Over lunch, Ro told Jinnie about her meal at Trattoria Trevi Turners Hill. Jed had booked a taxi so he could have a drink and they had both been surprised by the number of flashy cars in the car park. They had been greeted by Alphonso as soon as they entered the door and Ro was amazed when he called them both by their first names. To her he was a company director and she was just a lowly employee. He had taken them into a magnificent dining room and led them to a secluded corner table where they could see all the comings and goings. She had immediately recognised one of the SuperBurger directors with his wife and Jed knew Mike Graham from the radio.
Ro told Belinda, Jinnie and Miranda how the Champagne had arrived and she had said they hadn’t ordered it and how the wine waiter had said it was compliments of Mrs De Luca the COO. Then they had looked at the menu and she had chosen fish and Jed had chosen a sirloin steak and the waiter had tut-tutted and said as the meal was on the house they should have starters and they both had chosen asparagus and poached egg. Then the waiter had suggested that it she wanted fish then the Turbot was delicious and had swapped Jed’s Sirloin for a big fillet steak with all the trimmings. After that they were quite full and were only going to have coffee but Alphonso had suggested they have zabaglione as it was very light and a speciality of the house. Everything had been wonderful and the best thing was the SuperBurger director kept looking over as if he recognised her and muttering to his wife about them getting special service. Jinnie said she was delighted they had such a good evening and would they be going out together again. Ro blushed and said yes, Jed was going back to his parents in Cheltenham for the weekend but they were going to see a film one night next week and Ro wanted to take him to her local in Pound Hill to meet her friends.
The afternoon interviews generally went well, Jinnie and Belinda found a general handyman, three van drivers and three moped drivers for deliveries, four people to work in dispatch, and two cleaners none of whom were required for an immediate start. The nurse they chose had to give a month’s notice so after a short discussion they offered her the job and agreed to hire an agency nurse until she was available. Nigel was more than happy with the IT staff he had found. Brian interviewed call handlers for the phone orders and had offered six jobs starting in two weeks so they could do a week’s training before the kitchens began production and had offered employment to five more to start three weeks later, when the next three kitchens came on stream. Jerry found his sales team and Mick had made job offers for his positions. Only Angela the HR director wasn’t happy. She had only managed to get one person starting on Monday, three more had accepted posts but couldn’t start until they had worked a month’s notice. Brian suggested she hire some temps for a month and Angela rushed off to ring around the Crawley employment agencies.
Jinnie said to Ro that she thought that she should come in on Monday, just to be sure everything was going well. Ro suggested that she wasn’t needed first thing and perhaps she should consider leaving travelling until after the rush hour. Jinnie consider it for a while and agreed. A lot of departmental directors would be there and she had no department to worry about. If she was there early the chances were she would only get in the way. So she said to Ro, “I agree, I won’t leave home until after breakfast and I’ll give you a call when I turn off the M25 on to the M23 so you can get a fresh pot of coffee on.”
As she walked around the side of the building to her car she saw Brian waiting for her. He smiled and said, “Two bits of news, firstly I have got Ro sorted out, the back pay went into her account this afternoon, the bank couriered over her credit card for expenses just now and she has signed for it. On a different track, and really why I wanted to speak to you out of the DKL building, Melissa and Andrew have completed the quote for the Windsor sandwich shop and have emailed it to you and Alberto. Melissa told her mum the total for the work was £28,000 and she told me. On the basis that it is well under the £100,000 limit the board set I have just made an offer to the agent for a six-month lease. Of course, I have offered less than their asking price, but I’m ready to negotiate.” “Excellent,” replied Jinnie, “Did the agent give you any idea if the owners might accept?” “No, he didn’t,” said Brian. “We must stand a chance as it has been on the market a while. But I am happy to go up to the asking price as the numbers still work out.”
Jinnie was really tired after two days commuting around the M25 and was delighted when Paolo rang to suggest that he pick up fish and chips on his way home. Lucia had already been introduced to the British delicacy and like her cousin rather liked it. Of course Jinnie reminded him to get an extra small cod for a treat for Larry. Lucia laid the table while Jinnie looked in on the sleeping twins. Larry wasn’t sure what was happening as it was past his usual tea time and no matter how much he clanked his bowl and meowed they ignored him. It was only when Paolo came in that he smelled the fish and understood.
