Jinnie’s Story – Book Four, Chapter Seventeen

Further Planning

WorthingGooner, Going Postal
The offices were a great advertisement for Belinda’s business.
BAKOKO CDS 2F Window Bench,
Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The board meeting agreed to proceed with offering Brian the position of finance director, provided they could come to an agreement on wages and that he would stand aside on all matters concerning Belinda’s company. Jinnie was left to contact him as she knew him best. She didn’t have Brian’s mobile number so she rang Belinda and asked for Brian’s number. Jinnie explained that she had an offer for him. Belinda gave her the number, but added, “He is right here with me so I can pass my phone over if you like.” Brain said, “Hello Jinnie, is this anything to do with Dirk? He has been very secretive recently and I surmised there was a mission coming.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “No, this is nothing to do with a mission. But it is a job offer, how do you fancy joining Trattoria Trevi Holdings as our finance director? It would be a part-time role, one day a week, and you would have a free hand to sort out our accounting. We would like to do what Belinda has done and computerise our accounts and bring as much as possible in-house.”

Brian asked if would he be expected to work in Potters Bar. And Jinnie said, “No, not unless you want to. I see you working from home or maybe Turners Hill, if you could network the two restaurants. But I would hope you would attend monthly board meetings in Potters Bar for which we would pay expenses.” Brian then said, “Are you not worried I might have a conflict of interest as I work one day a week for Belinda?” “Not really,” replied Jinnie, “I think you are too conscientious for that, but we would ask you not to take part in any discussion or votes where Belinda’s company is involved.”

“That’s fair enough,” said Brian, “But what about remunerations?” Jinnie said, “Well we have a problem here, we have no idea what a part-time director in an SME should earn. All the other directors are shareholders and all but me are full-time employees. We have decided to ask you what you would like and see if we think we can pay it.” Brian chuckled saying, “I don’t want to make a living out of any job I do, I have a couple of very generous pensions, loads of investments and savings. What I want is to do a job I enjoy, with people I like and think I can make a difference in the company I choose to work for. I’ll tell you what, you pay me the same as Belinda does and I’ll happily work for you, I like you, your company and I am pretty sure I can make a difference. But I have one other condition, a free meal at Trattoria Trevi, one or two, once a month.”

Now it was Jinnie’s turn to laugh, “Well I think we can meet that proviso,” she said, “But you still haven’t told me how much Belinda pays you.” “Oh that’s simple,” Brian replied, “I get £1,000 a month plus expenses. I told you I don’t need the money.” Jinnie thought a moment and said, “That’s very good of you, but I don’t want to exploit your generosity, how about we pay you £10,000 a month.” Now it was Brian’s time to pause before replying, “This conversation is surreal, isn’t it normally supposed to be the prospective employee who tries to talk up the salary while the employer talks it down? Well, I don’t want or need more money so it’s a take it or leave it offer.” Jinnie said, “I know when I’m beaten, it’s a deal. When can we meet to get the deal done?” Brian’s end of the conversation went quiet for a minute and finally he said, “Can you and Alberto get to Belinda’s offices in Crawley next Monday? I can be there and Belinda has some preliminary 3D designs on the computer for the dark kitchen she would like you to see.”

On the Monday morning of the afternoon meeting at Belinda’s office, Jinnie had a maternity appointment at Barnet General Hospital so she told the office a white lie and said wouldn’t be in all day. Her morning appointment was routine, Willie and Millie, as they were now known were growing exactly as expected and all her medical checks were perfect. With her documents updated she headed for her car and drove to Potters Bar station where she met Alberto. She had decided that it would be much quicker to travel to Crawley by train. They caught a fast Kings Cross bound train to Finsbury Park, a journey Jinnie was familiar with, then changed on to a Brighton bound Thameslink train which crossed under London and then only stopped a few times before they got out at Three Bridges, which was the closest station to Belinda’s offices on Crawley Manor Royal Estate. For the last few miles, they grabbed a local taxi from the station rank.

The taxi dropped them outside the refurbishment company’s offices in a modern block in what was clearly a large industrial estate. Alberto pressed the front door intercom button to Belinda’s company’s unit and it was quickly answered by a pleasant voice. Alberto said they had an appointment with Brian and Belinda and they were invited to enter and someone would be with them immediately. It was Andrew who quickly arrived to lead them to a meeting room where coffee was waiting for them. Jinnie was impressed. The offices were a great advertisement for Belinda’s business, smartly decorated and furniture obviously chosen to display the best modern trends available. The meeting room table was magnificent, a 12 seater of a modern design in a light wood with comfortable chrome and leather chairs.

