Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Seventeen

Building Work Starts

Jinnie and Paolo arrived at what she now thought of as the head office and leading branch of Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack. Jinnie was staggered, if anything the queues outside were now even longer with one for table service and one for takeaways. Gloria was at the main entrance controlling the table queue only letting customers in when she was informed a clean table was ready for them. Seeing Jinnie and Paolo Gloria said, “Good afternoon, Boss, Patricia said you were coming for lunch I put a reserved sign on one of the downstairs tables. Sandra will be here in a second to take you to it and take your drinks order.” Jinnie asked, “Is this the lunchtime rush.” “No,” replied Gloria with a massive smile, “It’s been like this since we opened. People were waiting when I arrived at seven-fifteen. Patricia says we have sold nearly double the old place already.”

Sandra arrived and showed Paolo and Jinnie to their table, took the order for two medium-size Pepsi Max and left them laminated menus saying, “I’ll be back with the drinks and for your order in a couple of minutes. I’m sorry to have to tell you that service is taking a little longer than we would like because we are so busy.” No sooner had Sandra disappeared than Patricia and Monica slipped into the booth next to Jinnie. Monica said, “Gosh this is busy, this is the first time I have sat down in ages.” Looking around Jinnie said, “It looks like we underestimated business, and you could do with some extra hands.” Monica said, “Yes, I was thinking of calling an agency.” “Why don’t you call John at Rockley, there are trained people there who can be here in 15 minutes,” said Jinnie and, turning to Patricia, she added, “Call an agency and get temporary replacements to Rockley for whomever you borrow here. If it continues to be this busy hire more permanent staff, if the temps are any good ask them if they want a permanent job.”

Monica and Patricia scurried off just as Sandra returned with the drinks and her ordering tablet computer. Jinnie and Paolo both order fried chicken, chips and beans. Sandra grunted and said, “The pad tells me the order will take about five minutes, I’m not used to having to wait that long.” Jinnie said, “That’s OK, most restaurants would be delighted to get the food up that quickly.” Sandra replied, “But this is Aunty JoJo’s, and we are better than that.” Jinnie smiled and said, “Don’t worry Monica and Patricia have gone to get extra help, we will have more staff in less than half an hour.” “But we will have to show them what to do,” complained Sandra. “Trust me you won’t,” said Jinnie, “They are coming over from Rockley.”

Jinnie was just finishing the last of her chips when she saw several new staff come out of the kitchen door, one came over and spoke to Sandra who hugged her before she went to work clearing a table. Another went behind the desserts counter, and a third relieved Monica who was working behind the takeaway counter. Monica came over to Jinnie and said, “That’s the first four, one of them is a chef, three more people should be here in minutes, another chef and two more waitresses for upstairs. Now please try our new blend of coffee, it’s not as good as Jamaica Blue Mountain, that’s too expensive for us to use but knowing your views on the island’s coffee in general, John, Patricia and I have been tasting various blends and we think that this is a good compromise. It is a little bit more expensive than the old one, but we think it is a vast improvement.

Sandra brought over three China mugs of black coffee, a little tray containing stirrers, cartons of real milk and packets of sugar, white and brown, and sweetener. “I like this,” said Jinnie taking a wooden stirrer and two cartons of milk, “Is this new?” “Yes,” replied Monica, “We decided that the coffees tasted better in a mug and putting the fixings in a little tray was a no-brainer. However, takeaway coffee still comes in a waxed paper mug with a lid and a slip-on paper handle. But if a customer brings in their own mug, we will fill it and charge 15 cents less.” Jinnie tried the coffee and said, “You’re right, it’s not Jamaica Blue Mountain, but it is good, a whole lot better than my hotel serves, and among the best I’ve had on the island.” Paolo smiled and said, “Well, apart from the Continental I haven’t had better in Barbados.”

