Skip to content

Building a Future for the Disabled, One Cup of Coffee at a Time

Cafe chain Bitty & Beau’s is growing fast by hiring people with developmental disabilities.

Team members at a Bitty & Beau’s in Annapolis, Md.

Team members at a Bitty & Beau’s in Annapolis, Md.

Source: Bitty & Beau

While businesses across the U.S. struggle to find enough employees, Bitty & Beau’s coffee shops say their attrition rate is near zero and they’re inundated with applications every time a location opens. That’s because the chain primarily hires workers from a demographic advocates say has an unemployment rate above 80%: people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “There’s an untapped labor force of people with disabilities in every community,” says Amy Wright, who co-founded the company with her husband, Ben, six years ago. “Most of our employees have never had a job before.”

Almost 90% of the 350-plus employees at Bitty & Beau’s 11 locations have a disability, doing everything from working as baristas to helping plan strategy in the corporate office. The Wrights decline to share specifics, but they say Bitty & Beau’s is both fast-growing and profitable—no small feat in an industry dominated by the likes of Starbucks, Dunkin’, and Peet’s. “We’re trying to shift the way society thinks about people with disabilities from charity to prosperity,” Ben Wright says. “You can run a profitable business that employs people with disabilities.”