On Saturday morning Jinnie and Lucia got the twins up and breakfasted before Jinnie wandered down the garden to her office. First she checked the SuperBurger emails, the only thing of interest was that Angela had secured the services of three temps for a month. Moving on to the Trattoria Trevi system there was an email from Alberto saying that as far as he was concerned Belinda’s quote was perfect and they should proceed. Then there was a P.S. saying that according to the computer system Friday had been their best ever day for sales with every single business outlet setting a sales record.
Jinnie was sat reading Belinda’s quote when her mobile rang. It was Belinda, she had received a message from ‘C’ and a meeting had been arranged for the following Wednesday morning at 10:30 to sign off the contract for the first stage of the Vauxhall Cross refurbishment project. The first stage was for the staff restaurant and kitchen while stages two, three and four were all for a complete floor. The value of the three stages totalled £2.9 million and came with a 10% deposit and another 9 x 10% stage payments. Stage 1 was to start in two weeks with Stages 2, 3 & 4 to run straight on. Belinda said it worked out just right as she could move Peter and many of his team over directly from Manor Royal and rely on Richard to finish Manor Royal.
Jinnie had just agreed to join the signing party on Wednesday morning. When she started thinking about all the other jobs Belinda was bidding, she said, “I think the sandwich shop is coming your way very soon, then there is the Windsor restaurant and Potters Bar completion.” Belinda replied, “Jason can look after the sandwich shop and Richard can move from Manor Royal to Potters Bar as one will start only when the other finishes. I have a new forman, Kevin, starting in two weeks and I will put him with Peter to learn our ways but he has been working with one of the big London fit-out companies, I just might give him Trattoria Trevi Windsor.”
Jinnie felt a little nervous on Monday morning, it was launch day for the DKL offices and handover day for the first three Manor Royal kitchens. She helped Lucia get the twins up and noted how she talked to them all the time and how the twins babbled back. Jinnie wondered if their first words would be in English or Italian. After breakfast Jinnie and Lucia each held a twin and talked to them in Italian while washing up the breakfast things. Jinnie strolled to her car, waved goodbye and set off for Crawley. It was about 10:30 when Jinnie used her card on the car park gate. She was intrigued to see that for the first time there were more ordinary cars in the car park than builders’ vans. The other thing she had never seen before were several big lorries delivering to the first three kitchens. It look to be mainly dry goods but there was also a frozen food truck.
Jinnie parked in her spot and headed for reception, where she swiped in. The two receptionists were behind the desk and welcomed her. Jinnie had a short chat asking how they were getting on. Julie, the older receptionist, said, “Excellently thank you. The IT system is brilliant, you using your card to come in registered you in the building in case of a fire alarm, much better than having to sign in on a paper system. If the alarm goes off I get an automatic printout of who is in the building but it also comes up on the phone pad so I can grab either. The phone system is fabulous, you can always get someone. When you come in the car park we can see you on the CCTV and it comes up on the computer when someone buzzes for entry.” Jenny, the other receptionist, took over saying, “It’s good that we are all new and learning together and everyone is so nice.” She added, “The only problem we have is the number of calls from the press asking for tours and statements. If only we had a PR person.” That set Jinnie thinking.
It was then that Jinnie noticed that they were dressed alike, wearing grey trouser suits and white blouses. She asked, “Was dressing alike an accident or did you do it deliberately?” Julie said, “Actually on the way home from the interview we decided that we needed a uniform, so we popped into M&S and got these as we thought it matched the grey in the corporate colours.” “Well I love it,” said Jinnie, “It is very smart. I think we should make it official so I want you to put in an expense claim for them. In fact, you will need at least two suits and half a dozen blouses. Please buy them and bring me the bill, I will ensure you are reimbursed. I will talk to HR about dry cleaning and replacement for when they get a bit old.”
Jinnie made her way up to the first floor. Two people she had never seen were sat in the breakout area seated on one of the grey and purple sofas. As she passed, one of them looked up and said, “Good morning, Ma’am.” Jinnie said, “Good morning,” and carried on. Wondering if they knew who she was, Jinnie tapped her card on the door to let herself into the main office. She was immediately confronted by a pinboard on which was a ‘senior management’ family tree with photos of the directors and some department heads. ‘So that’s how he knew,’ thought Jinnie.
