Are Restaurants Ready for Specially-abled Employees
Are Restaurants Ready for Specially-abled Employees

Trends may come and go in the food and restaurant world, but inclusivity is timeless. A few restaurants in India have taken the initiative to hire people with hearing and speech impairments, which is a huge step forward for a good cause. With this, the hospitality industry demonstrated its concern for people from all walks of life. Restaurants employing people with hearing and speech impairments not only provides them with a source of income, but also gives them confidence that they will be treated fairly. 

The next time you walk into a cafeteria or a pizza store, watch out for something a little more noteworthy than your steaming pizza. A differently abled person could be working in the back area, and quite possibly with more élan than your usual order taker! Several food retail outlets in the city including Café Coffee Day, Dominos, Subway and McDonald’s, are increasingly hiring people with disability, particularly folks who are speech and hearing impaired, to build an inclusive environment at the workplace. Interestingly, fellow employees are more than welcoming to this trend.

Take the case of Yogendra HM and Sharanappa Khaski, both working with Domino’s Pizza. Being speech and hearing impaired, life has not been a cakewalk for them. However, with hardwork and determination, they became team members of the organisation’s JP Nagar outlet and currently work in the back area! “I now feel independent and live with dignity. I am really grateful to the company and enjoy working here. The whole restaurant team is highly cooperative and full of energy. The work culture is full of fun and value-creating activities. I don’t feel different from others working with me,” says Yogendra. Persons with disability are typically recruited for pizza making or for pre-rush preparation.

At the side of the tree lapped CH Area main road in Jharkhand’s steel city, Jamshedpur stands a quaint, cozy and unique tea lounge- La Gravitea. The cafeteria serves 105 varieties of tea from around the world, along with breakfast, lunch and drinks, although, the most distinct feature about the cafeteria is their initiative to empower women with hearing impaired, few of them with Olympic medals in their kitty.

The cafeteria, in an attempt to defy all odds and stereotypes, has employed 7 deaf and mute young women. One of the employees, named Guruveer Kaur is a proud Gold-medalist in Badminton at the Olympics for specially-abled, 2015, while, another employee named Suggi is a National Athlete and has won several accolades. Despite their accomplishments in the field of sports, these women were previously unemployed and were on hunt for a job.

Avinash Duggar, the owner of the restaurant, an ex-vice president of Kohinoor Steel, shared his inspiring story of meeting one of his deaf and mute employee at his tea kiosk, which he had put up for trail before starting the lounge.

The encounter with the deaf and mute girl persuaded him to develop this unique and inclusive business model. Duggar says, for him La Graviteais equivalent to realizing a dream.

There are about 50 million physically challenged people in India. Apparently, only 2 per cent are educated and 1 per cent employed. Henceforth, such efforts are being made at various sectors to integrate them into the mainstream. “People with hearing and speech disability are very hard working and dedicated as employees. They do a great job in the back area. In fact, there are many who have joined as brew masters in our organisation, and have now become managers, handling a café and a team as well. We are also planning to have outlets where the operation is run completely by differently abled persons only. They are sensitive and honest employees and contribute a lot to the growth of the organisation,” a senior spekesperson from Café Coffee Day said in a statement.

This growing trend is mainly attributed to the continuous efforts made by various NGOs to promote inclusivity. Not only do they train them, but they also coordinate with corporate organisations to get them employment. Youth4Jobs Foundation and TRRAIN (Trust for Retailers and Retail Associates of India) are two such organisations that train underprivileged youth in market linked employability skills.  “The objective is to include persons with disability in the retail sector, with a large focus on food retail. This will result in a win-win situation for both. Differently abled persons will gain employment and the company will be valued more in the market when it brings in an alternate pool of staff,” says Meera Shenoy, co-founder, Youth4Jobs. 

Training and development is an integral part of these programmes. Before starting the process of training, a detailed role mapping exercise is generally done to understand the roles that these employees can take up. There are many roles which can be performed by differently abled persons, particularly persons with locomotor and hearing disability. Also opportunities in the food retail sector is growing threefold, especially at the entry level. 

"Restaurants and other sectors are as ready as ever if this becomes a focus area for them. As an equal opportunity employer, we have created avenues and well-defined structures for specially-abled employees to work and thrive across our food businesses, with our first hires going back over 3 decades ago. Given this year is the 50th anniversary of our business, we have set a goal to enhance hiring of specially-abled individuals across our business verticals. Today, we have specially-abled team members working in the front of house, back of house, and corporate offices of Copper Chimney, TFS and Irish House, and we will continue to invest in this area for the years to come," said Karan Kapur, executive director at K Hospitality Corp.

In terms of remuneration, companies do not differentiate between employees. Differently abled employees are entitled to all the benefits, as other able-bodied employees. Interestingly, the attrition figures tracked by training companies, show less attrition among differently abled employees. However, the two major reasons cited by folks who quit work, are long standing hours and lack of suitable, moderately priced accommodation.

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