Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Adventure So Far...

My varied and colourful life, so far, has lead me to this little place. It's a humble little place. It's a place run by two people who take pride in what they do and who try to do the hospitality thing to the best of their ability. The Dreaded One & I have always tried to make people happy when they are our guests in our home; we aim to do the same in this place.

Eight weeks after opening. Reflections? It's fucking hard. Almost 60 hours a week each, all staff and bills paid. I can see a day when we can pay ourselves a modest wage. That will be nice.

There are so many things I love about this image. I love that The Dreaded One & I have always done our thing without having to have asked for help. Never had a hand-out. It's always just been us, our hard work, our occasional fuck ups, us enjoying when we managed to make things go right. Thank you, universe, for giving us the ability to provide for ourselves.

I love that the name of the cafe started as a throwaway joke between friends and has now become a real thing. I love that this stupid name is pulling people in; today a group ordered their coffees, then said they saw the sign from across the road and just had to come in and say hello. I have seen lots of people on the street smile at the name.

I love that the person who designed the logo is someone I met soooo many years ago in my Sydney clubbing days. Lia was the coolest peson I had ever seen and was so yeah-no-she's-too-cool-for-someone-like-me-to-talk-to... but don't strangers so often turn out to be such like-minded people and occasionally friends?

I love that you can see Ann standing there, looking at me taking the photo. I love that you can see the very lovely Bianca deeper in the photo. We'll take a proper shot of Team Awesome soon. Bianca is lovely and is going sooner than hoped, but what a pleasant working relationship this has been. She's orright, is Bianca.

Also, the yellow smudge in the top right corner, just above Ann's head, that's Pigeon Christ. I love that he is there to look over us.

And I love going to work each day. Who's a lucky boy then?

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Being Awesome, and a thing about Kanye Motherfucking West

My free pouring latte art shows signs of improvement.

In other news, I am a fucking idiot. Yesterday The Dreaded One and I had our usual Sunday lunch indulgence. Just went to a cheap local seafood restaurant, shared a meal and a bottle of wine in the sunshine, then moved on to a favourite drinking hole, The Black Cat on Brunswick Street.

On a whim, I texted fellow Team Awesome member, Bianca to say that if she and her guy felt like joining us for a drink, it would be really nice. They agreed and joined us for a couple of quiet drinks. They seem really lovely and even invited us back to theirs for dinner. I think it's safe to say that we might become friendly as opposed to just work mates. As I've said, she is an absolute pleasure to work with and he seems cool too.

So why am I a fucking idiot? Well. We've been pulling pretty long weeks. More than 50 hours a week, six days of the week. I really start to feel it towards the end of the week, especially given that I'm not a massive sleeper anyway. Basically, I had to bail on dinner because the combination of feeling physically tired, drinking booze in the sunshine, and being a fucking idiot mean't I started to melt. I felt myself going downhill fast and knew I had to get home and flake out. I said goodbye to the others with The Dreaded One heading on for dinner.

I made it home and passed out immediately.

And slept through my alarm. I awoke with a jump and looked at my watch - 8.30? How the hell did that happen? We open the cafe at 7am. We are so late. And another thing - where was The Dreaded One? Either she had left without me, which was unlikely, or she had pulled an all nighter. On a Sunday? What was she thinking?

I got dressed in a hurry, grabbed my things, my laptop, and dashed out the door. No time for a tram, I'd have to catch a cab. I called The Dreaded One to find out what the hell she was playing at but no answer. I flagged a cab down and we headed off.

In the far off back waters of my mind, a couple of things occured to me: something was wrong with the light, like it was just too overcast or something; and there seemed to be more people out and about. Some of the cafes were packed for that time of the day, and even the pubs seemed full. What had gotten into people?
I got out of the cab, feeling a bit rough. I crossed the road and got my keys out. The place next door was full, which was weird because they normally aren't even open on Monday morning.

No. Actually, something is definitely not right. I stood outside the cafe holding my keys and looked around a bit more. So many people... the light was not increasing, the darkness was.

Because it was 8.30 at night. I'd only fallen asleep for a couple of hours. I think the owner of the restaurant next door saw me and probably wondered what the hell I was doing. Feeling like the idiot that I was, I flagged another cab and went back home.

Sheepish? Hell yeah.

Also, speaking of fucking idiots, here is my latest piece for Soot mag. It's about the biggest fucking idiot there ever was. And I feel I can say that with authority, given that I'm no slouch in the fucking idiot department.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Stalking The Customers (For A Good Cause)

A customer noticed my Santorini T shirt. We started talking about the Greek islands. Turns out she lives in Greece three months of the year and is buidling a place to live in there. She said she'd let me know when it's completed and I could come stay with her.

