Silent restaurant an oasis of hope
Owners, who cannot hear or speak, aim to provide more opportunities for disabled workers
Stepping into the Wusheng Restaurant, the world suddenly seems calmer. Customers and employees communicate in silence, and diners talk to companions in hushed tones, offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of the traffic and construction outside.
The 130-square-meter restaurant, whose name means "silent" in Chinese, was opened early this month in a new business area of Jinan, capital of Shandong province, by three people who cannot hear or speak. It employs two able-bodied chefs and two hearing-and speaking-challenged waitresses.
Diners place orders by scanning a QR code on their tables and can leave notes about the flavor or level of spiciness they prefer. The waitresses mainly deliver the dishes to tables and serve water.
At noon on June 6, three days after it opened, only two people were having lunch at the restaurant. "We still have some things to do to make the environment better, as we've only just opened," Liang Yangyang, 33, the cofounder, wrote on a sheet of paper.
Because it was not busy, Liang had decided to go out to buy an air conditioner for the restaurant. "It's summer now," he wrote. "It will be more comfortable for customers to have a cool dining environment."
One of the customers having lunch, Yin Jianghong, said she had been unaware of the restaurant name's significance when she first saw it, but she had thought it was different and decided to give it a try.
"It's so silent inside, making you feel you'd be out of place if you speak out loud," she said. "And then I realized the waitresses here are unable to hear or speak."
Yin gave the food a thumbs-up and said she might bring her friends next time.
The restaurant moved to the new business area after operating for six months in another part of Jinan. The original restaurant occupied just 30 sq m and had space for only four tables. The new one has 11 - five four-seat tables on the first floor, and four four-seat tables and two 10-seat tables on the second floor. The kitchen is on the second floor.
Paintings by hearing-and speaking-challenged people hang on its walls, and the waitresses and waiters wear shirts bearing characters meaning "Being silent with hearts of craftsmanship".
To open the restaurant cost 200,000 yuan ($31,200), half of which came from a kindhearted man who offered to help Liang without setting any conditions.
"Some day, when I make money, I will pay him back more as a way of saying thanks," Liang wrote.
Liang's wife, Li Yanxue, works as a waitress in the restaurant. She added in writing: "I don't know much about what my husband is doing, but I know he is a good man who wants to help more physically challenged people, so I'd like to support him."
Their 7-year-old son, who can hear and speak, has been good at sign language since he was 4. Li said he occasionally comes to the restaurant to help as a translator.
The couple moved to Jinan eight years ago from a city on the Shandong coast. Liang previously worked as a car washer and welder.
"It's not easy to run a restaurant. Communication is the biggest challenge for me," he wrote. "I want to get this restaurant into better shape so I can provide opportunities for more physically challenged people."
Liang Yangyang, the cofounder of Wusheng Restaurant, displays the menu.Photos By Zheng Tao / For China Daily
(China Daily 06/13/2018 page7)