Inclusive Cafe Joyeux Enters U.S., Captures Cannes Accolades


On March 21, Café Joyeux, a nonprofit European café-restaurant chain staffed by people with Down Syndrome and other intellectual/developmental disabilities, opened its first U.S. outpost, at Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York.

Three months later, a six-minute Café Joyeux animated film, “47,” captured four awards at the Cannes Lions ad creativity festival.

Pretty impressive, but that achievement pales in comparison to the story of the man who inspired the film: a 47-year-old who got his first job ever thanks to Café Joyeux. The film shows how getting that job followed repeated rejections since childhood, but how “he’s always been amazing. He was just waiting for the world to be."

Rachel Barcellona, an effervescent 27-year-old crew member at the New York café, identifies with the film. “I just kept going, just like in the movie. I never gave up,” she told a press gathering last week. “I would apply for hundreds of jobs every day.”



Now, said Barcellona, who is also an activist/author/model/actress/singer, “I love making coffee and making people happy. I love cracking the eggs for our breakfast sandwiches.”

Noting that she has weakness in her hands, she said that before working at Café Joyeux, “I couldn't even hold a knife or cut anything. Now, I can cut your carrot cake for you.”

“The film is really a call-to-action to society to create more inclusive opportunities” said Amy Fortunato, vice president-group creative director at agency Klick Health, who co-wrote “47.” “This is  a story of believing in human potential, and of joy, confidence and acceptance.”

In addition to Klick, animation house Zombie Studio and music/sound production house Canja Audio Culture also donated their efforts to the film, with much support from people with — or connected to — Down Syndrome, many of whom are shown during the closing credits, along with Manhattan Café Joyeux crew members reacting to getting their job offers.

Sylvie Giret, U.S. CEO of Café Joyeux, who prefers to call the café-restaurants a “family” rather than a “chain” and to call her employees “special needs” people rather than disabled, notes that there are at least 8 million people in the U.S. with intellectual and development disabilities, and that 80% of them don't have a paid job.

In addition to serving customers at its café, the New York operation also sells coffee nationwide via its website,  and serves the coffee/pastry needs of corporate clients in the Big Apple. Restaurant Associates, one of the city’s largest restaurant operators, recently approved Café Joyeux as a vendor, Giret revealed.

Klick has been helping the café promote itself by working with Firefly in donating free electronic ads on top of yellow cabs driving within a mile of the café. “Serving inclusion. Now in New York,” the topper reads.

The film, meanwhile, is being submitted to film festivals around the world, running on the Café Joyeux website and used in fundraising efforts.

“We created '47' to help mark the opening of Café Joyeux's first US location, create more awareness, and help drive more people to the location to experience the joy (and great coffee) they bring to the world,” Klick tells Marketing Daily.

Café Joyeux has 14 crew members in New York and nearly 250 in all its locations, which now number 24. The café-restaurants are mostly in France, but also in Portugal, Belgium, and now the U.S.


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