If she's never been stalked before...

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Team Awesome

Three weeks or so into opening Grumpy & The Dreaded One's Little Cafe Of Awesome, I was not very happy with our first staff member. She was a good worker and made okay coffee, we just weren't a perfect fit. She constantly interrupted my dealings with customers, rearranged the service area to her liking from mine... I got the impression that she was one of those employees who thinks she knows so much more than her employers. You meet them all the time, and you always wonder if they're so switched on, why are they an ee and not an er.

Unfortunately it was early days so we probably did look a little like we didn't know what we were doing. I found myself wishing that we had had three or four weeks on the job before needing staff so that we had some idea of how things worked - when the busy times were, what patterns and procedures fell into place etc.

So I was quite okay when this person told us she was leaving to stay with her sick mother, a story I didn't fully believe for various reasons. The timing was perfect, because by this time The Dreaded One and I had more of an idea of what we were doing and what we expected from our workers.

A day later another of the many travellers looking for work came into the cafe. You can pick them immediately. They don't look at the menu, don't look around at the cafe, they just meet your eye and walk directly up to the counter. I could bet money on picking them and wouldn't lose a dollar.

Bianca was one such person. Resume looked fine, she had plenty of restaurant experience, she was Italian so of course she could do coffee. We settled on a trial shift the following Monday. I placed an ad just in case and was inundated with replies.

That first day was not good. Her English was fine but there were complications and misunderstandings. I had to do my job as well as make sure she was not stuffing up, taking incorrect orders etc. I was expecting pricing questions all day long but that was going to happen with any new worker. Her coffee skills were not as good as I'd hoped. It was a very stressful day and I didn't think it was going to work out after all. Never trust The Vibe.

It was only fair to give her another chance but I did tell her that she was not what I had hoped for and that I had wanted someone with stronger coffee skills. I said we would see how the rest of the week went.

The second day was no better. The third day... I didn't know why I was putting myself through this. I didn't let her do the coffee because it was easier and more reliable if I just did it all myself. One minute I'd decide that she had to go, the next I'd think there was improvement. And by improvement I just meant an easinig of stress. I knew she was intelligent, so soon questions about the menu and pricing and procedure would lessen.

I think it was the third day when I watched her serving a customer, both struggling with accents, that I decided on the spot. She was trying so hard to understand this weird Australian accent that was tinged slightly with irritation at not being understood, and I think I caught a glimpse of a good person. I knew then, right at that moment, that I was going to try to make this work. I knew then that I was going with The Vibe. I didn't quite know if I was making a mistake or not. I just knew that something about Bianca had won me over.

I'm happy to say, I did not make a mistake. I'm happy to say that The Vibe, in this case, nailed it. In a few short weeks Bianca has become the perfect worker I'd hoped she would be. She is an absolute pleasure to work with. She is gentle, intelligent, caring and has a lovely sense of humour. We share laughs during service and I frequently hear her and The Dreaded One laughing from the kitchen. Yesterday the three of us worked on a busy Saturday while the sun was shining, and I got the impression that all three of us were perfectly happy to be there.

The Dreaded One and I were in agreement without initially speaking about it; we didn't want to cross the line into socialising. I was burnt recently with getting too close to co-workers, so I wasn't going to risk that happening again, at least until I was sure things weren't going to go pear shaped.

Both of us are confident now. Both of us have nothing but praise for Bianca. Team Awesome right now is Grumpy, The Dreaded One, pastry chef Andrea, and Bianca. Right now it's all a perfect fit. She's a traveller and will move on in a few months, I guess, but for now I'm enjoying what must come close to the perfect work environment. Whether we become friends or not doesn't really matter, but it woudn't surprise me if we do become friends.

The cafe is doing okay. It's still a struggle. We are working hard, 50+ hours a week, but sales have gone steadily in the right direction each and every week. This is a good sign but we have a long way to go. But it's not all about money. We just need to get that covered; equally important is to enjoy what we're doing and to make sure we have people who enjoy being there, working with us, because I think that will attract customers who want to be there as well.

At least that's what The Vibe tells me.

More Mandelas, Please.

Dear Universe,

The Abbott hasn't been working out so well. We'd like to cancel the Abbotts and order more of the Mandelas. Can we please put in a bulk order for the Mandela in the next delivery?
Kind regards,