The main office was busy, but less than a quarter of the desks were occupied. As she walked down the office Jinnie felt rather than saw people looking at her. The run of glass offices was mostly occupied by her fellow directors. Nigel who was at the exact opposite end of the run of offices to her, looked up and waved. Jed was in the attached office, just like Ro. Both were busy at their computers. Jinnie stuck her head around the door and asked if everything was OK with IT. Nigel smiled and replied, “What we really need is a proper integrated computer system like SAP or Oracle, but at the moment they are far too expensive for us. We have good software for accounts, procurement, HR, order taking, etc., but we have only them talking where Jed and I have lashed them together via our own databases. The likes of SAP has hundreds of modules all taking to a common database. Our system has been creaking a bit this morning but we have managed to make it work so far. Maybe in a couple of years we will be in a position where we can upgrade.”
Jinnie wasn’t really sure she understood what Nigel had said, but thought she would ask Brian, he talked English when explaining things. Ro had a mug of coffee for her and said there were one or two emails she need to read. She then said Belinda has asked me to let her know when you get in she says she needs to talk to you. Should she call her she could be there in five minutes. Jinnie said to call her.
Belinda bustled into the office, accepted a coffee before closing the office door and sitting down. “I have just had a phone call from the PM,” she said, “He wants me to visit him at No 10 this afternoon at 3 pm. When I asked if he could give me a clue as to what he wants so I could prepare, he said he couldn’t talk on the phone but to talk to you as you could tell me.” Jinnie said, “Well I’m not certain, but I think I know. You are aware of the golf course behind my house, well they have sold the PM a big chunk of land next to my house and he wants to put a big house on it. I suspect he wants you to look after its construction, he has plans and has the planners on his side.”
“Really?” asked Belinda, “but I don’t build houses.” “I told him that,” said Jinnie, “but he said you know builders and you know how to control a project, besides he needs someone to sort out a fully equipped office, a garden office for his Special Branch guards and a swimming pool. He said you know how to do all that.” “I can see he won’t accept no for an answer,” said Belinda. “I better start boning up on the house building regulations and sorting out manpower.” “Talking about manpower,” said Jinnie, “How do you think Miranda would react if we offered to make her group PR officer? She could stay where she is in your offices but look after the whole company’s websites, Facebook pages and Instagram but add press releases and dealing with press enquiries. Of course it would mean senior management rewards and I would understand it if she needed extra staff.” “I think she would love it,” replied Belinda.” “Can you and Miranda get back for one o’clock? I want a quick working directors’ lunch meeting in the boardroom, no more than 30 minutes.”
When Belinda had gone back to her office to talk to Miranda, Jinnie and Ro checked in on the other directors, working down the row of offices. Brian said everything seemed to be working well, the people he had hired understood the accounting software they were running with it. Angela was madly busy with all the new employees. Rupert had gotten over not getting the IT job and said procurement was OK particularly as his manager really knew his stuff, both Jerry and Mick said they were busy but indicated they were happy. As Jinnie spoke to each director she mentioned the brief lunch meeting. Finally getting to Nigel she just asked him to come to the meeting. “Problems?” he asked. “Not at all,” said Jinnie.
Jinnie and Ro walked through the fire doors in the compartment wall and onto the mezzanine level. Looking down, Jinnie spotted trucks from Bookers and Brakes delivering and people scurrying to unload them and move the goods into the stores. A huge wall of clear polythene divided the three completed kitchens from the ongoing works. Guido stood between kitchens one and two, talking to two men. Jinnie walked over and Guido introduced her to the newly appointed managers of kitchen one (Italian) and two (English) telling them that this was the “big boss”, their COO. He explained that he was there for a while just to ensure that everything was up to Trattoria Trevi standards. Jinnie asked how things were going and he said as well as could be expected on a first day.
Guido said that the plan was for the chefs to practice dishes on the menu and to prepare things that could be frozen and quickly reheated but the fruit and vegetable delivery was not due until after lunch. Jinnie explained that she had called a one o’clock directors’ meeting and she wondered if they had time to produce a platter or two of artisan sandwiches and maybe some cakes. She wanted to show how good they were and to get a contract to supply the staff canteen vending machines. Today the machines were empty but she wanted to see them full of ‘artisan’ sandwiches in future. The two managers looked at each other and no.1 said to no.2, “You do cakes and I’ll do sandwiches, I think we have time to bake the bread but I’m going to have to send someone out to get the likes of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, onion and watercress, it’s not due until this afternoon.”
