Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Eight

Trattoria Trevi, Windsor

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Ro rang Jinnie and said she hoped she didn’t mind but she had suggested to Nigel that he and Jed should move into what had been Aimee’s office as it was much more suitable for two. Jinnie said of course she didn’t mind. Then she told Jinnie that she had probably wasted her time as Belinda had promised the Core Teams offices were only two weeks from ready and the boardroom would also be ready for the next board meeting on Friday. Nigel had said he could jury-rig the big TV to accept the input from laptops and Belinda had promised the boardroom table, chairs and sideboards were all in the same delivery as the Core Team’s furniture. Ro said her only worry was supplying coffee and tea as the electrician didn’t think he could have the power on until the Core Team were in a week later. Laughingly Jinnie suggested the burger van might be able to help.

Jinnie decided that she wanted to make proper use of next Friday. The board meeting was scheduled for 14:30 and she wanted to have a look at the new offices and kitchens. But if she was going to be out all day she wondered if she could get a look at the prospective restaurant sites in Windsor. Jinnie rang Belinda and asked if she and Brian were available on Friday morning for a look at the Windsor restaurants. Belinda said she could be, but she would have to check with Brian if he was available and if he could set up the viewings with the agents. She said she would ring him and phone her back. Jinnie decided that Alberto needed to be there as well, so she rang him suggesting he should be there.

Ten minutes later Belinda rang back, Brian would love to join them on Friday morning and suggest that they meet at the existing restaurant in Thames street at 10:00. He would ensure the agent knew they were serious buyers. Having checked Google Maps, Jinnie decided that it was really time to try her Lexus LS on a long run, the farthest she had driven it so far was her sister’s on the other side of Potters Bar. It was, of course, a company car and she couldn’t really claim for train fares and leave the car in the garage. As a self-charging hybrid, it was remarkably quiet with the engine only cutting in occasionally to charge the battery, but she really needed to use it. She agreed to pick up Alberto and Guido at the Trattoria Trevi and drive them to Windsor and then on to Crawley.


Penny was sat at her desk in Vauxhall Cross when her desk phone rang. Without looking away from her computer she picked up the handset and said, “Hello.” Emma said, “Hi Penny, the boss wonders if you can join him in his office for a quick meeting.” “OK,” replied Penny, “I’m on my way.” Penny walked across the room to Alan’s office with the intention of telling him she had been summoned by God, but the office door was open and Alan was missing. Not thinking anything of it she headed for the lift to the executive floor.

Stepping out of the lift Emma greeted her and said, “I don’t know what’s happening but I think it’s important and super secret.” Emma showed Penny into ‘C’s office where she immediately noticed he had the glass darkened and a white noise generator was running. ‘C’ invited her and Emma to join him in his meeting corner where Alan and the PM were already seated along with a man in naval Uniform. ‘C’ smiled, nodded to Emma to pour more coffee, and said, “Penny, I know you know the PM but I don’t think you have met Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, Chief of the Defence Staff.” Penny said “No” and shook the offered hand.

Nigel took over saying, “I know this has come out of the blue, but one of the SIS agents in Argentina has just reported to us that the Germans and Argentinians are developing a ballistic missile capable of hitting Britain from South America. We are pretty sure it carries a conventional warhead, but a very large one. We have been discussing options, as you know we don’t have a good relationship with Argentina so we have to tread carefully. We could hit it with a cruise missile or two from a submarine. We could send in a commando raid and blow it up. We could bomb it from an aircraft carrier. But any of these options are likely to cause a diplomatic incident and could even lead to another war.”

“At the moment,” the PM continued, “I don’t want to provoke another war, just when we are recovering so well from the last little escapade in Slovenia. We think the best idea is to indulge in a bit of sabotage. How would you like a little trip to South America and to put some of the demolition knowledge you have into action? What I would really like is for next month’s test launch to fail badly and crash into the plant that is building the things. I don’t know if it is possible, but to make the missile crash in a way that looks like a design problem would be ideal.”

Penny thought about things for a moment and said, “I can see one major problem, I don’t speak Spanish.” “No,” said Nigel, “but you do speak German and there are a lot of Germans, and Argentinians descended from Germans out there, who do. Besides, your old partner Steven has been learning Spanish since his return from Austria.” The Chief of the Defence Staff added, “Not that he knows it yet but Steven is about to be returned to his unit. His commander has picked up a hint that when his current SAS tour is over he is thinking of resigning and getting married. We have other ideas. We want to make him an assistant military attaché in Madrid, it’s a married man’s post so I think we can get him to accept it.”

Penny wondered if Melissa was still the intended wife and how she would take to moving to Madrid. “Right oh,” said Penny, “if I can get to the rocket I can put a demolition charge on it but I have no idea how I would time it, or direct it to crash into the right building.” Again the admiral spoke, “That’s why a naval missile expert, Sub-Lieutenant Phillips will be travelling with you. But there we have a little problem, the sub-lieutenant we have in mind only speaks English and Italian!”