The meeting room itself was a glass partition construction similar to ‘C’s and a range of storage wall units stood against the wall to the next business unit along. In the centre of the storage wall unit was a large flat-screen TV set. Through the glass partitions, Jinnie observed a number of people seated at modern bench desks working at computers, each of which was equipped with twin screens. As she watched a technician was manipulating a model of an office space trying out various combinations of furniture layouts. In the far corner, he could see Andrew and Melissa working together at a workstation.

Jinnie was fascinated by the hive of activity going on, before her and Alberto, when Brian arrived. The first thing he did was hit a button that darkened the glass partition between the meeting room and the main part of the office, while leaving the other wall clear. The three of them sat at the meeting table and Jinnie was impressed by how comfortable the chairs were and how the meeting room had instantly been transformed into a private place. Of course, she had seen this type of partition before but it was new to Alberto and she had to explain its magic to him.

Brian was presented with his employment contract that they had drawn up together with the restaurant’s solicitors, a copy of their employee handbook and a confidentiality agreement. Brian glanced at them quickly and asked if they varied in any way from what had been discussed. When Jinnie said no, Brian pulled out a fountain pen and signed on the dotted line saying, “I can’t be bothered to read all that legal mumbo jumbo, sometimes you just have to trust people.” A quick round of handshakes followed and Brian said that if it was OK with them could he work for them on Thursdays and if possible he would like to start that week with a visit to Potters Bar, to see the area designated to be the dark kitchen and to fully understand their current systems and where they wanted to go.

Once everything was agreed Brian rang a four-digit number on the phone sitting on a side table and asked Belinda to join them. She arrived with Andrew and Melissa in tow. Andrew sat at a computer workstation in the corner while Melissa and Belinda took seats at the table. Brian said to Belinda, “As I haven’t yet seen these designs, I hope you don’t mind if I view them with my new Trattoria Trevi hat on.” Belinda nodded in agreement and used a remote control to switch on the large TV which sprung to life displaying an image of the dark kitchen building. It immediately became obvious that Andrew was controlling what was appearing on the screen from his computer in the corner, removing and replacing walls and ceilings to give the guests an idea of what was being planned. Belinda explained that at this stage it was too early to show the correct furniture and fittings but they would get a good idea of the layout of rooms and the proposed flow of an order through the kitchen.

A plan appeared on the screen which Belinda said was the ground floor showing six separate kitchens each with a packing area and a shared central pickup point for deliveries. Each kitchen had its own local storage areas for dry, wet, chilled and frozen goods which Belinda explained were for immediate use. She then pointed out the large central storage area for bulk storage from which the local stores could be replenished. Andrew spun the model around and switched walls from transparent to solid so that each area could be viewed from any direction.

The view on the screen then moved on to the first floor where the server room was located together with what was described as the communications centre. This was where the telephone lines and broadband connections came into the building linking the dark kitchen to the two restaurants and the outside world. Next came the order-taking-in room with separate workstations for each kitchen. Belinda explain she had been talking to the people who had designed and supplied the ordering system installed in the two restaurants and said they had foreseen someone wishing to network more than one restaurant and had included the ability in the software they already had. They had told her they believed the ordering system for the dark kitchen would be a straightforward adaptation of the existing software and linking it all to a minimum stock reordering system should be simple and they were already investigating such a system as they believed it could be marketed widely.

Next up was the proposed boardroom and finally staff changing rooms, restrooms and toilet facilities. Jinnie was amazed the whole thing looked fabulous to her untrained eye but Brian and Alberto had questions. Brian wanted to know if the server room was big enough for future expansion, had an office been allowed for the person who was going to oversee the accounts and who was going to oversee orders, deliveries and the like? Was it the intention to sell and deliver drinks alongside the food, if so, would it be just soft drinks or would they be offering alcohol? Was secure storage envisaged for alcohol? How would billing of the companies whose food was produced in the kitchens work, would it be done through the main computer system?

Alberto said he was interested in delivering beer, wines and spirits with meals they supplied so that would need including. Then he asked whether there could be an office in the new area for him, saying if they could free up his current office it could be turned into a private dining room which could be offered to local businesses or rich individuals. Jinnie immediately liked this idea and thought it could be a real money spinner. Belinda said that as the plans she was presenting only made use of about half the space in the old factory there was plenty of room for modifications and future expansion and that this meeting was to get these ideas now. But to remember, the more they added the more it would cost. Brian pointed out that to cover all options at this time was far cheaper than having to revise things once the build had commenced or in a couple of years’ time when it was realised something was missing.

