and also on China's social media.
The 40 seats at the bakery are often full at noon with a long waiting line. In the busiest day, they served over 500 customers.
Many of the staff graduated from Zeng's culinary schools.
"I started it because many of our handicapped graduates had difficulty finding jobs, but the success of the bakery is totally beyond my imagination," Zeng said. "It may take an apprentice with disabilities three months to finish a month-long course for an ordinary student because the chef 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 injecting fresh ideas into new products. His constellation series comprising 12 different creative breads is popular among youngsters.
"We want people to like us by the food and service we provide, not by who we are," said Zeng.
To give them a sense of accomplishment, Zeng gives a total 15-percent stake to the handicapped staff.
"Opening the shop would have been impossible without them," Zeng said.
The second "Silent Cake" will soon be open, serving pastriers, drinks and quick meals. The second shop will be five times that of the first to offer a bigger stage for people in need.
"All the staff here are strong and brave, they face difficulties with smiles and stand on their own feet. They are my role models," said Fan Xiaoyan, a customer with disabilities.