Woman initially upset about service calls for patience for Clementi Mall Swensen's employees with autism

"Don't jump the gun too quickly like myself," wrote Sindhu RK Johnson on Facebook.

Andrew Koay | August 10, 2022, 04:06 PM

Follow us on Telegram for the latest updates: https://t.me/mothershipsg

Singaporean families across the island will be familiar with Swensen's, a casual dining institution known for serving up western food and ice cream treats.

Yet, not many might know the restaurant's hiring policies, which include working with people with disabilities.

One woman on Facebook, Sindhu RK Johnson, took to the social media platform to detail how she found out after initially being frustrated with the service she'd received.

"Don't jump the gun too quickly like myself," she wrote while detailing her experience at the Swensen's in Clementi Mall on Aug. 8.

"When a table was ready, a waitress called us both in... not ushered in but hand gestured," she wrote.

"Like you know how you call a cat and pointed us to the table at the corner."

She also detailed how the servers at the restaurant seemed "judgemental" when she asked for her table to be wiped and unattentive when she wanted to order.

The last straw for Johnson was when she attempted to use a free drink coupon she had on the Swensen's app.

"The guy came with food, I told him about the drink coupon... he completely blanked me off, put the food down and walked away (zero interaction)," she wrote.

"I thought maybe he is getting a server... no he straight went back into the kitchen. And there were no cutleries for me."

Restaurant's staff members from special education schools

The last interaction caused Johnson to seek out the restaurant's manager; "I didn't raise my voice or make a scene but I was very upset," she said.

"To be honest, I assumed I got this treatment because it was only me and my son. So technically what I would spend would be lesser than two paying adults."

After patiently hearing Johnson's grievances, the manager informed the mother that majority of the restaurant's staff members were teenagers with autism studying at Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) special education schools.

"I profusely apologised to the manager," wrote Johnson, adding that she suggested that Swensen's make its hiring policies known to patrons to avoid misunderstandings.

The mother also noted that Google reviews about the restaurant were less than favourable — a quick check showed that there have been complaints about the customer service at the Clementi Mall outlet.

"I'm writing this to just make known how wonderful it is for Swensen's to be inclusive and give an opportunity," she continued.

"But also be patient with the servers. And do support them and not boycott due to poor services if you ever had any. It isn't intentional."

Swensen's committed to inclusive employment since 2008

Responding to Mothership's queries, Swensen's confirmed that a majority of the waiters and waitresses at the Clementi Mall outlet are persons with special needs.

"The number is subject to changes day-to-day depending on the outlet’s duty roster and ground staffs’ work schedules," said the restaurant.

"While we do practice inclusive hiring for all our outlets across Singapore, some bigger outlets like the one at Clementi Mall will see more hires as the outlets are also used as a training platform – the job coach from their respective institutions will be there to offer on-the-ground training and support."

Swensen's added that they have been committed to inclusive employment practices since 2008 and work closely with institutions such as APSN and Metta School to provide work experience and employment opportunities.

"To the best of our ability, we match them to suitable roles based on their capabilities and interests. With this effort, we are able to foster an inclusive and empathetic workplace culture where diversity is embraced," said Swensen's.

"This is very meaningful to us, and we are heartened by the overwhelming support from the community."

Top image from Sam Loke via Google Maps