Patrica arrived and seeing they were all drinking coffee said, “I really don’t know why we didn’t change it before; this is so much better, and we have only had good comments this morning.” “Have you changed anything else?” asked Jinnie. “Not really,” replied Patricia. “We have taken the opportunity to push one or two of the more expensive items we sell, by moving them up the menu. The cheaper items used to be at the top and people often went no further down the menu, now for example the fried shrimp comes first and so far, we have sold more in a day than we used to sell in a week. It was Monica’s idea.” Monica blushed and said, “It’s just nice to be able to put marketing techniques I learnt at college into use, you couldn’t change anything at KFC, it was all directed from head office.” Jinnie chuckled and said, “Well, now this is head office.”


Jinnie and Paolo met Brian and Belinda in the hotel restaurant that evening and over their meal Brian told them about how he and Belinda had spent the day at their new holiday home. They had been measuring the rooms and Belinda, with Keith, had been checking the state of the structure. Belinda said she and Keith were delighted to be able to confirm that the surveyors who had looked at the building had been right in saying that most of the problems were superficial. There were only a few things that needed looking at, the air conditioning was in poor repair, it appeared to have been undersized for the villa and Keith had promised to get his air conditioning subcontractor to make his recommendations and the swimming pool chemical dosing plant needed looking at. There was one nasty crack where a new plasterboard wall had been installed to make two smaller rooms from one bigger one. After a short discussion, it had been agreed to remove it and go back to one big room.

Brian said Keith thought that, provided a design specification was received in the next couple of weeks, the work would be finished for the family to visit over Christmas. Jinnie told them that all her family were booked on a P&O cruise over Christmas and the New Year and that they would be picking up the ship in Bridgetown where they would have an overnight before sailing on Christmas Eve. Jinnie suggested the two families should get together on the evening they were in port for a celebration meal at the TT Continental. Brian and Belinda jumped at the idea saying that it would be a big party and that Melissa, Steven and the children would be joining them for Christmas, as they would be on leave from Steven’s new posting in Rome. They agreed that they should speak to Trevor urgently as it looked like there would be 19 in the party.


Jinnie and Paolo flew home overnight on Thursday night/Friday morning and were surprised that she seemed to be the only director on the Virgin flight, although Ro and Jed were in Business Class. Once again, they were upgraded to Upper Class and Jinnie made the most of the lie-flat seat to sleep soundly after dinner. The taxi driver was waiting for them in the arrivals hall, despite the plane landing twenty minutes early, and whizzed them home around the M25 in time for a late lunch.

Jinnie accompanied Izzy to collect the twins from school. They rushed across the playground to hug her saying how much they had missed her and then started talking about their day at school. Jinnie suddenly remembered that it was Friday and Friday was swimming day. Millie and Willie both talked at once telling her how the instructor had asked who could swim and they and one other boy had put their hands up. He had then asked them to swim a width and the twins were disgusted. A mere width was nothing they wanted to swim a length, but Miss Evans had said the far end was very deep and only really good swimmers could go there with supervision.

So, the twins had jumped in and raced across the pool to the other side, followed a long way behind by Tommy. The instructor said they all could go to the deep end but only with Miss Evans. Millie said that while the others in the class were using float boards and inflatable arm bands they were playing with a ball and diving for stones. Willie said Miss Evans was a really good swimmer and fun, he couldn’t wait until the next swimming lesson.

As usual Larry was waiting for them and rubbed himself around Jinnie’s legs before submitting to being stroked by the twins. Izzy said, “Come on you two, nip up to your rooms and change out of your school uniforms and into the jeans and t-shirts that are on your beds ready for you, then you can play in the garden while Mummy and I get your tea ready. Do you still want sardines on toast, like you said this morning?” Larry pricked up his ears and sent thought wave messages saying, ‘Sardines, sardines, sardines,’ as he quite liked them for a snack and hoped for some bits. The twins looked at each other and chorused, “Sardines please.” A hopeful Larry sat down under the table waiting.


Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny and when the twins jumped on their parent’s bed, Jinnie asked them if they wanted to go swimming in Nigel’s pool that afternoon, unfortunately she had work to do that morning. The twins shouted “Yes” scaring Larry who had followed them into the bedroom.

