The Friendship Café in Florida will employ adults with special needs

On the menu: falafels, hummus, pastries and more

Friendship Café's Special Needs Employees. (Courtesy of Friendship Circle Fort Lauderdale).

The Friendship Circle Fort Lauderdale, a nonprofit community organization for children with special needs, announced it will open The Friendship Café.

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The Mediterranean-style fast-casual restaurant that trains and employs adults with autism, Down syndrome and other special needs. Doors will open on Jan. 15.

The one-story and 700-square-foot store will be located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony hosted by Mayor Dean Trantalis.

On the menu: falafels, hummus, pastries, salads, sandwiches, vegetable shawarma and coffee.

The idea is to offer education and employment to adults with disabilities who want to work in food or hospitality, Dean Myerow, senior advisor to the Friendship Circle of Greater Fort Lauderdale and board member at Green Point Research, told FOX Business. But he said “we view Friendship Café, not as a disabilities café, but an abilities cafe.

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"Our goal is to train those with special needs through a workplace opportunity curated just for them. It becomes readily apparent when you see a special-needs adult have the pride of learning a new skill and receiving a paycheck, especially accounting for the fact that 80 percent of those adults are not a part of the mainstream workforce.”

Friendship Café's Special Needs Employees. (Courtesy of Friendship Circle Fort Lauderdale).

The Friendship Café is one of many businesses opening its doors to special-needs workers. Some others include AT&T, Boeing and Disney, according to job website Monster.

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But while many businesses are reaching out, the unemployment rate for workers with disabilities was 8 percent in 2018, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s more than double the rate of those with no disability, though, it’s down from 14 percent in 2009.

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“We have had tremendous positive feedback from multiple charitable endowments located in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area that we believe will lead to multiple locations of the Friendship Café and further expand the program’s reach,” Myerow said.“We are aware this is a unique offering and don’t expect other businesses to go about training those with special needs in a way like the Friendship Café can. However, we do expect our program graduates to be more than able to operate in those other businesses.”

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