Jinnie was driving home around a busy M25 when her mobile rang, cutting into the phone-in she, Alberto and Guido had been listening to on the car’s sound system. Glancing at the screen it said ‘number withheld’ so she hoped it was the PM returning her call. When she had attempted to ring him earlier the number she had always used had come up as ‘unobtainable.’ Jinnie pressed the button on the steering wheel and said, “Hello.” Nigel’s familiar voice said, “Good evening Jinnie, sorry I couldn’t take your call earlier, but I have had to change my mobile number. Somehow the old one got into the hands of the press, so the Secret Service insisted I change. I now have a super duper ‘approved’ scrambler phone and GCHQ are monitoring the old number and telling me if someone like you calls.”
Jinnie laughed and said, “I don’t think anyone would trust me with one of those.” The PM asked, “Is Alberto still with you?” Jinnie said, “Yes, and Guido,” and Nigel replied, “That’s OK, they can be trusted. What were you after?” Jinnie said, “I only wanted to tell you that the board approved the opening ceremony at today’s meeting. We will be moving into the offices on Monday week. The first three kitchens will be handed to the clients at the same time but they both want three weeks to set themselves up before opening for business. We also need that time to set up the call centre, dispatch, delivery service, and hire some staff. So how does three weeks today sound? We will have blanket advertising for staff from Monday so I expect the press will be sniffing around from Monday afternoon.” “That suits me do down to the ground,” said Nigel, “I will ring you on Monday morning so we can discuss arrangements.”
The twins were in bed when Jinnie got home and she popped upstairs to see them. Lucia had bathed them and powdered them and brushed their hair. They were both asleep and looked angelic. Jinnie bent over and kissed them in turn, inhaling the smell of shampoo and clean baby. Jinnie and Lucia headed for the kitchen where Lucia had already got a huge homemade lasagna cooking in the oven ready for dinner as soon as Paolo got in. Jinnie knew Paolo loved garlic bread with lasagna and got some out of the freezer and into the second oven while Lucia put a bottle of Soave in the fridge.
Over dinner Jinnie told them of her day, how they had found restaurant number three, and a new sandwich business and how DKL’s new HQ was coming along brilliantly. She then told them that there was to be an opening ceremony with a famous person cutting the ribbon which would give them loads of free publicity as it was bound to be on TV. Paolo asked who they had got and how much it was costing them. Jinnie said she couldn’t tell them yet who it was but it wasn’t costing them anything.
Alberto rang Jinnie on Saturday evening. He had arranged a Trattoria Trevi board meeting for Monday morning, when they were closed, to formally agree to the plan for the Windsor branch and the new sandwich business. He explained he had already talked to all the other board members and everyone thought it sounded good. He said the general opinion was that it was really down to Belinda’s quote but if the price was right then they should go for it.
Jinnie had only just rung off when the mobile rang again. This time it was Jerry the DKL sales director. He explained that he had taken the MD of a chain of Greek restaurants out to dinner last night and they were very close to signing for a Manor Kitchen which was a good prospect for one at Potters Bar. However, they had asked if DKL could supply the kitchen staff. Jerry had told him he hadn’t been asked before and he wanted Jinnie’s view before agreeing anything. Jinnie told him, if he read the company agreement between Super Burger and Trattoria Trevi he would discover that DKL was barred from selling that service as it was offered by Trattoria Trevi (Kitchen Services) Limited and that division hadn’t been purchased by DKL. However, the agreement said DKL were to pass all requests for such a requirement on to Trattoria Trevi. Jinnie said if he gave her the details she would don her Trattoria Trevi hat and would contact the Greek’s MD immediately.
On board the Celebrity Apex the three ‘Italians’ were passing through the Panama Canal and were on deck watching the ship squeeze into the Gatun Locks guided by two locomotives on either side. It was hot, horribly humid and all three were drinking ice-cold Pepsi Max. Standing alone by the rail on the open-top deck they were discussing the mission. Once they reached the Pacific they would visit Panama City, before stopping in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Northern Chile before leaving the ship in Valparaiso. They were to be collected by what was supposed to be a chauffeur-driven car to take them to a hotel in Santiago. The chauffeur was in fact another SIS agent who would supply their German paperwork and handguns. After a night in a hotel, a hire car would be delivered to them and the 500-kilometre trip to Mendoza should take around six hours.
They were booked into the Ibis Mendoza for five nights. Not the best hotel in town, but a decent one if you had a car as it was away from the city centre and cheap, befitting tourists on a tight budget. The word was that the launch was on the afternoon of their last day so they had a while to infiltrate the site and finalise the sabotage. When the hire car was dropped off at the hotel, its boot would contain PE8 mouldable explosive, timers and detonators, a sniper rifle, two FN FAL rifles, which were army standard issue, ammunition together with special electronic equipment for Les that neither Steven or Penny understood. Steven had been on a recent course to learn how to operate a Black Hornet nano helicopter and a kit was included in the car. At the end of the mission unused equipment was to be left in the boot and the car would be collected.
