Jinnie’s Story- Book Six, Chapter Twenty-Seven

Aunty JoJo’s Brixton

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Brooke led Patricia onto the northbound Victoria line platform at Brixton. Patricia looked around her in amazement, she had used escalators at airports and big stores but never before to descend below ground. She had heard of the London Tube network but had not been prepared for the rush of noise and air as the train raced into the platform or the scrummage that developed around the sliding door of the empty carriage. Brooke took them to a pair of vacant seats and Patricia happily sat down and looked at the people around her. The vast majority had a phone in their hands and were playing games or tapping out messages. What she noticed was that no one seemed to be chatting and very few were reading papers.

Brooke looked at Patricia and asked, “Are you OK?” “Yes,” replied Patricia, “Just interested in looking and learning.” Brooke explained that Brixton was the southern terminus of the Victoria line, and it was one of the newer lines under London. They would be travelling under the River Thames, under the middle of London, under several of the famous London mainline stations, before changing onto an above-ground line, called Thameslink, at Finsbury Park. Patricia looked at the route map above the window and settled back to people watch, wondering where all the people were going as at each station loads of people got off and more got on. Soon she realised that many people were standing, then just when she wondered how many more could get on, the numbers getting off exceeded those getting on and when Brooke nudged her to get off there were again empty seats.

Patricia just followed Brooke up some stairs, through a tunnel and up some more steps onto an open-air platform, where she shivered in the chill winter air. Brooke pointed at an electronic display board and said, “We need the next train from platform 7, it’s due in ten minutes so let’s get a seat in the waiting room. The Thameslink train was much more modern than the Tube and was formed of 12 carriages which were all articulated so you could walk through the complete train. Again, they found seats in an almost empty carriage. Brooke explained that at this time of day most people were travelling into London, and they were now travelling out of London, and this was a fast train ultimately going to Cambridge, but they would only be on it for about 15 minutes and would be getting off in two stops.

Patricia enjoyed this journey far more than the Tube. She could look out of the window as the train rushed along and the houses and blocks of flats thinned out and fields took over. The train shot in and out of several tunnels and whistled through stations so fast that she found it hard to read their names. Suddenly an announcement said, ‘We shall shortly be calling at Potters Bar. Change here for all stations to Welwyn Garden City, this train terminates at Cambridge.’ And with that the train started to slow before gliding into an island platform.

They followed the exit signs and walked down a slope to a tunnel under the tracks where a sign indicated left for the bus station, ticket office and town centre, or right for the station car park. Brooke turned right and said, “Jinnie said she will meet us at the ticket barrier by the car park.” Patricia spotted a waiting Jinnie and waved. In her Lexus, Jinnie asked Patrica how she enjoyed her journey. Patricia answered, “The last bit was fun, but I don’t think I could use the Tube every day, how do people do it?” “I did every day when I worked in Vauxhall,” said Jinnie.

Larry and the twins were waiting for them at the front door and Larry took an immediate liking to Brooke who said, “I didn’t know you had a cat, he’s lovely.” Jinnie grinned and said, “Larry, meet Brooke and Patricia. He is an old man now and is retired. He used to be the chief mouser at 10 Downing Street but came to live with me when he retired. He spends a lot of his time with his old boss Sir Nigel Farage the ex-PM who now lives next door.” “Oh,” said Brooke while stroking him, “He really is a very important cat, I remember seeing him on TV, when he retired. It was a state secret where he had gone.”

They all gathered in the TV room and Izzy made tea and coffee and brought ‘juice’ for the twins and everyone talked about Barbados. As they were having a DKL Trattoria Trevi evening meal, they had a snack lunch of scrambled eggs on toast, something, much to the twins’ disbelief, Patricia had never eaten before. Shortly after three, Jinnie showed Patricia her garden office and Larry accompanied them to the gate into Nigel Farage’s garden and then shot through the cat flap. Patricia asked, “Where has Larry gone?” “Only to say ‘hello’ to his old boss. He’ll be back for his dinner.” Patricia loved the idea of a garden office, saying she had never seen such a thing in Barbados and wondered if it would work for her when she moved to semi-retirement. Jinnie suggested she should talk to Belinda and Keith as she was certain they could sort something out for her.

It was dark when Larry padded into the TV room. “Are you getting hungry?” asked Jinnie and was surprised when a voice said, “Actually yes,” and turning saw Larry was followed by Nigel. “I heard you had a special visitor, so I came to say hello,” continued Nigel. Jinnie laughed and said, “I bet your spies told you we have ordered a huge turkey and all the trimmings for dinner tonight. Well, it is huge and I think there should be loads for an extra diner if you want to join us. It’s due to be delivered in 45 minutes, so I’m sorry Larry you are just going to have to wait for your supper if you want turkey.”

