Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Seventeen

A Grand Opening

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie stood in front of the suite’s full-length mirror and inspected herself. Her summer dress looked good, and her makeup was immaculate, those lessons from Melissa were paying off. Paolo was sitting in an armchair on the other side of the room watching her and said, “You still scrub up pretty well all these years after we met in Berlin.” “Thank you, kind Sir,” said Jinnie, “You don’t look so bad either.”

The knock on the suite door revealed Belinda and Brian who were sharing a limo to the restaurant. Guests were due at seven thirty for eight and the directors and their partners were meeting at six thirty. When Belinda, Jinnie and Keith had done a walk around the TT Continental the previous morning Jinnie had thought it looked fabulous. Instead of dark and dingy it was bright, clean and modern. As usual, Belinda and Keith had produced a snagging list of minor items, a couple of paint runs, paint on a glass screen, a lifting seam on the wall vinyl and an almost imperceptible ruck in a carpet. Keith had promised it would all be fixed in a couple of hours and Jinnie had no doubt it would be. As they had walked around the restaurant and kitchen, it had surprised Jinnie just how many staff were in working, polishing glass and silverware, setting tables, cleaning windows, and everyone had been smiling.

The three had then moved on to the ex-KFC that was to be the new home of Aunty JoJo’s where they were joined by Patricia. Keith explained that the work was very nearly finished well ahead of schedule. To Jinnie it was looking good but as usual Belinda’s snagging found things to do. Keith promised that everything would be done by close of play on Tuesday. Patricia said that the staff were anxious to move and had volunteered to work late on Tuesday to move across the road. Keith promised his people would be on hand to help.

Patricia said it was unfortunate that she wasn’t going to be able to help as she was a guest at the grand opening of the Continental, but she was certain that Monica could handle it. Keith said, “I gave Monica a heads up that we would be finished early and I understand she and Patrica have had their heads together as they just gave me a load of posters to put in the window”. He unrolled one in Aunty JoJo’s blue and yellow colour scheme that simply said in big letters ‘Opening at 07:30 on Wednesday – Aunty JoJo’s Chicken Shack.’ Keith added, “The old KFC shop sign will be taken down tomorrow and the new Aunty JoJo’s erected in its place well in time for Wednesday at 07:30.”


The next stop on the grand tour had been Rockley Beach which was even busier than the Continental, with Keith’s team working and John’s staff being trained. Keith said proudly, “We will be finished on Friday and moving on to the new call centre and offices. I have small teams already on site at the two kitchen sites, but they are only sorting out the security fencing and gates. I think John wants to open Rockley as soon as possible but you will need to check with him.” Jinnie had looked around and was amazed at the transformation. The old restaurant although having been neat and tidy previously was now magnificent in its new interior layout and colour scheme. The corporate signage was up and the illuminated Aunty JoJo’s on a high pole was drawing attention. Jinnie looked over to Patricia and smiled. Patricia said, “This is just what I always dreamed a second outlet would look like; clean, bright and so spacious. The old place was showing its age, and it was becoming a struggle to keep it looking good. Now we have a tip-top pair of sparkling new outlets.”

Jinnie said, “Do you think you will open at the weekend or leave it until Monday?” “I hadn’t really thought about it as it is all happening so fast but let me talk to John I don’t know if he has the food ordered to open yet.” John and one of Aunty JoJo’s counter staff who Jinnie recognised were talking to a dozen or so staff who it looked like were being shown pictures of items from the menu.

John saw them enter the restaurant and came over to say hello. Patricia asked how things were going and John had said, “Much better than expected. The place is nearly finished, and the staff are almost ready to go. I want to open on Monday morning for breakfast but that all depends on the catering companies getting the supplies here as promised on Saturday and Sunday and you saying OK. The kitchen is complete, and the chefs have got their heads around the slightly different way your chicken batter cooks to the KFC version.” Patricia said, “John, it is wholly your decision. If you have the stock, I’m more than happy to open on Monday.”

