Happy Veggies, restaurant helping the hearing-impaired
By Stephanie Cheng
There is a wide variety of cuisines available in Hong Kong and at a wide range of prices. But if you want to savour fresh, green bites in a cosy environment and for a good cause, then look no further than Happy Veggies. Happy Veggies is the first not-for-profit vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong. It is run as a social enterprise and employs both hearing-impaired and hearing staff. It also promotes vegetarian culture and the use of sign language.
Founded by actor Eric Tsang Chi-wai and actress Jaime Chik Mei-chun in 2010, Happy Veggies is run under the Enhancing Self-reliance through Business Partnership Programme. The restaurant serves economical meal sets tailored for vegetarians such as mushrooms and vegetables with rice and soup. It soon became a sought-after lunch spot for people who care about their health, especially the office ladies working nearby.
You might wonder whether the staff with hearing impairments can actually understand your order. Don’t worry, the restaurant has a user-friendly approach to enhancing your dining experience.
Once you step into the restaurant, you get a lunch set form and pay first at the cashier. You can then take your own food. In the evenings, they use a different system: customers are served by the hearing-impaired staff at their tables. To help diners differentiate, the hearing-impaired staff wear green shirts, while the hearing ones are in yellow.
Menus with detailed descriptions of ingredients, prices and pictures of the dishes provide customers with clear information. Looking around, there are also posters introducing simple sign language, like water, noodles and rice.
At the corner of the restaurant, fair-trade products like tea bags and snacks are sold.
Candy Mok Siu-ying, who celebrated her birthday in Happy Veggies, was overwhelmed when she was treated to a rendition of her birthday song in sign language. She says although the staff sometimes cannot catch their words, they are very helpful and attentive to customers’ needs.
Chen Chia-wen, the administrative assistant of Happy Veggies, says the restaurant is a convenient platform for customers to get acquainted with the staff with hearing difficulties. It fosters mutual integration and understanding. The public gets to see the daily operation of a social enterprise while the hearing-impaired staff can learn how a business is run.
“The hearing-impaired colleagues are actually more focused. They want to prove themselves as competent workers and gain an equal footing with others,” says Chen. While most of the colleagues are deaf or hearing impaired, the challenge of being a waiter can encourage them to be more independent.
Few employers are willing to hire the deaf and hearing impaired. Happy Veggies is different. As an “enterprise with conscience”, it cherishes every employee and they get an afternoon break from 2.30pm to 6.00pm to relax.
If you want to show your support, or if you simply want to enjoy a tasty, healthy meal, then check out Happy Veggies: 1st Floor, Bayfield Building, 99 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai. For more information, please visit http://happyveggies99.blogspot.hk/.