Jinnie had a quick word with the SuperBurger kitchen manager, but it was only to check that the kitchen that DKL had handed over met the requirements. She and Ro then stepped through a slit in the polythene wall to where Richard stood waiting for them. He quickly reminded them that it was officially a building site and if they came any further he would need to get them to don protective gear and sign in. Jinnie said she only wanted to check with him that the common parts like dispatch and prdering would be ready to be manned in a fortnight for training. Richard said, “Of course, they are nearly ready now, they’ll be ready, and the rate the guys are going I think we will have the next three or four kitchens done by then. The only possible hold up is Gary getting the power in, the power company are only on-site today and they are not massively quick.”
The kitchens came up trumps and there were two platters of sandwiches in the boardroom at ten to one. The cakes came a few minutes later and looked fabulous. Ro asked Jinnie if this was normal or had they done something special to try to get the order. Jinnie said, “This is typical of what we supply to businesses in Potters Bar and what I want to supply on this estate. There might already be sandwich vans, but these are special. I will let you into a little secret we are looking at expanding the business to shops in towns that don’t have a dark kitchen.”
The working directors started drifting in just before one and Jinnie pointed at the food. Jerry and Mick took one look and dived in. Jerry said to Angela, “These are the best sandwiches you have ever had at a corporate meeting. Jinnie’s restaurant company in Potters Bar makes them and sells them to local businesses. If they are going to make them here we must have them for business meetings.” Angela bit into a roast beef, horse radish and watercress on thick crusty buttered white bread and said, “You are right this is fantastic.” Turning to Jinnie, Jerry asked, “Are the cakes new I don’t remember them?” Jinnie said, “Yes, it was by popular demand, I recommend the cream slice, it’s my favourite.”
Jinnie called the meeting together and said, “I wanted to bring you, the working directors and senior staff together to thank you for all the hard work you have put in to get us to this position today. The food is a little thank you from me, please carry on eating while I make a couple of little announcements. As you know I will not be in the office a lot, I have twins at home and although I have a wonderful au pair I really need to spend time with them while they are still so small. But if you need me I always have my mobile with me and if I am in the home office you can talk to me on Teams, I’m sure Nigel or Jed will be able to sort you out with it.”
Jinnie continued, “The next piece of news is that on Wednesday Belinda, Brian and I are going to sign off on a huge contract her division has won for the refurbishment of a government pepartment in London. The contract has been under negotiation for some time and Belinda’s team have put in many hours of hard work to get this job. Talking to Belinda, I understand the contract is in four phases and comes with a deposit and stage payments but this is only for the staff canteen, kitchen and three floors of an eight-floor building and is worth an initial £2.9 million, so there is a huge chance for additional work. Therefore I ask that if anyone is asked for any assistance they bend over backwards to help.”
“Now a little story,” Jinnie added, “When I came in this morning I spoke to the receptionists and they told me how they had been fielding numerous calls from the press and wish we had a PR department. I realised we don’t and we do. DKL doesn’t have a PR department but Belinda’s division has something similar, a department that looks after all her website, Facebook and Instagram interactions. It doesn’t actually put out PR announcements or deal with press enquiries, but it could. So I have asked Miranda, who runs the department for Belinda, to step up and become our press officer. You will have met her before when she ran this room when we had the interview day.”
Jinnie continued, “Miranda has accepted and will take up the position immediately as she is already our employee. She will continue to work from Belinda’s satellite office and I ask if anyone gets a press enquiry or anything of that order please transfer the call to her or her team. Miranda will also be taking over our internet presence and my PA will be working with her as necessary.”
“Finally I would like to make a suggestion. I hope you have all enjoyed the sandwiches and cakes and I would like to suggest that we give Artisan’s Sandwiches the rights to supply the snacks in our vending machines, I have a promise that the offering will be adjusted to suit demand and tastes and the price will always be at cost +5% so our workers will not be overcharged.” Jerry spoke next saying, “Firstly congratulations on the order and I think the press officer idea is inspired, and yes please on the sandwiches, it will save my wife having to make them for me.” When the laughter died down the group quickly agreed on their vending machine provider and sandwich supplier for meetings.”
In Chapter 13 – Back to Vauxhall Cross
© WorthingGooner 2023