Keith said he was going back to check on the snagging and offered Patricia a lift, so that left Jinnie and Belinda to travel back to their hotel together in Belinda’s hire car. They had hardly moved off when Belinda said, “I did say I wanted to see how Keith’s crew performed on a project, but I must say I am delighted the standard of work is excellent and he just gets his people doing things right first time. I am minded to ask the board for permission to make an offer at the next board meeting.” Jinnie replied, “I’ll back you up 100%.”


The limo collected the foursome from the hotel bang on the appointed time and on the drive over to the TT Continental, Brian told them of his day. He had visited Vincenzo at the bank and talked about plans for the future. How, apart from the TT Continental opening that evening to a full restaurant, they had a full reservation list for the next month, with the month after filling quickly and many early tables being booked a second time for late suppers. Brian told Vincenzo that he expected the company’s bank balance to grow quickly in the next few months.

He then explained that the Aunty JoJo’s joint venture was progressing much faster than expected and the old restaurant would be moving over the road into its new premises overnight with no trading being missed. He had then told him that the new Rockley branch would be opening on Monday morning. Vincenzo asked if they were going to advertise the new branch and Brian said only if sales are slow. “But,” he had said, “what I really want to impress on you is that the board have had a discussion and as a result Patricia is looking for locations for new branches. The airport is one, another branch in a different section of Bridgetown is another or one of the other towns on the island, Oistins or Speightstown or maybe all of them.”

Brian said he had then moved on to the lawyers’ offices where he had signed off a few bits and pieces of paperwork and organised a large payment to them partly for work done but also as a retainer against further work, an agreement that they would not work for Trattoria Trevi’s competition and that they would be given all their legal work on the island. A very happy Michael had then told him he had been offered a full partnership because of all the business from Trattoria Trevi and DKL.

It was very nearly six thirty when the limousine pulled up outside the Continental and a small crowd had already gathered hoping to spot celebrities. But it was the reporters, photographers and TV cameras that astonished Jinnie, she had never dreamed that the reopening would have drawn the island’s media out in force. Trevor was waiting for them and opened the door for them as they approached. Jinnie was happy that the media ignored them not knowing who they were. As they entered, the receptionist recognised them and welcomed them. The bar was being laid out with the preparations for drinks for guests to pick up but one of the barmen stopped his work and asked what they would like. Jennie and Belinda had a G&T with ice and a slice while the men settled for a draught Banks.

While the men stayed chatting to Trevor, Jinnie and Belinda wandered into the restaurant proper. One glance was enough for Jinnie, it looked fabulous, the tables were all laid, and the silverware was sparkling and the glasses glinting in the light. Alberto was wandering around the room accompanied by the maître ‘d. As Jinnie watched, he moved a glass a few millimetres and called for a smeared glass to be changed on another table. Jinnie said to Belinda, “Alberto, ever the perfectionist.” “Yes,” replied Belinda, “but that’s how to how you get a Michelin Star.”

Alberto saw them and walked over. After saying hello, he said, “Congratulations Belinda, this is magnificent. I am used to seeing the wonderful restaurants you hand over to us in the U.K., but this is the best so far. I saw the potential when I was here before, but I didn’t think it could ever be this good. I just wish my wife was well enough to have been here to see this, but the doctor has banned her from flying. I have taken loads of photos and film on my phone for her to see.” “I thought she was getting over her thrombosis,” said Jinnie. “She is,” replied Alberto, “but flying is too big a risk.”