After breakfast Jinnie and Larry headed for the garden office while the twins went to play in their Wendy House. Jinnie logged on to her PC and first started sifting through her DKW emails. Ro had obviously been in to the office as her inbox had been weeded of rubbish. There was news of the opening of the first three kitchens at Edgbaston, they were to be handed over on Monday with the next three a fortnight behind. The latest monthly accounts had been sent over by Brian’s Deputy in advance of the next week’s board meeting. Jinnie speed-read the report and saw the company was trading profitability after the payments that had gone to acquire three properties in Barbados. The cash reserves were still quite high and Jinnie was confident that from her rudimentary knowledge of company accounts everything was healthy and if the board decided to add Keith’s Refurbishments to the growing DKW empire they had the funds to do so.

Jinnie found a personal email from Belinda saying she had approached Keith to ask if he might be willing to entertain a bid for his company. She and Brian had suggested that DKW would like to own 100% of his company and the offer included taking him on as a salaried MD based at the HQ he was about to start constructing for DKW. He would have effective control over the company but reporting to Belinda, as the company would become a subsidiary of Wright Refurbishment. The new set-up would allow him to bid for more and bigger projects and he would be enrolled in the executive bonus and pension schemes.

Belinda said she pointed out that the full resources of Wright Refurbishment would be available to Keith including 3D design models, rendered images and help with preparing tenders. But he would automatically get the construction of every DKL project in the Caribbean. Keith had asked numerous questions not the least of which were how much DKL would pay for the company, and what would he be paid. Brian had explained that this was only a preliminary discussion to discover whether it was worth making an offer and a final amount could only be determined following an inspection of the company books and negotiations. Keith had said that in principle he would be willing to sell but it was dependent on a couple of things, a mutually agreeable financial arrangement and most importantly the agreement of his wife.

The final DKL email was notification of the monthly board meeting, which was really the August meeting that had been postponed because so many directors had been in Barbados. The meeting was arranged for eleven o’clock on Tuesday morning and Ro had added a note saying she had organised a sandwich lunch for one o’clock.

Jinnie started looking at the Trattoria Trevi emails. There were several dealing with the trading position and Jinnie was pleased to see that in the past month all subsidiaries had traded profitability, with the exception of the new Barbados ventures which were still in the start-up phase. The next email she opened was from Trevor to the board, and it gave the TT Continental sales figures for its first four day’s trading. Trevor made no comment but simply compared them to the same four days in the previous year. Jinnie realised that the first day’s numbers were skewed as they had given away 50 meals, but the takings on that evening had beaten the comparable day the previous year and they had just about broken even on the evening as expected.

But the next three day’s trading had been good, a little above expectation and bookings were amazing. Trevor had added a note to Jinnie’s copy saying that her request for a Christmas booking had made him, the maître‘d and the head chef would sit down and design a Christmas menu, with a December ‘Celebration’ menu, a Christmas Day menu and a Boxing Day menu. He said it would go on general sale shortly and he would send her copies. He also said they were working on the New Year’s Eve menu.

Patricia reported that the move to bigger premises for Aunt JoJo’s seemed to be paying off. After the absolute madness of the first day’s trading the following days had been more manageable and seemed to have settled down at about 175% up, with far more people eating in which meant many more drinks and desserts were being sold. To Jinnie’s great satisfaction, Patricia also reported that sales of coffee were up over 200%, but profit on it was only up 135% due to the increased costs of the new offering. Rockley Beach had been handed over and replacement staff for those who had returned to the central Bridgetown branch had been hired and she was confident that everything would be ready for Monday’s opening.

Jinnie was already in a good mood when she opened the email from Brooke, who was reporting on the sale of hot roast beef rolls. Sales at both the Croydon and Windsor shops had been good and on Friday she had tried adding hot roast pork and apple sauce at Croydon which had sold well but had slightly reduced roast beef sales. Brooke said she thought pork was probably taking a bit of the beef market but when taken together, Friday hot meat roll sales were well up on Thursday. She said that hot roast beef rolls were being rolled out to two more branches on Monday and pork was being launched at Windsor on Monday. But the bit that Jinnie liked was that Brooke reported that the hot rolls had not affected the sandwich and roll sales which hadn’t dropped at all.


