Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Twelve

The Continental is refurbished

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie desperately wanted to talk to Brooke about roast beef rolls, but as it was just coming up to half past three, it would be eight thirty back home and it was unfair to phone her at this time of night. She dismissed the idea and decided to make the call first thing in the morning when it was lunchtime in the U.K. Brian had finished his call to the commercial estate agents and rushed off to have an initial exploratory meeting with them. As it was now around 16:30 and the Continental staff should be in for the evening service, Jinnie and Belinda decided to pop into the restaurant and brief staff on the latest developments.

The restaurant receptionist recognised Jinnie and called the maître‘d who in turn gathered all the staff together in the empty dining room and even a palette was found for Jinnie to stand on so she could be seen by everyone. Jinnie started off by saying, “I am delighted to inform you all that Mr Braithwaite has this morning sold the Continental Restaurant to Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited of which I am the managing director and my colleague here, Mrs Quarendon, is also a director. For those of you who wonder who we are and what is going to happen to you all, we are here to keep you informed. But before I get into details, the first thing I want to tell you is that all your jobs are perfectly safe, and we intend to refurbish the restaurant starting almost immediately. My fellow director Belinda will give you more details of that in a minute or two. But first, let me give you a little of our plans and timetable.”

Jinnie continued, “If you have never heard of the Trattoria Trevi, we are a very profitable U.K. catering group who own six high-class restaurants in Briton with a seventh currently being readied. Two of the group’s restaurants have Michelin Stars. We also own a chain of, I think 12 and counting, artisan sandwich shops, I understand sandwiches are not hugely popular in the Caribbean but in the U.K. they are. People queue up outside our shops, just like Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack just up the road. Our other big investment is in dark kitchens which I doubt you have ever heard of so I will explain. A dark kitchen is a kitchen that produces food for home delivery. In the U.K. we have a 50/50 joint venture with one of the country’s biggest burger chains, SuperBurgers, called DKL Limited. DKL currently owns 10 complexes of 12 kitchens across the country and has plans to open at least three more a year well into the foreseeable future.”

“I mention DKL for two reasons,” said Jinnie, “Trattoria Trevi operates two kitchens in every one of those complexes. One produces Italian food, while the second produces traditional English food. We also operate kitchens on behalf of other companies producing, off the top of my head, Greek, Mexican and Pizzas. In the last few weeks DKL has taken the decision to build two six-kitchen complexes in Barbados and one of the kitchens at each complex will be producing Continental Restaurant dishes. Of course, this information is semi-secret, and I would appreciate it if you don’t tell the press about DKL just yet, it will be common knowledge in about a week or so. But if you are asked about the Continental’s new owners you are at liberty to tell them that it is Trattoria Trevi as we will be putting out a press release as soon as possible.”

“Why not now, you ask,” Jinnie added, “it is because we want you to trade as normal today, Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday we will be closing for two weeks for the refurbishments I alluded to. Now while this occurs you will all be on exceptional fully paid leave. This is in addition to your annual leave and is an example of the way we are always fair to our staff. When you return to work you will find that you will all be on the increased wages, you will also be in a new profit-sharing scheme and don’t worry we will be making a good healthy profit.”

“A few final things before I hand over to Mrs Quarendon. This afternoon we have entered a joint venture with Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack and will be creating a chain, firstly across the island and then across other Caribbean islands and maybe even in the U.K. Aunty JoJo’s will also be taking kitchens in the DKL complexes as will SuperBurger who will be a new name in Barbados. We have also come to an agreement with a local food delivery business to work with us exclusively. Finally, I will take your questions once Mrs Quarendon has spoken.”

Belinda replaced Jinnie on the pallet and said, “As you have heard I am Belinda Quarendon, I am the Construction Director of DKL and as of today I am a director of Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) and Aunty JoJo’s (Operations) and I will be responsible for the refurbishment of the Continental. We have issued a Letter of Intent for the refurbishment work on local construction company Keith’s Refurbishments who will have a team on site first thing on Monday morning. We will be ripping out the reception desk and bar and replacing them with new modern ones in a lighter wood finish, all the banquet seating, carpets and drapes will be replaced everywhere, the whole building will be redecorated, the lighting renewed and the air conditioning fixed. The kitchen will receive a deep clean and several of the older appliances will be replaced, the staff room will be redecorated, and all the furniture and lockers renewed. Finally, we will be refurbishing both the customer and staff toilets.”

Jinnie then asked for questions. The first was from the chef who asked, “Now that Mr Braithwaite is gone, will you be accounting for all covers sold?” Jinnie chuckled and said, “We will be installing the same computerised reservation, ordering, and accounting system that is in use in our U.K. restaurants. It will account for every item sold and automatically account for VAT and other taxes. Everyone will be trained in its use. I can assure you we operate a 100% honest system.”