Jinnie said to the maître‘d, “Have we got time before the guests start arriving for me to speak to the staff? I promise it will only be for a couple of minutes at the most but I just want to wish them well” “I think so,” said the maître’d, “We have 45 minutes before the guests are due, so I’ll gather them right now.” A few minutes later Jinnie was addressing the gathering saying, “I promise this will be very quick, but I just wanted to say thank you for everything, the dining room looks magnificent, I’m sure we are going to have a fabulous evening. But I just had to tell you we are fully booked for weeks to come with a waiting list for cancellations. I know we have some of the island’s top politicians and stars here tonight. I met Rihanna on the flight over I can tell you she will be here tonight and she is extremely fussy, please pander to her, we can’t afford anything bad getting into the media. Before you get back to your preparations, I only have one thing to say and that is ‘good luck’ everyone.”


The directors and their plus ones were all gathered in the reception/bar when Jinnie, Belinda and Alberto joined them. The first person to seek Jinnie out was Guido who said, “Now we are here I remember this restaurant. When we visited Vincenzo and Lucia last year, they brought us here, but I didn’t remember the name. I do remember Vincenzo raving about the food but saying that we should ignore the surroundings and he was right. The food and service were excellent and the decor very tired. My Isabella visited the ladies and said it was very shabby.” “You can tell her,” replied Jinnie, “that it had been completely refurbished and is now super.”

At twenty-five past seven, the directors plus ones all headed into the restaurant leaving the directors and Belinda to greet the VIP guests and the ordinary customers in the reception/bar area. The very first person to arrive was Patricia, of course she already knew many of the directors but Jinnie introduced her to the remainder of directors, several of whom promised to visit the new Aunty JoJo’s before flying back to the U.K. Patricia whispered to Jinnie, “Do you think anyone will mind if a slip out promptly after the meal, I am anxious to see how the move is going?” Jinnie answered, “I would be astonished if you were to hang around. If anyone says anything, I’ll explain. Oh, is it ok if I will bring my husband in for lunch tomorrow, he has had your food before as a takeaway, but I want him to sample your fried chicken fresh out of the fryer.”

A few minutes later Ro and Jed arrived, they were staying in the same hotel as Jinnie and had clearly either spent the day on the beach or by the pool as they were both a little red. Ro looked around the bar and said, “Gosh, this is nice Belinda’s team have done a lovely job here. Did you see all the cameras outside? They asked me if I was looking forward to eating here tonight and I said immensely. The reporter asked me if I would speak to him on the way out, and I agreed.” Jinnie said, “Just wait until you see the dining room, it is magnificent. Now unless something has gone badly wrong, the food is going to be wonderful, and I hope you tell the reporter so.”

People began to flood in, and the maître’d seemed to know everyone and Jinnie’s hand began to ache from shaking so many people’s hands and telling people yes she really was a Dame and had met the king and queen. Jinnie began to realise that when the next person through the door was a VIP or celebrity the flashes from the press photographers were a good clue. Vincenzo and Lucia, and the partners from Forde, Weekes and Watson escaped the barrage of flashes, but not so the president and the prime minister. Cuba Gooding Jr. arrived at five to eight and proved to be charming. With a glass of Champagne in his hand he was escorted by a waiter to the prime minister’s table who he appeared to know. Next in was Nigel, Emma and Freddie who said hello to Jinnie and Belinda before accepting a glass of Champagne and heading to their table.

At 7:58 Trevor whispered to Jinnie, “Everyone is here, with one exception. Reception have been keeping note.” Jinnie said, “Don’t tell me, Rihanna.” “How on earth did you guess?” chuckled Trevor. At that moment the flashes outside went crazy and Jinnie said, “Well at least she’s not late.” Rihanna and her long-term partner the rapper A$AP Rocky enter the restaurant. Jinnie had arranged for a waitress to be ready with a Jameson and Ginger cocktail on a silver tray together with a bottle of Voss water especially sourced for A$AP Rocky who claimed to only drink the very best bottled water and was a vegan.