‘C’ drew the meeting to a close saying, “We understand the test flight is scheduled for six weeks today. Steven and the sub-lieutenant will be joining you here at the Cross tomorrow morning to help with the mission planning. You can fly out to Barbados on a commercial flight and will be met at the airport by our local man. He will take you to the naval base where I hope you will have planned onward travel. I suggest you aim to be on station at least three weeks before the launch date so that you guys work out how to sabotage this thing.”


Jinnie picked up Alberto and Guido who were waiting outside the Trattoria and headed for the M25. As they dove, Alberto was looking around the car. “This is a step up on the Jaguar,” he said. “Perhaps I should ask for one!” Jinnie set the cruise control for 70 and followed the Sat Nav. As they travelled they discussed the afternoon’s board meeting. Alberto wasn’t bothered too much about the HR director, he had read both CVs and on paper thought both could do the job. He was delighted to hear Jinnie’s news about the SIS contract, the first phase alone was almost £1 million and if they got all four phases it totalled over £3 million. Then they turned to Belinda’s quote for the Potters Bar kitchen extension, both agreed it was just what they wanted and the price looked right. They agreed they would vote for it to proceed ASAP.

Alberto then wondered if Belinda had the resources to handle all the incoming work. Jinnie said she would talk to Belinda later and see if resourcing the construction division needed discussion at the board meeting. As they turned off the M25 onto the M4 Alberto started to ask about the opening ceremony. Jinnie told him that she had a major celebrity lined up if the board agreed. Jinnie said it had to remain a secret until it the board agreed and she could only tell them then, but it was an extremely well-known person. Alberto kept pressing but Jinnie refused to give him a clue.

Belinda, Brian and a man, who Jinnie guessed was the agent, were waiting for them outside the Thames Street restaurant. The agent unlocked the door and they followed him in. The agent explained that the restaurant had been owned and run as a family business by an Austrian exile family who had returned to Linz at the first possible opportunity and had opened a new restaurant there. They had made a decent living in Windsor and believed it could still provide someone with a decent income. The restaurant was in good condition and neat and tidy inside. Jinnie guessed there were about sixty covers, but too small for their plans for a Trattoria Trevi Windsor. The kitchen was modern and clean, just a little dusty. With a good clean it could be used right away. Belinda was busy taking pictures, making sketches and using her laser measure to add dimensions.

Brian pulled Jinnie to one side, away from the agent, and whispered to her, “I have an idea. I know it’s too small for a Trattoria Trevi branch but I think we could open it as a coffee and sandwich shop and takeaway. I can see the kitchen turning out artisan sandwiches, cakes and pies. Two counters, one to eat in and one for takeaways, we could even sell artisan bread. Just look at the passing trade, it is incredible. The shops and offices around here are really busy.” Jinnie looked at the numbers passing by the windows and thought, ‘He could be on to something.’ But it was the yard at the rear that clinched it for Jinnie. There was ample room for several vans and that would allow for a delivery service.

Jinnie asked Brian, “Do we have the financial resources for two projects?” Brian smiled and replied, “I think so. Until Belinda can give us a costing, I can’t be certain, but I don’t think this would cost us a lot to set up. It is in excellent condition. Maybe a repaint into a corporate colour scheme in case we push the concept to other town centres and corporate signage. ‘Artisan Sandwiches’ is good, the concept works brilliantly in Potters Bar, I can see it working in loads of town centres that couldn’t support a Trattoria Trevi. It has the beauty of being quick and I hope cheap to set up.” “We need to bring Alberto and Guido into this discussion,” said Jinnie.

Jinnie asked Alberto what he thought. He said, “Nice little family restaurant, loads of passing trade, bang in the middle of everything, but too small for us.” Guido nodded his agreement. Then Jinnie explained Brian’s idea. The more she talked, the broader the smile grew on Alberto’s face. Finally, he asked, “But can we afford it as well as a new restaurant?” “Just what I asked,” said Jinnie. “We need a costing from Belinda before we can put it to the board, but I like the idea.”


The next agent was waiting for them in the old pub’s car park as they drew up in convoy. Jinnie was immediately impressed by the size of the car park, it was well big enough for a big restaurant. The building looked like it had been there for a long time and the agent told them that Queen’s Head had been rebuilt in the 1950s on the site of an old coaching inn. They walked straight into a large bar that didn’t look terribly inviting, the carpet was sticky and smelt of stale beer. Once again Belinda was busy sketching and measuring. The agent took them through into the dining room. Jinnie looked around and decided it wasn’t too bad but was a bit dark and the dark wood furniture and the high-backed individual dining pods didn’t help the natural light to filter through the area. The kitchen extension though was quite modern and Alberto said it was well equipped and had been built to serve a lot more meals than there were covers in the restaurant. The agent said that was because it was designed to also serve the function rooms upstairs.

