China’s hole-in-the-wall cafes deliver coffee via bear-clawed baristas

Shanghai's Hinichijou coffee shop is set to open 100 more outlets across China, each with a furry-paw delivery service

A hole-in-the-wall cafe in China that delivers coffee via a "bear claw" has been deemed a success.

Hinichijou coffee shop in Shanghai’s downtown Xuhui District is set to expand across the country with another 100 stores, after the first branch caused a social media storm.

Customers at the unassuming shop on Yongkang Road can place their order via a QR code hanging on the wall under an uneven hole. There are no seats or tables, and all drinks on the menu cost 20 yuan ($3).

A few minutes later, a furry bear claw appears from the hole and hands over the order. Customers can interact with the paw while they are waiting, which often waves, pats customers on the head or hands out surprises.

And now, many more people across China will get to experience the "bear paw cafe", as it's called locally, as the owners have revealed major expansion plans.

Hinichijou – which is a Japanese expression that loosely translates to "extraordinary" – has built up something of a loyal customer base since it opened, and not just because of its quirky bear-clawed delivery method.

It's also winning customers because of the baristas wearing the paws.

Having launched on December 3, 2020 to coincide with the annual International Day of People With Disabilities, the cafe strives to provide employment opportunities for those with disabilities.

The brand started out with two hearing-impaired baristas who were hired through the China Disabled Persons’ Federation. The federation encourages people with disabilities to improve their vocational skills, and provides training.

The manager at the original cafe is Chen Yingying, who was champion of coffee brewing at the 2019 National Professional Competition for People with Disabilities.

The cafe has also received some criticism for its unusual set-up. Some social media users commented that "hiding people with disabilities behind a wall is probably not the best message".

Others replied suggesting that "the wall made them feel comfortable without directly facing customers".

Despite the controversy, as Hinichijou expands its presence across China, the focus will remain the same: with plans for more than half of all the new positions reserved for those with disabilities.

Since it first opened, Hinichijou has added outlets in Shanghai and in Hangzhou, Nanjing and Wuhan. Now, the company looks forward to a bigger presence across China with more socially distanced stores in the pipeline.

Updated: August 16th 2021, 9:04 AM
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