Jinnie introduced Rihanna and A$AP Rocky to the other directors and eased them to their seats on the president’s table which appeared to meet with Rihanna’s approval. The directors took their seats spread amongst the VIP and celebrities and the maître‘d called for silence so Jinnie, who with Paolo was seated on the PM’s table, could say a few words. Jinnie welcomed everyone and said they hoped the set meal was to everyone’s taste. She explained that the kitchen would be happy to serve an alternative if anyone was uncomfortable with any of the courses, and with that the waiters brought in the starter of Old Bay seasoned crab cakes or a vegan market tasting plate of roast peppers, tomatoes, olive tapenade, plant-based buffalo mozzarella and butternut frittata. Jinnie thought the crab cakes were fabulous and was delighted to see that on the nearby president’s table, the vegan A$AP Rocky had cleared his plate.

A small lemon and lime sorbet pallet cleanser came next and again Jinnie only saw empty bowls. The main course was garlic and herb-crusted rack of lamb with seasonal vegetables and mini–roast potatoes, Jinnie was delighted to be given the choice of what the menu said was English mint sauce or American mint jelly, she adored lamb and mint sauce and this didn’t disappoint. Even the vegan choice of sage and pumpkin ravioli looked good.

But it was the individual banana and dark rum crumble served with what the menu described as thick English custard that Jinnie thought was the star of the meal, a blend of local produce and a homage to the new owners. The PM took an initial cautious mouthful and her face lit up before saying to Jinnie, “This is a triumph. I must ask for the recipe for a state dinner.” Jinnie replied, “I’m sure chef will be only too happy to pass it on ma’am. The beauty of the dish is it is also suitable for vegans.” Jinnie was trying to keep an eye on the president’s table where Rihanna was in animated conversation with the president and had cleared her plate.

The meal finished with Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee or English tea. The PM sipped the coffee and said to Jinnie, “You have changed the coffee, this is excellent, when I have eaten here previously the food and service have been good, but the coffee has been abysmal.” “I agree,” replied Jinnie, “the old coffee was truly awful; this is the same coffee we serve in our British restaurants and a personal favourite of mine.” At that moment the waiter placed a plate of shortbread squares and chocolate truffles in the centre of the table and the PM said, “How wonderful, my favourites.”

Jinnie didn’t see Patricia slip away, but that was hardly surprising as she was swamped by a crowd of people saying how wonderful the food had been and how fabulous the restaurant looked. Even Rihanna came over and said that she had thoroughly enjoyed the meal, thanked her for the invitation and said she would be sure to tell her friends how good the restaurant was, before leaving to an eruption of flashes from the photographers. Nigel Farage told Jinnie that he would be recommending the restaurant to all and sundry as the food had been just fabulous, much better than the Sandy Lane restaurant.

The guests started to drift away and Jinnie noticed that many of them were being interviewed by both newspaper and TV reporters, she only wished she knew what they were saying. But when she saw Ro was talking to a TV reporter, Jinnie just knew she would be saying how wonderful the restaurant was. Vincenzo and Lucia were chatting with his parents, and they called Jinnie and Paolo over. Vincenzo said, “I was just telling Papa how wonderful the evening had been. The food and service here always were good, but this is now wonderful, and the restaurant now looks wonderful too, you have even done up the loos. I was reluctant to bring important clients here because the place was so shabby, but just look at it now. I always wondered why the previous owner didn’t spend some of the profits on refurbishing the place.”

Jinnie looked at Guido and then said, “Your father knows the answer to that, the previous owner was too busy hiding his money and dreaming up shady schemes to milk the business for all it was worth. When we turned up with an offer to buy the business, his staff had just become unionised and he feared they were going to expose his little fiddles, so he sold up and ran to the Cayman Islands with his ill-gotten gains. I could prove some of his fiddles if I wanted to, but I am happy to have picked up the business on the cheap.”

Vincenzo said, “We have eaten here several times, I even brought Papa and Mamma here but I would never have dreamed that anything illegal was going on.” “It was only when Brian was doing a deep dig in the books that he felt something wasn’t right. But if it had been for Belinda measuring up, he would never have realised just what was going on. Still, that was then, now the business is run by us it is totally legitimate.” “And I would hope so too,” said Vincenzo.