Then it was Melissa and Andrew’s turn to talk fittings and fixtures. Opening the doors to the storage wall units they revealed display shelves full of wall finish samples, colour charts, carpet samples, floor and wall tiles, furniture brochures, lighting brochures almost anything that went into a modern office right down to desk telephones and air conditioning louvres. Although it was impossible to pick everything out at this early stage it became obvious that the kitchens were going to be all white rock walls and stainless steel, providing simple to clean surfaces, while the offices and boardroom were going to be modern and incorporate bright colours. The one thing Jinnie was insistent on was that she wanted the same boardroom chairs as Belinda had in the meeting room. Belinda said that Jinnie wasn’t the first person who had sat at that table to have said that and she was thinking of asking for commission from the makers!

As the meeting broke up Belinda asked Alberto and Jinnie if they would like to see around the rest of her little offices. Jinnie jumped at the chance. Belinda led them up a wide staircase to the first floor and into another long open-plan office above what Belinda had described as her design office on the ground floor. The bench desks on this level were being used by several girls all sat in front of computers but each with only one screen. Immediately opposite the entrance to the office sat a girl, who she called Lucy, who was the person who ran all the accounts, then came what Belinda called her general office where she explained the staff picked up incoming calls, dealt with callers at the front door, prepared bids and tenders and did the mundane things like making the coffee. After a couple of spare desks, one of which Brian was using, came a couple more glass offices. Belinda said one was hers and the other was her sales director who was out meeting a possible new client.

Jinnie couldn’t help but notice an archway through the way into the next business unit. Belinda explained that when she had bought this unit three years ago, just after the War of Liberation had ended, she had taken a chance on leaving a company she had worked at for years and setting up her own business. Although she knew the industry inside out and had numerous contacts, the owner was never going to let her get to board level. So she had taken a chance and set up this business and bought this unit out of her pension money. Brian had encouraged her saying that if it all went down the pan what did it matter as he had enough income for them not to worry.

Belinda said she had been fortunate that a number of clients from the old company had followed her and in the first year she had turned over more than her business plan had predicted and instead of making a loss had made a small profit. Over the past couple of years business had been good and thanks to the publicity associated with her work at the Trattoria Trevi and its connection to the PM it was now booming and she had taken on extra staff in the office and on-site. A few months ago the business unit next door had become available and with an eye to the future, she had purchased it. The ground floor was now a store where her site people kept equipment not used on every job such as floodlights and things that had been over-ordered and couldn’t be returned but would be used on forthcoming jobs, in particular there was rather a lot of white paint and royal blue carpet tiles!

On the first floor, where the archway led, was the server and comms room and an office area used by the social media department. Belinda explained that her second daughter, Miranda, ran that and it looked after the company’s growing presence on Facebook and Instagram and the company’s website. Belinda explained that although much of her business came from repeat clients and recommendations, an ever-increasing amount came from the internet and social media. Part of Miranda’s job was to ensure that Belinda’s website came up near the front page of any search engine inquiry.

Belinda continued by saying of course you could pay the likes of Google to get an advertisement on the first page you saw when a particular term was searched for. But it was far more satisfying when you had the right words or terms on your website and it came up on the front page without having to pay for it. Miranda also put up progress pictures and stories on Facebook but Belinda said some clients, like SIS just didn’t want any mention of work at all, while others saw any mention as free advertising and others, like Trattoria Trevi only wanted a mention on the internet once the work was complete as they didn’t want competitors knowing what they were doing until they launched.

Jinnie was impressed by how Belinda had built her business in a few years and hoped that Trattoria Trevi could emulate them. She and Alberto asked Belinda if she could call a taxi to return her to the station and Alberto to Turner’s Hill where he wanted to cast his eye over the operation, before travelling home. Brian offered to drive Alberto to the restaurant in his Aston Martin Vantage as he passed near it on his journey home. Alberto jumped at the offer and Belinda whispered to Jinnie, “Boys and their toys! I’ll drive you to the station but I’ve only got a Lexus LC Coupe.” ‘Only a Lexus Coupe,’ thought Jinnie.

Jinnie climbed into a beautiful red car with its tan leather interior and Belinda drove out of her named parking spot and headed towards the station. They had hardly gone a hundred yards when Belinda glanced at Jinnie and said, “I hope you don’t mind me asking but you are pregnant aren’t you?” Jinnie said, “Yes but how did you know?” Belinda smiled and replied, “You have that same contented glow that both my daughters had for their babies and after being a granny four times it is an unmistakable look.” By the time they had reached Three Bridges station, Belinda knew all about Willie and Millie and Jinnie was wondering what kind of a godmother she would make.

In Chapter 18 – Paolo is drawn in.

© WorthingGooner 2022