The next questioner asked about who would be managing the restaurant on a day-to-day basis. Jinnie replied, “We are interviewing next week and intend to bring in an experienced manager ready for a grand reopening. Unfortunately, I have to return to the U.K. in eight days as my holiday rental finishes and my twins will be starting school for the first time. But in my absence Belinda will be keeping an eye on things as will her husband who is the new financial director. The group IT director will also be popping over to make sure the new system is working properly. I will be back for the grand opening, and I hope several of the U.K. directors will accompany me.”

The final question was from one of the waiters who had served Jinnie when she had eaten in the restaurant. He asked if the group were going to operate a tronc. Jinnie answered, “I have no view either way, it will be up to you guys. If you decide you want one, the software can operate one. If you want to keep your own tips that is also OK with the company. I suggest you have a vote and let us know. We do not normally add a service charge which usually means bigger tips but it does mean that kitchen staff would benefit from a tronc.” The waiter replied that as the union rep he would organise a secret vote and let her know. To which Jinnie said, “I want you to know that in the U.K. we recognise the unions in our establishments, where the union meets the legal criteria. But I want you all to know that we are recognised as a good employer, we aim to pay well over the minimum wage and offer fully paid holidays and double time for people working Sundays and public holidays. If anyone has a problem my door or any other director’s door is always open.”

At the end of her and Belinda’s talks to the staff, they had got a round of applause from the gathering. The union rep had sorted her out and said, “I just wanted to say what a breath of fresh air your speech was. Braithwaite was a terrible boss, and I don’t think anyone here is sorry to see him go. If the truth be known, the only reason we turned to a union was the way he treated us. We are not militant but we were sure he was working a fiddle, but we couldn’t work out what. The reason I asked about a tronc was because we had one and we were sure he was skimming it, the union was about to investigate, but I don’t think that will now be necessary.”


Jinnie arrived home shattered, but happy. The day had gone well, and she was particularly happy with the staff reaction at the Continental. As she got out of the people carrier, she could hear the twins in the pool on the other side of the house. She sighed as she really didn’t feel like cooking and thought I suppose it’s Anderson’s again. She entered the house and smelt cooking, so she headed for the kitchen where she found Penny cutting up vegetables and said, “Hi sis, what are you cooking?” “Roast chicken, roast potatoes and three veg,” replied Penny, “I thought I would give us all a treat before we go home. Everyone loves roast chicken, especially Larry, it’s a pity he’s not going to get a share.” “Don’t worry about him,” said Jinnie. “Mum will be making sure he gets loads of treats.” “I am going for a shower and to change,” said Jinnie, “I’ll give you a hand when I feel a bit less sticky.”

Jinnie was still in the shower when she heard her mobile phone ringing. “Bugger,” she muttered and thought, ‘whoever it is can leave a message.’ She didn’t rush to check the phone until she was about to go and help Penny and when she did, she found a missed call from Brian and a ‘Please ring me’ text message. Jinnie stepped into the TV room, closed the door, found Brian in the contacts list and hit the button to dial him. Brian answered on the second ring and said, “Hi Jinnie, thanks for ringing me back. I must update you on my chat with the commercial estate agent. It looks like the current leaseholder has missed their last month’s payment, so the freeholder wants them out and a new leaseholder in as soon as possible. They were offering a similar cost lease to the one KFC had. I had gone into the meeting saying I represented Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Ltd who were interested in opening a trial takeaway and sit down on the island. I told them we were a growing group in the U.K. who owned high-class restaurants and a chain of sandwich shops, all easily checked on the internet.”

“We chatted a bit about our artisan sandwich shops chain, and they seem to have assumed we wanted to open one. I didn’t enlighten them that it would be Aunty JoJo’s moving over the road. They asked if we would be interested in a five-year lease with yearly break points and cost reviews. I said ‘No’ and suggested that the lease was overpriced, which was why KFC had failed. I told them I wanted it reduced by a third for six months at the end of which we had the option to walk away or buy the freehold at a price fixed today. I know I was flying a kite, but nothing ventured as they say. They had a side meeting and one of them went off to ring the freeholder.”

“When he came back,” continued Brian, “they had obviously been told to negotiate and offered 85% off the lease for six months but accepted to fix the freehold price. I countered with 70% off the lease they dropped to 80% and I said, ‘let’s split the difference on 75%’ and they leapt at it. I said I had to consult the board and went into the corridor to ring you but it went to voicemail, so I left a message and rang Patricia. She said do it, in six months we will have made enough to buy the freehold. Then I rang Belinda and she also said do it. So, we had a majority board decision. I went back in and said I hadn’t been able to talk to enough board members to agree a deal. I asked them to give me an option on the agreement until 11 am tomorrow and we shook hands on that. I think it’s a cracking deal, the lease is cheap, and we have six months to sell the freehold of the original Aunty JoJo’s and buy the ex-KFC lease.”