The three of them decided they needed to keep fit and visited the ship’s fitness centre for a workout every morning before breakfast. The instructors rapidly learnt that they needed no instruction and even Penny was fitter than them! After a light lunch they often joined a basketball game on the sports deck where they quickly were recognised as fierce competitors. Penny looked forward to her evening meal in the main dining room and was getting used to the ‘American’ menu. Likewise, their waiters were getting used to them and the men found that if they ordered a steak without asking they got two served with what they called chips but the waiters insisted were ‘French fries’.
Jinnie wasted no time in phoning Andreas Christou the MD of the Greek restaurant chain. She quickly introduced herself as the MD of Dark Kitchens Limited and explained that they were unable to offer the staffing arrangement he wanted due to a contractual agreement with Trattoria Trevi. However, she said that with her other hat on, as the COO of Trattoria Trevi, she would be delighted to offer the services he required through Trattoria Trevi (Kitchen Services), and set up a meeting for him with the Trattoria Trevi finance director.
Jinnie said they already supplied staff for two kitchens in the DKL facility in Potters Bar and he was welcome to visit the facility at any time and talk privately with the manager of the business that had contracted them. Andreas was delighted with the speedy reaction by DKL as he had only mentioned it to Jerry over dinner the previous evening. He then said he didn’t realise that Trattoria Trevi was associated with DKL. Jinnie explained it was a 50/50 joint venture between Trattoria Trevi and Super Burgers. But operated independently of both companies. Andreas replied saying that he had dined in the Turners Hill restaurant several times and only wished it was easier to book a table.
Sunday was lunch at Mum and Dad’s, but today they were short of two regulars. Mrs Walsh explained Penny was away on business and Daniel had taken the opportunity to eat lunch with his parents and sister. Jinnie’s ears pricked up on the news that Penny was ‘away on business’ and guessed she was on a mission somewhere. She decided to have a word with Emma, knowing that it would unlikely she would disclose what Penny was doing. Lunch this week was roast pork and all the trimmings. Mrs Walsh had produced delicious crackling and Jinnie was able to introduce Lucia to this very British treat. When they left for home Jinnie had a Tupperware box with two slices of pork to supplement Larry’s Felix.
On Monday morning the PM did as he has promised and rang Jinnie. He said he had been talking to his press secretary and they had agreed on the date for the grand opening they had discussed. Nigel said that at the moment only a few people knew his full plan, Jinnie, Richard his foreign secretary and deputy who he wanted to hand over to, his ex and the king. Nigel said as far as the press secretary knew he was simply doing a friend, Jinnie, a favour and would be making a speech. However, he had told the king and that Jinnie was conspiring with him to make the speech. The king had chuckled and said, “You couldn’t have chosen anyone better to keep a secret,” and asked, “What is she doing now?” Nigel said he had told the king about the restaurants, the dark kitchens, the home cook service and the plan to open two businesses in Windsor. It was only when he had rung off that she suddenly thought, ‘How the hell did he know about Windsor?’
The Trattoria Trevi board met in the boardroom of what was now the Potters Bar DKL kitchens building that afternoon. The boardroom plus the directors’ offices were now part of the kitchens leased from DKL. The rest of the board listened intently to Jinnie and Brian as Alberto described the two buildings and their potential. Alberto suggested that they discuss each business separately with the artisan’s Sandwich shop first.
Jinnie explained that it was a nice family restaurant in a busy area with a lot of passers-by. But it was just too small for them to operate as a restaurant. They had been about to forget the building when someone suggested that it would make a good artisan sandwich shop. The four directors present had thought the dining space should be used and had concluded that if they were making homemade sandwiches, cakes and pies it would be simple to add tea and coffee and have an eat-in facility for customers. Belinda had indicated that it would be quick and fairly cheap to convert.
Jinnie continued, there was a yard at the rear of the building that would be perfect for deliveries. If it worked it could be the first of a new chain. Brian further pointed out that the premises could be taken on a short lease with the option to buy, reducing the financial risk and Alberto added that if the sandwich delivery side did half as well as the Potters Bar business they would be buying the freehold in six months. The vote to enter negotiations for the lease was passed with no one voting against, on the proviso that the conversion was less than £100,000.
The discussion moved on to the second building. Jinnie had loads of photos to show the board and the first impression was that it was dark and grimy, but huge. However, the kitchen block met with universal approval with the head chef commenting that he would be happy cooking in there. Jinnie explained that, like the Turners Hill restaurant, they intended it to be a destination restaurant with customers coming from a wide catchment area, therefore the huge car park was a big bonus. Alberto explained that there were large dining areas downstairs and a huge saloon bar. The initial thought was they could halve its size and still leave a good-sized bar and reception area. The released space would give them additional table space.
