The saying that disability is not inability comes in handy at Pallet Cafe, a high-end restaurant chain that offers opportunities to people with hearing impairment. Pallet Cafe has two branches located in the affluent Gigiri and Lavington areas of Nairobi.
The Lavington restaurant opened its doors in January, 2019. The entrepreneur behind this venture is Feisal Hussein who saw the market niche for quality foreign cuisines and also the need to empower disabled people. According to him, most people living with disabilities found it a difficult task to land employment opportunities.
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“Most employees shy away from disabled people because they think it is a risk. They are human and are able to do what any other people can do. I think there is no risk because I have worked with them. So far, so good – no challenges found,” said Hussein in a past YouTube interview.
Hussein reckons that the idea has been the best thing for his business. He says that he offers training for chefs, waiters and waitresses which has boosted their confidence. It is inspirational that some of his previous employees went on to build their own ventures.
“We train them because most of them were not working before. If you asked them why they’d tell you that nobody had given them any opportunity. I always tell them to follow as per the contract and also build themselves a way to gain confidence,” he details.
The communication challenge when starting out
Pallet Cafe used various schools of the Deaf to pick out a number of potential employees who would later been subjected to an interview. They then employed the ones rated as the best.
Susan Watkins, a general manager says that during their maiden days, there was a huge communication barrier given that she didn’t understand sign language. This forced the facility to work with a sign language interpreter in order to iron out this constraint. She also learnt from the employees and can currently communicate using sign language.
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Feisal Hussein says that they always ask for feedback from their clients:- “They always give us a thumb,” he says. The staff don t-shirts written: ‘I am Deaf‘ just to signal the customers.
Read Also:Salary Of Sign Language Interpreters In Kenya, Requirements &; Colleges Offering Course
Pallet Cafe has most of its furniture beautifully designed using wooden pallets, hence the name. It has a wide variety of Kenyan, American, Indian, European and Chinese dishes.
Apart from this, they have an outdoor yoga centre, a social center and an art studio. For people interested in a quiet working place, they offer a day plan charged Ksh 1200 which includes coffee and high speed WiFi. This plan costs Ksh 10000 for a monthly package.
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