“It sounds like another of those too-good-to-miss deals,” said Jinnie. “Of course, we have to go for it, that makes the board vote 4-0. You could ring Brooke but it’s late evening in Britain and she will only make it 5-0.” “Great,” said Brian, “I wonder if I can ask a favour, Belinda has a meeting with Keith’s Refurbishment to finalise the Continental contract and I think if Patricia turned up to join me in signing an agreement they might smell a rat and withdraw, so can I ask you to come with me to sign it, I have talked to Michael and he will be there to look after legal bits and pieces. He thinks it is best to take the lease as Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) and just move Aunty JoJo’s in, he’ll check the lease to ensure we are not breaking it. Then after we buy the freehold, we just transfer it to Aunty JoJo’s (Operations). They may feel we have indulged in a bit of sharp practice, but they won’t be able to do anything.” “Can I pick you up at your hotel at about 09:30?” asked Jinnie.

When Jinnie finally got to the kitchen, Penny, who was sitting on a stool playing a game on her phone, said, “What took you so long? Everything is done, so why don’t you go and get the children out of the pool, it’s dinner in 45 minutes.” Jinnie stood for a moment watching the twins in the pool, she was amazed how fearless they were in the water, splashing around and swimming on the surface and underwater. All those hours in Nigel’s pool hadn’t been wasted. She walked over to the edge of the pool, clapped her hands and called, “Kids, time to get out and get dressed, dinner is nearly ready and it’s Auntie Penny’s roast chicken.” Paolo had crept up behind her and said, “My name’s on a leg.” “Don’t tell me,” said Jinnie, “It’s Penny doing the cooking and I expect you will have to fight her and Dan for one, unless it’s a three-legged bird.”


After breakfast, Jinnie told the twins that she had to go out on business with their godfather Brian, but she would be back in time to have lunch with them at Anderson’s then she promised to go swimming with them in the afternoon, but only when their lunch had gone down. As planned Jinnie picked up Brian at his hotel and drove to the estate agents, where she parked in a visitor’s spot next to Michael’s car. He got out and slid into the back of the people carrier for a quick pre-meeting. The first thing Michael said was, “Is this for real? You have got a terrific deal here, the six-month lease is well below market value for businesses on that street, and the option to purchase is ridiculously cheap. I would expect you to be able to sell the freehold on Aunty JoJo’s for more.”

Brian grinned and said, “I guess it is just my fantastic negotiating skills. No, actually, I suspect that the freeholder must be fed up with the current client and just wants to be free of a poor investment.” Jinnie said to Brian and Michael, “I suppose we are not actually buying the lease today, surely it will take time to get the legal niceties done?” Michael nodded and replied, “Yes, you will be signing ‘an option on the lease and the freehold’. I am here to make sure it is watertight and nothing you sign today prevents us from moving Aunty JoJo’s in. They e-mailed a copy of the document over very early this morning, their lawyers must have been working on it all night. The senior parties have seen it and we all agree that it is a perfectly standard document and you can sign it.”

“Excellent,” said Brian, “I hope that everything else is in order.” “Yes, at the moment,” answered Michael, “I will be keeping an eye open for any legal shenanigans, but I think they are playing a straight bat. I think we could be ready to sign for the lease on Friday.” “One question,” said Jinnie, “Do we have to wait until the full lease is signed before we can start refurbishment work.” “Legally, yes,” replied Michael, “but with their permission we could start at any time. I suggest we ask if they mind us starting upstairs next week – it is of course not being used – just as soon as they can put it in writing. We can’t do anything downstairs until the business closes properly next Friday.”

“OK,” said Brian, “let’s proceed on that basis. But can you do one other thing for us, please? We think we will be hiring the manager and some of the existing staff as the place is so much bigger than Aunty JoJo’s and we could also use most if not all of the others at the new Rockley branch of Aunty JoJo’s in a few weeks’ time. Can you draw up employment contracts for everyone? I suggest we head over there as soon as we are finished here and tell everyone what we have in mind. I don’t think we need to mention that Aunty JoJo’s are moving in, just that the new business wants to employ them. Let’s start people from next Saturday. We need to get Patricia to organise training courses.” “OK,” said Jinnie, “let’s get in there and get this thing signed off.”

The commercial estate agent and the freeholder’s representative and lawyers were ready for the Trattoria Trevi (Barbados) Limited party and showed them into the boardroom where coffee and biscuits were waiting. They all accepted a coffee and after one sip Jinnie thought, ‘another poor brew, what is it with coffee on the island?’ She immediately decided that none of the Trattoria Trevi establishments would ever serve rotten coffee and she would make it her mission to improve coffee, starting with the Continental.

Michael was satisfied that paperwork was all in order, so the actual signing only took a few minutes. After which Brian and Michael talked to the vendors about completing the deal on Friday and would they allow them to start work on the unused part of the restaurant immediately. Brian explained that they wanted to start up the new business as soon as possible and were looking to hire the old staff for continuity. The vendors talked to their lawyers whose view was that they had nothing to lose. If the deal fell through they would have the upper floor redecorated for nothing, so they said yes they would have written permission before the day was out. Then they discussed being able to complete the deal on Friday and came to the conclusion that it was just about possible, and they would aim for it, but couldn’t guarantee it.

In Chapter 13 – Penny and Dan go home

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