The following morning Jinnie put the local breakfast show on the TV in their hotel suite. It wasn’t long before the news came on and the second story was how the rich and famous of Barbados had turned out for the grand reopening of the TT Continental with video of various people going in. The presenter then said, “We spoke to several people as they left the event,” and more video followed of people saying how wonderful it had been, praising the food and the service, including Ro who was wholesome in her praise. The last person shown was Rihanna who was also full of praise, saying without doubt this was now the best restaurant on the island. Paolo said, “Well in the end it was worth sucking up to her.”

Jinnie added, “It’s a good job they didn’t ask Ro if she was a VIP or a paying guest.”

The hotel restaurant was not hugely busy, allowing Jinnie and Paolo to enjoy a leisurely breakfast with Ro and Jed who had decided to do a bit of sightseeing before spending the rest of the day on the hotel’s beach. After last night’s big meal they, Jinnie and Paolo, opted for a light breakfast of tropical fruit, croissants, and coffee. Once again Jinnie drank the coffee but thought it could easily be improved on. Passing through reception on the way to the lifts, Paolo spotted copies of the Daily Nation and the Barbados Advocate left on the tables and suggested they should look for reviews. Paolo picked up the Nation and immediately saw a picture on the front page of the president leaving the restaurant with Nigel Farage, with a heading saying, ‘VIPs dine out’ and a teaser underneath saying, ‘The big-ticket last night was for the reopening of Bridgetown’s Continental Restaurant – see Pages 3,4 & 5 for a full review.’

Paolo turned to page three where there was a picture montage of several VIP guests entering or leaving the restaurant and a story about who had been there listing numerous people, including Rihanna, A$AP Rocky, Cuba Gooding Jr., the PM and the president. Turning over to pages four and five there was a double-page spread with a review by their restaurant critic including pictures of the inside of the restaurant which Paolo guessed had been taken on a phone. He quickly skim-read the review, liked what he read and said so to Jinnie who was looking at a review in the Advocate. Jinnie replied, “The Advocate sneaked a restaurant critic in as a paying customer. I’m only about halfway through the review but so far they love it.” “The Nation seem to have done the same thing, with the same result,” said Paolo.

The couple finished their respective reviews and switched over papers. When she had finished the second paper Jinnie looked up and saw Paolo grinning at her. “Well, those reviews were excellent,” said Paolo. “Both reviewers loved the place, the food, the service and the refurbishment. You couldn’t have asked for a better review. I loved the bit where the critic said that it didn’t matter if you were the prime minister or a paying customer, everyone was treated the same.” Jinnie laughed and replied, “Except Rihanna who we treated with kid gloves.” “It paid off,” said Paolo, “did you read the bit where the Nation spoke to her, and she said how wonderful the evening had been and she would definitely be returning next she was in Barbados.” “Yes, I did,” said Jinnie, “But I wonder who told them we had teamed up with Aunty JoJo’s and were moving to bigger premises and opening a new branch. It must have been a director or one of the staff. I don’t really care who it was, as the timing is perfect.”

When Jinnie got back to the suite, the red message light was flashing on the house phone. Paolo listened to the messages before handing it over to Jinnie saying, “I think you should listen to this.” The message said, ‘Good morning, Dame Jinnie, my name is Clyde Parris and I’m chief reporter for the Daily Nation. I understand that you are the chief operating officer of Trattoria Trevi the new owners of the Continental Restaurant. I wonder if you would consider giving me an interview so we can discuss the restaurant and your plans for business on the island. I’ll be downstairs in the bar until 10:30 if you would like to chat. Don’t worry I should recognise you I have seen your photo on the internet.”

