COCA Restaurants, the leading Thai suki restaurant chain, is tapping into the ancient wisdom of Thai massage in an effort to create new opportunities for underprivileged members of society whilst also helping to keep its workforce happy and healthy.
This innovative Asian culinary brand, which opened its first dining establishment more than 60 years ago, has offered full-time employment to four blind Thai massage therapists. These highly-trained wellness experts will be based in the company’s headquarters, provide soothing head and shoulder massages to COCA’s busy team.
Through this valuable initiative, the company is embracing the finest traditions of Thai hospitality, providing much-needed employment to disadvantaged people, and helping to promote health and wellness in the workplace. As part of the COCA family, the therapists will be able to play an active role in the community, rather than being marginalized, which will help to build their self-confidence and break down barriers in society.
“The practice of blind massage in Thailand can be traced back to many centuries. It was found that, in many cases, visually impaired people proved to be the best massage practitioners; having lost their sight their sense of touch was enhanced, enabling them to feel for muscular knots more accurately and intuitively,” said Trevor MacKenzie, Managing Director of COCA and Mango Tree Restaurants Worldwide.
“At COCA, our philosophy is to treat our employees like our own family, whilst also caring for our community. Unfortunately, visually impaired people often find it hard to integrate into working society, so by providing employment opportunities to blind masseurs and masseuses, we are helping them to build their workplace skills, enhance their self-confidence and of course, earn a regular salary. This is a wonderful example of a win-win initiative that creates benefits for our entire workforce, our customers and the wider community,” he added.
COCA has already employed four massage practitioners, all of whom were initially based at the company’s head office in Bangkok before rotating between the company’s other branches. Massages are available every day from 12 noon until 4 pm and each session lasts 20 minutes. This service has proven incredibly popular with COCA’s personnel, with the time just after lunch becoming a “rush hour” for the masseurs and masseuses.
The massage therapists have also now started heading out to visit COCA’s restaurants in Thailand, providing the same services to busy frontline staff including chefs and waiters, who spend long hours working in a fast-paced environment.
The massage industry is hugely important to visually impaired people in Thailand, as it is one of the few professions they can do to an equal or even better standard than if they were fully sighted. In line with the age-old traditions of Thai massage, the blind treatment is performed without oils and while the recipients are fully clothed, making it perfectly suited to a workplace environment.
The massage follows designated lines (“sen”) in the body, targeting pressure points and relieving tight, twisted muscles. Combining pressing and stretching with Indian Ayurvedic principles, the recipient is left feeling not only physically refreshed, but also mentally revived and ready to tackle the afternoon ahead.
Pending the results and feedback from this initial period, COCA is considering expanding its team of full-time blind massage therapists in the future. This could lead to the roll-out of workplace massage services to the company’s entire portfolio of 67 Thai suki restaurants in Thailand and beyond.
COCA dates back to 1957 when Khun Srichai Phanphensophon and his wife Patama opened their first suki restaurant in Bangkok’s historic Surawong district. The group now spans three generations, and while it has evolved over the years, the brand has stayed true to its roots. By embracing the concept of blind massage, COCA is helping to ensure the long-term future of another famous Thai tradition.
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