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.


Kathryn said...

Sounds pretty great. :)

Y said...

I'm loving the vibe! Ever thought of writing something for Lucky Peach?

Lee Bemrose said...

What's Lucky Peach? Will google now...