They were led up a staircase to a space where there were two function rooms, a small office and a furniture storeroom. The function rooms were bare and divided from each other by a movable wall. The agent explained that the rooms were let out for wedding receptions and parties and indicated a small raised podium for live music. The store room was packed with folding tables and chairs. In one corner a dumb waiter ran between the rooms and the kitchen. Belinda asked the agent about toilets and he showed her where they were. Belinda went in and was back out a few minutes later saying, “They are truly awful, I have measured the space but they need gutting and a complete refit.”

Jinnie asked Belinda if she would look at replacing the staircase as the current one was narrow. Belinda said she already had it on her list as she didn’t think it complied with building regulations as an emergency exit. She also pointed out that access to the first floor might have complied with disabled access when the pub was built but any major alterations would mean having to install a wheelchair capable lift. The agent heard her and pointed out a steel fire escape accessed through the small office. Again Belinda questioned its legality as you had to pass through a room to reach it and there was no signage.

Back on the ground floor, Belinda looked at the toilets on that level with the same recommendation as for the first floor. The cellar was interesting, it was large, had obviously been used as a bar at some time, but was now full of junk, with an area for beer barrels, and a bottle store. Guido remarked that at least it was dry and would make a decent wine store.

The four had a quick discussion in the car park before heading to Crawley. Belinda said her first thought was it was not too difficult a job just quite a lot of work. Without getting her design team to look at it she felt the downstairs bar was too big for a restaurant. It could easily be downsized and the residual space be used for extra dining space. The guest toilets on both floors needed gutting, the stairs replacing, a wheelchair lift installing and the whole upstairs needed to be reconfigured. Obviously, the furniture store would not be needed but a couple of offices might be useful. The kitchen was modern, well equipped and didn’t need a lot spending on it, and the staff toilets weren’t too bad.

Alberto questioned whether the cellar could be used as a wine store and if a couple of private dining rooms could be included somewhere in the design. Brian wondered if it was worth retaining the moving wall so that they could accommodate different-sized functions while still opening to ordinary customers. Finally, Jinnie asked how many covers did they think could be made available. Alberto said he reckoned that with a 10-person and a 6-person private dining room, they probably had around 280. Jinnie then asked if that was too big to start with. Brian said, “Another reason to retain the movable wall. We could start by opening just the ground floor and depending on reservations open the smaller or larger 1st-floor space, or both.”

Belinda asked if they wanted to retain the small stage as they could probably squeeze in ten extra covers. Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “I say, yes. Two reasons, with such a large restaurant 10 more covers is neither here nor there, but a DJ or even live music at a wedding is a great selling point. But I have been wondering about a monthly supper club. I wonder how a singer or performer and a premium three-course meal would go down. I imagine that we could start with the larger area, say 60 covers, and if it proves successful open up the wall and sell the whole floor.” Alberto added, “We would have to look at the costing. I have no idea how much a decent entertainer and small band would cost, but I would be willing to pay a fair amount to see a well-known singer and enjoy a good meal. I think my wife would love it.”

Brian pulled out his mobile phone and called up the calculator app. A little notepad appeared out of his jacket pocket and a few minutes later he was grinning. “I think we have unearthed a potential big winner here,” he said, “working on the basis that the average spend at Turners Hill is £110 a head, Potters Bar is more but it has a Michelin Star. That means a 100 covers brings in £11,000 a session if we only sell the table once. But we all know that just doesn’t happen, the early diners’ table is often sold twice sometimes three times. We don’t open Mondays normally but Sunday lunch more than makes up for that, so a minimum seven sessions a week brings in £77,000 per 100 covers. I think there is space for 150 covers on the ground floor so if we opened with just the ground floor that’s £115,000 a week in sales. My quick calculations show our cost of sale is around 75%, including all overheads, so that would mean about £35,000 in weekly profit on half the restaurant. Now that is without double selling a table, opening upstairs, the private dining rooms, functions or even Jinnie’s ‘supper club’ idea. We have the money in the bank to pay the full asking price for the freehold and to pay over a million for refurbishment.”

Jinnie felt elated, this was going to make a super destination restaurant. “Excellent,” she said and, turning to Belinda, went on, “and just because Brian has budgeted a million for refurbishment you don’t have to quote it.” Then to Brian, she said, “I assume you will be offering less than the asking price.” “Of course,” he replied, “I will go in low and work up, but this property has been on the market for a while and I think they will take a reasonable offer. I might even try a lease with an option-to-buy approach.” Addressing Alberto, Jinnie said, “I think we need an emergency board meeting to agree this all in principle.” And finally to Belinda, “How quickly can you get back with a quote and do you have the capability to take this on as well as the Vauxhall Cross job?” Belinda replied, “I can always find the manpower on site, it’s good designers and office staff that’s the problem. But I reckon I can get you a quote in a fortnight and that includes the sandwich business”

In Chapter 9 – Penny heads to the West Indies

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