Alberto then described the upstairs space and how it was split 60/40 by a moveable wall and that there was an office, a storage room and stage. Jinnie picked up the tale saying how they thought they should keep the moveable wall and the stage. But that the office would have to move as it obstructed the fire exit. Jinnie said they wanted to learn from Potters Bar and Turners Hill and install at least two private dining rooms and a chef’s table. The sommelier asked about wine storage and Jinnie pulled up photos of the cellar bar saying that it looked to be ideal. She then said the main stairs needed replacing as everyone was certain it wouldn’t pass building regulations and in addition, a wheelchair lift would have to be installed before the upstairs area could be used. So the idea was to open the ground floor before the first floor.
Finally Brain chipped in saying, “I know you are thinking how much is all this going to cost. Well, I think we can do it for under £1,000,000. The same as with the sandwich shop, it is available to lease with an option to buy after six months. They are talking about £90,000 for six months lease, two x three months at £45,000. We think we can get in and make good money on about 140 covers downstairs alone. The upstairs can be opened in stages adding capacity as required. The beauty of the movable wall is we could use sections of the upstairs for smaller functions, say 40 covers or 60 covers and use the stage for live music or a DJ. Jinnie has suggested that we could run a monthly supper club in either the large section upstairs or if it proved popular in the total area. We would have to fully cost it, but I have a feeling that with a decent singer, comedian or magician and a three-course meal we could turn a nice profit, before wine and spirit sales are added in.”
The discussion continued for a while and Brian had to answer several financial questions. Yes, they could afford it, they had sufficient funds in the bank. Yes, they could afford both projects at the same time. No, there was no need for borrowing. Jinnie sensed that the board was going to vote for approval with just a little bit more of a push. She decided to reveal that she had spoken to Belinda that morning and she had been working on a costing all weekend and was certain that it was going to cost well less than the early guesstimate of £1,000,000. The vote to proceed was again unanimous but with a similar proviso that Belinda’s quote was less than £1,000,000.
On the way out of the meeting, Jinnie asked Brian to join him in her COO office. Closing the door she said to him, “I really should not be talking to you here about DKL business, but it is half Trattoria Trevi business. I have given your name and number to Andreas Christou, his Greek restaurant chain is looking at leasing a Crawley kitchen, and possibly a new one in Potters Bar, but he wants someone to operate it for them. It sounds like jobs for Trattoria Trevi (Kitchen Services). Brian smiled and replied, “He is in a hurry, he phoned me yesterday afternoon in the middle of my Granddaughter’s birthday party. He is due for a look around in about 30 minutes. I made a quick call to Neil yesterday and he has plenty of people available through his Gatwick branch.”
On Wednesday day afternoon Jerry emailed Jinnie. He said he didn’t know how she had done it but Andreas had just signed up for a kitchen. There were only three left for sale now and there was plenty of interest in them. He then said it had been manic in the leased offices since mid-morning when the first edition of the Evening Standard and the Brighton Argus had been printed. There had been phone call after phone call on the company’s line from journalists wanting a story. The agency hired to sort the applications had reported a steady stream of applicants. They would have a number of people ready to interview on Friday. “Excellent,” said Jinnie, “I hope some job offers can be made immediately.”
The next call was from Belinda reporting that a load more furniture had been delivered first thing that morning and that the manufactures team were busy getting it erected. The electricians cabling teams were busy connecting the power and data cables to the desks. Nigel and Jed were madly unpacking PCs and phones and installing them on the monitor arms and PC housings. They had borrowed a labourer from Peter to help with the logistics. Jinnie asked, “If I could make it to Crawley tomorrow and Friday would I be able to help or would I just get in the way?” Belinda said, “I am sure everybody will be welcome, there is an awful lot to do to make the place half usable for Monday. For example, the place is awash in empty cardboard boxes and if you just help clear those it would be helpful. I am certain you could help with interviews on Friday.”
Belinda continued, “Your and Ro’s offices have been set up, and even if I say it myself, they look great. Brian is doing his best to help and his office is nearly ready. He has been ringing people and says he should have accounts and finance up and running first thing on Monday morning. Nigel and Jed are working like Trojans, but they have loads to do. Peter is sorting out the snagging and Jason is running around with pots of paint touching up knocks where the furniture has been scraped on a wall. Richard says kitchens 1, 2 and 3 will be ready, even if he has to work Saturday and Sunday. Oh, and Ro has found a laminator from somewhere and has made some temporary passes for anyone we hire.”
In Chapter 11 – Interviews
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