After Saturday lunch the twins hadn’t forgotten their mother had promised they could go swimming in Nigel’s pool. Paolo was more interested in the TV sports programme, so it was Jinnie, Izzy, the twins and Larry who made their way through the gate in the wall and across the garden to the pool house. As usual Larry disappeared through the cat flap into the kitchen and to his special cat basket while Izzy unlocked the pool house door and deactivated the alarm with her electronic card. The twins were in the pool so often that Nigel kept a couple of inflatable animals and several beach balls for them in the pool man’s cupboard. The twins chose an inflatable swan and a red and yellow beach ball and jumped into the deep end.

Jinnie and Izzy were a bit more cautious, sometimes the pool was a bit cool, but today the sun through the glass walls and ceiling had raised the water temperature and on a warm September afternoon Jinnie enjoyed the pool. The four were happily playing with the ball when a voice boomed out, “What the hell do you lot think you are doing?” Jinnie turned to face the door and saw two uniformed policemen armed with submachine guns. Jinnie was about to give a sarcastic answer but quickly thought better of it and replied, “I guess that you are not part of Nigel’s normal protection detail as I saw some of them in Barbados. I am Dame Jinnie De Luca, and these are my children and their nanny. We live next door and Nigel is my children’s godfather. We have his permission to use the pool whenever we want to and if you give me a moment I will get out of the pool and show you our electronic passes.”

Having examined the passes the officers’ attitude changed and they became as friendly as police officers could. They explained that with Nigel’s normal security detail away with him they had been draughted in from Hertfordshire Constabulary to guard the property and no one had told them that anyone had official access to the pool. Jinnie chuckled and said, “I guess nobody warned you that Larry has free reign to roam the house and garden.” “Who’s this Larry person?” asked the officer. Willie quickly said, “He’s not a person silly, he’s our cat!” Jinnie explained, “He was the official Number 10 mouser when Nigel was made PM, and he came to live with us when he retired. Now Nigel has moved in next door Larry likes to spend time with him and you will often find him with Nigel during the day. You will even find he has his own cat flap with an electronic key on this collar.”

The police left them alone and went off to continue their patrol and the twins went back to splashing around in the water. Eventually Jinnie called time and they all found one of Nigel’s big fluffy pool towels before changing back into their clothes. As if by magic Larry jogged across the lawn and re-joined the party just before they passed through the gate into their own garden. Izzy told the twins, in her fluent Italian, that tea would be ready in twenty minutes so not to get involved in anything and to their delight that she had made a chocolate sponge with buttercream filling for after their sandwiches!

Jinnie liked to keep an eye on the quality of Dark Kitchen meals so she ordered a delivery from Trattoria Trevi for their evening meal, tomato and basil Soup, Calabrian spicy chicken for three, with a side salad for the main and one of Paolo’s favourites, zeppole, for dessert. The twins were tucked up in bed by seven so dinner was ordered for seven-thirty and it arrived on the dot. Jinnie only hoped that the service wasn’t on time merely because she was the COO, but it was what every customer was getting. Paolo opened a chilled bottle of Pianogrillo, Grecanico – 2020 a reasonably priced Sicilian white wine that Jinnie had taken a liking to. After the meal, Paolo said how good it had been, and Jinnie had to agree that Trattoria Trevi’s delivery meals were keeping up the standard.


On Tuesday morning Jinnie arrived at DKL’s headquarters at Manor Royal just before 10 o’clock. She was greeted like an old friend by the receptionists and headed upstairs to the offices. The casual meeting area was busy and several people she recognised, who said good morning to her as she passed through and into the offices. It was six weeks since Jinnie had been to HQ, and it was noticeably busier since her last visit. Looking around the desks Jinnie realised that there were fewer unoccupied.