Jinnie and Paolo walked to the bar and a man immediately slid off a barstool and walked over to them and held out his hand saying, “Thank you for coming Dame Jinnie, I hope I won’t keep you long, but I would love to get the inside story of why you have taken over the Continental and what your plans are for Aunty JoJo’s.” The three made their way to a booth and Clyde laid his phone on the table but didn’t turn the recorder on yet, first asking if they would like a drink. Remembering the breakfast coffee, Jinnie asked for tea and Paolo, water. Clyde asked for a cola and said, “I would normally drink coffee but it’s not good here.” Jinnie replied, “It’s a common problem on the island, but I hope not one you will experience in one of our restaurants.”

When the drinks arrived, Clyde turned on his iPhone voice recorder and the interview started. In answer to Clyde’s questions, Jinnie explained how she had been on the island on holiday, and they had eaten at the Continental, saying how impressed she had been with the food and service but disappointed with the state of the decorations. She talked about how she had suggested to the board of directors that it would make an excellent addition to their fine dining portfolio, and it had been checked out anonymously by other directors before they made an offer that was accepted. How their U.K. refurbishment contractor had flown out and designed the refurbishment which had been carried out perfectly by a local contractor.

Jinnie explained that they had made a few changes to the menu, hired an experienced manager, but the main changes had been the refurbishments and repairs. How well the staff had responded to the new management and how delighted she had been at the success of last night’s grand opening. Clyde had asked if the group were looking to open further restaurants on the island and Jinnie had said that they considered there wasn’t room for the chain to open another high-class establishment on Barbados but they hadn’t ruled out other islands.

Clyde was being so easily deflected and asked about Aunty JoJo’s. Jinnie explained that she had seen the lunchtime queue outside the chicken shack and had tried and loved the food as had their chairman and the head of their fast food division, so they had made an offer, but the owner had not wanted to sell. Instead, they had entered into a partnership which had allowed them to develop a second branch, which would open next week and to move the original branch into a much larger location just across the road. Clyde asked if there were plans for more Aunty JoJo’s. Jinnie told him of course they had plans to open several more branches on the island and on other islands and before she realised it, she was talking about a home delivery service.

Clyde was quite sharp and picked up on that, first asking if they intended to start their own delivery service or utilise one of the island’s many existing companies. Jinnie told him that they had purchased one of the existing companies. Clyde then asked if they had sufficient kitchen capacity to run a full delivery service. Jinnie realised that she was being led into talking about something she was not wholly ready to make public, just in case somebody set up in competition. So, she said to Clyde, “Please turn off the recording.” Which he reluctantly did. Jinnie then said to him, “I want you to promise me you will not publish yet what I am about to tell you. In a couple of weeks, you will be free to do so, and I promise that you alone will have story. If you break your promise, I will never again speak to you or your newspaper.”

After getting his assurances she explained about DKL, how it was a joint venture between Trattoria Trevi and SuperBurger and exactly what it did and how, in the U.K., it leased or rented kitchens that produced food for delivery and was highly successful. That on each of the DKL sites SuperBurger and Trattoria Trevi were the base tenants and that on each site DKL operated a single call centre and a delivery service that served all 12 kitchens. She could see Clyde was itching to ask questions but like a good reporter he listened and saved his questions until later. Jinnie explained that she was the managing director of DKL and that they were going to set up two six-kitchen sites and a central call centre and offices on the island. The only thing holding them up at the moment was final planning permission. Their agent, whose name the applications were in, already had a verbal agreement and final written permission was promised in the next two weeks. This venture was going to be slightly different as they had taken on a minority local partner so the Bajan venture would be 90% owned by DKL and 10% by the local partner who would be the local manager. Jinnie then told Clyde that SuperBurger, TT Continental, Aunty JoJo’s and the local partner would each have a kitchen on both sites and would serve the whole island. It was only when Clyde had finished asking questions and left to write up his taped interview that Jinnie realised hadn’t mentioned that they had customers lined up for the two remaining kitchens.

In Chapter 18 – Building work starts

© WorthingGooner 2024