Thursday, May 3, 2012

you're full of shit (or not you're usual day at the office)

Ok when I was attending cafe owners training school (does such a thing even exist?) I'm sure this question never came up:

Q)  What happens if you are up to your armpits in shit plunging out your blocked toilet, and you 'accidentally' flood the adjoining neighbours bathroom with raw sewage as a result?

See, if someone actually asked that question, I'm sure that I would've been listening, coz:

a)  It's such an implausible question that it's never likely to be asked, and 

b)  I'd be keen to hear the answer, I mean really, really keen!

Why? You ask?  Well I'm pleased to say that I can tell you as I found out first hand just yesterday!

It happened like this

Firstly my plumber stopped by the cafe for a coffee in the morning, which is a fairly rare occurrence, say every six months or so, and then only when he has a job on in the area

And secondly my toilets backed up shortly thereafter - which has been a fairly regular occurrence of recent, but usually I can take care of it myself with some fairly routine maintenance, but not yesterday morning

So after an hour or more of plunging and cleaning, I call my plumber, and he sends around a couple of his trusty workers

Unfortunately though, the cafe occupies a split tenancy, with a residence located next door, and we both share the same water line out, leading to a boundary trap located in the enclosed rear courtyard of their property

And because the neighbours weren't home we weren't able to access the 'riser' to pump the line clean

So we set to work on plunging my mop bucket sink (which is on the same water line) instead, with some fairly industrial equipment, which seemed to eleviate but not eradicate the problem of the blocked loos, and the plumbers left vowing to return first thing in the morning when they could access the neighbour's back yard, and do the job properly

Which was all good and well until my neighbour arrived and said, "Do you realise that my bathroom floor is covered in raw sewage? You wouldn't know anything about that, would you?"

Now I'm not saying that my neighbour is gay or anything and it wouldn't matter if he was but he is, er, meticulous with his appearance, and I have no reason to doubt that his designer apartment is anything less than spanking

Well I soon had reason to find out as I inspected the damage in the bluestone tile lined bathroom, resplendent with red chandelier and matching 'hot lips' red painted WC - and I wont go into too much detail here except to say that I was glad that I was not the one who had to clean it!

After all it was those pesky plumbers always wanting to pump something who had saturated the neighbours bathroom - not me!

So I few quick phone calls latter and the plumbers came running and I have to say that they did a great job of identifying the problem (shifting foundation in the back yard moves pipes and casuses blockage due to the expansion and contraction of soil underneath) - and rectifying it - line feed mechanical coil to unblock the pipes and trace the cause and location of the blockage

Perhaps less so their cleaning abilities - as I pointedly asked, 

"Have you guys cleaned up inside and is there anything in there that I need to take care of?"

To which they pointedly replied,

"Nah mate, job's right!"

Well... I thought I'd better check the bathroom anyway to make sure that it was clean and let me just say that it was not, and leave it at that, eh?

Needless to say I was more than a bit apprehensive when the guys from next door (who'd left me with their keys when they went out so that the plumber could have access), came in the next morning, and I was expecting the fiery worst...

So I could't have been more surprised to be told that the bathroom was spotless and probably wouldn't need another clean for a month! (Actually, considering how much effort I put in cleaning it in the first place it shouldn't have been a surprise at all but you know me - I hate to disappoint!) 

Anyway, job's done right mate finally by me in the end - and it's a big relief, I can tell you - thank god there's always great coffee waiting at the end of the rainbow!

Industry accolades and other adventures!

Well... what a year its been already! 

So far we've had a new head chef, new manager, and new barista, new menu, and now we're in the process of custom building a new four group La Marzocco Linea Mechanical Paddle espresso machine!

But first things first

Approximately two months ago we were recognised by The Age newspaper as being among Melbourne's top 100 coffee destinations - which is a tremendous accolade and a testimony to the significant amount of work we've put into sourcing our single origons, and getting the blends right

It's also bought a lot more custom through our doors which has been good for cashflow - which is just as well as we've had two fridges, the cool room, the dishwasher, and the canopy exhaust all pack it in and need to be repaired, in no small part I'm sure due to the increased foot traffic and the increased demands that this puts upon infrastructure 

The increased patronage has also come at a time when my long term manager and head barista have moved on to their own separate projects, the first opening her own cafe in Fitzroy, and the other pursuing her interest in photography - which is divine providence if you ask me as long standing staff members tend to attract their own loyal clientele, and some of those clientele naturally look elsewhere if they dont have the same familiar faces and friendly banter to come back to...

So the recruitment process has to be one of the most rigorous and demanding aspects of hospitality (and indeed any industry I'm sure) - but its sure not helped by:

a)  most folks not considering hospitality to be a 'serious' career contender, and 

b)  the casual workforce for hospitality is a veritable movable  feast - with a very high turnover which means in effect we are always naturally recruiting in anticipation anyway, and

c)  many students turn to hospitality to pay the rent but when they graduate most want a 'real' job, and lastly

d)  as some Irish comedian said when he was out here recently, "You Melbournians are so lucky... There's so many cafes here you've got one for every person in every person in melbourne!"

Which mean that although in theory there are a great many individuals available for work in the hospitality industry, there are very few experienced industry professionals of a suitable calibre to staff those cafes and restaurants which pride themselves on providing the highest calibre of products and services

So we had to re-advertise our chef position for four months in a row, which is not only a considerable expense and impost on a business, but the shear logistics of bringing new personnel through a business, and training them up (and the additional labour costs associated with that), only to have them leave (or encouraging them to leave if they're not suitable) five minutes later is not only demoralising, but very, very physically demanding - and this applies o front of house as well

Anyway, to cut a long story short - after six months of rigorous recruitment and training (including a bit of good old fashioned poaching) - we've finally got a great team and a permanent roster, which means that I can both sleep peacefully at night, and not have to work all the extra shifts myself until we fill the roster!

And the (perhaps) most exciting news of all is the four group La Marzocco Linea rebuild - which we're fitting out with new groups, flow meters, PIDs, mechanical paddles, mother boards, multi-position ant-vac lever operated steam wands, and other ancillary bits and pieces, most of which come straight off the Strada in terms of parts and technology, to create a mechanical rebuild which to all intensive purposes (appart from the actual paddles themselves!) - will look much the same from the outside, but which will purr under the bonnet with all the latest equipment and technology that the specialty coffee espresso industry has to offer!

More to follow and pics as well as soon as they become available!