As usual Ro greeted her with a mug of coffee and another big thank you for the trip to Barbados. Entering her office Jinnie immediately noticed the vase of fresh flowers in the middle of her meeting table. Turning to Ro she said, “Thank you Ro they are lovely.” Ro replied, “Just a little thank you gift from Jed and I for the last few days.” Jinnie asked, “Is it me or is the office busier?” “No, it’s definitely busier” replied Ro, “As you know, we planned for three new sites a year, but with the Caribbean projects we will beat that and that has meant we needed a few new starts.”

Shortly before heading down to the boardroom Belinda stuck her head around Jinnie’s door and asked if she could spare a few minutes. Jinnie waved to a seat and asked what she could do for her. Belinda smiled and said, “Firstly, Keith says his wife was delighted for him to sell out to us as it would mean their house was no longer at risk for every big job the business took on! Brian has been looking at the accounts online and they have come to an agreement on price. I would like to put it to the board, will you back me?” “Yes,” replied Jinnie, “I implicitly trust Brian to get the price right.”

“Thank you,” said Belinda, “Now a bit of advice, please. I have been cultivating a big transport company who are rapidly outgrowing their current Crawley HQ. They have been looking at several new much bigger places and we have been helping them with the costs of making several places suitable for what they want. Well, they have decided on a place just over the road from my office. While we were in Barbados last week Andrew and my sales director had a meeting with them and we shook hands on us doing up the building. They need a lot of offices so it’s another big mezzanine with a reception, offices and meeting rooms over and underneath, a fancy boardroom, air conditioning and new windows for the offices.”

Belinda continued, “Then it’s something new for me, constructing a truck maintenance depot. The company have told us exactly what they want, vehicle pits and lifts, storage racking for spare parts and truck tyres, accommodation for mechanics including changing rooms and two canteens one for staff and one for mechanics and drivers. Gosh, the list goes on and on, they need extraction for vehicle exhaust, space heating in the garage, compressed air for tools, high bay lighting and three huge replacement truck-size roller shutters. Then there is a huge truck parking area that needs resurfacing, painting, security fencing and security lighting. We have agreed a £1.85 million contract price subject to planning permission.”

“But the question is,” added Belinda, “do I tell the board? I am worried that something leaks and someone else puts in a bid.” Jinnie thought for a moment and said, “Well I suggest that we keep it our little secret until you get something on paper, either a Letter of Intent or an order. This is too big a job to risk. I trust Brian is aware and will go along with what we decide.”

The board meeting went to plan, Brian officially reported the company was in a strong financial position and that they had leased all three buildings in Barbados. Belinda reported that Keith had commenced work on the Bridgetown HQ, but they needed the equivalent of Bajan planning permission before commencing work on the two dark kitchens. She also said that future business opportunities were looking promising, and she had a number of outstanding bids which amounted to about £3 million, but warned it was highly unlikely that she would win them all. Jinnie was delighted that no one questioned the report.

Jerry reported that he had agreements for the leasing of all six kitchens on both Barbados sites, but once again final contracts depended on planning permission. Jinnie reported that DKL were now the owners of the ‘Tuck on a Truck’ delivery service and while they were waiting for the kitchens to open the ex-owner and now managing director was reporting to her directly. The company was continuing to trade in its existing areas and making a modest profit. As soon as it started delivering for DKL it would be changing its name.

Then it was any other business, and Belinda introduced the subject of purchasing Keith’s Refurbishments. Brian had produced a paper laying out all the benefits of taking the business in-house, and Jinnie had to admit he had put forward an excellent financial argument. The discussion rumbled on with some speaking in favour and others against. Jinnie decided it was time to make her position known and reminded the board that this was essentially the same sort of deal that had brought Wright Refurbishment in-house and reminded them just how successful that had been. When the vote was taken the purchase of Keith’s Refurbishments passed easily.

In Chapter 19 – A Christmas at Sea

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