Patricia drained her coffee and said, “Well, that was a fabulous meal. If that is a true example of a DKL-Trattoria Trevi delivery meal I think it will be a huge success. There are enough wealthy residents in Barbados to keep the kitchen busy.” Jinnie replied, “Well, the delivery prices are much lower than eating in the restaurant, there are a lot less overheads so we can keep the costs down and consequently you don’t have to be wealthy to enjoy a Trattoria Trevi experience and lots of people do.”

In the car back to the hotel, Brooke said to Jinnie, “Thank you for a wonderful day, I think I can speak for both Patrica and I in saying how delighted we were to meet your family again and see your beautiful house, and what a surprise it was to eat with Nigel Farage. I want to agree with Patricia, the food was fabulous. I have eaten in the Trattoria Trevi Turners Hill and the food was easily up to that standard. I’m really looking forward to sampling their Sunday lunch tomorrow.


Jinnie picked up Brooke and Patricia promptly at noon and drove them directly to the Trattoria Trevi and parked in the staff car park at the rear of the restaurant. She explained that their table was booked for one o’clock and the family would meet them in the restaurant, so had nearly an hour to look around the Dark Kitchen. As she spoke Alberto came out of the restaurant’s kitchen and waved to them. Jinnie said, “Here’s the guide, let’s go,” and they all followed him over the road to the DKL facilities.

Alberto led them over the road and punched in the code to unlock the pedestrian entrance. First stop was dispatch which was very lightly manned as only SuperBurger was working. Jinnie explained that most of the kitchens were not open for Sunday lunch, however they all opened in the late afternoon for evening meals. As they watched, three orders arrived on the counter with labels attached. The girl behind the counter scanned the labels and added several bottles of cola and cans taken from a large chiller. Putting the orders into big bags she printed off address labels and a route map before pressing a button. A helmeted scooter rider walked in and loaded the bags into his insulated bag, typed the first address into his SatNav and waved goodbye. Patricia said, “That’s impressive, will we have the same software?” “Of course,” replied Jinnie, “It’s essential to making things work properly. When it’s busy in here, with all 12 kitchens working, there are half a dozen people behind the counter. The computer combines the orders from the various kitchens by route and we will be using insulated vans as well as scooters.”

They moved on to the telephone ordering section, with its rows of screens only two of which were occupied by two operators. Again, Jinnie explained, “It will be much busier later. When a call comes in the operator can pull up the menu for each of the kitchens and mix & match orders. As soon as orders are placed it switches to payment mode and the operator takes the payment by card then hits a button. Of course, people can place their order on the internet but nearly everyone prefers to talk to an order taker. We try to answer all phone calls by the third ring. If it takes much longer we need more order takers on duty. The orders automatically go to the appropriate kitchens, and an estimated delivery time text is generated which is sent to the purchaser’s email address together with a receipt. We store phone numbers, address details and card details, but only with the purchaser’s permission. It means that when someone rings in on subsequent occasions it’s all to hand and saves time.”

The next stop was the kitchens. As the Trattoria Trevi one was closed it was easy to show Patricia the fit-out and the big screens on which the orders were displayed alongside the time it was to be dispatched. Patricia said, “I’m so pleased to have seen this, it is fantastic, I know of nothing like it in the Caribbean. We are going to be way ahead of the competition. I can’t wait to take over our kitchens and get started.” The tour was completed with a look at the offices, including the computer room and the unoccupied accounts offices. This time Alberto explained that the computer talked to the DKL’s system in Crawley where all the sales from kitchens around the country were amalgamated and income was calculated and paid into the various operator’s accounts. Jinnie then explained that the local computer complied all the local statistics so at any time a branch manager could see exactly what was selling and the up-to-date daily takings.

Alberto had excelled with the table, and several had been pushed together to form a table for 11. The rest of the family were already there and the twins, as usual, were complaining they were hungry. The Sunday lunch menu was very British, basically a choice of roast chicken, beef, lamb or pork with all the trimmings, or an Italian special Sicilian-style chicken thighs. Everyone except Paolo chose the roast beef, he went for the Italian special saying it was something he had never seen on a menu in Britain.

The meat was carved at the table and the six vegetables all arrived in lidded vegetable tureens for people to help themselves. Jinnie helped the twins who had a bit of everything including a Yorkshire pudding. They even tried a trace of horseradish and English mustard. Patricia had never tried a roast beef dinner and thought it wonderful, especially the onions braised in gravy which she had a second helping of. After dessert and coffee, Alberto asked Paolo’s opinion on the chicken as it was something new they were testing. Paolo replied, “It was fantastic, if that was on your standard menu, I would buy it.” “But you are Italian,” said Alberto, “I think I need to ask some of the other customers who had it, I think you might be biased!”

As they drove down the hill to the station Patricia said, “Thank you Jinnie, it’s been a wonderful weekend. I’ve learnt so much about the dark kitchen, I thought I understood what we were buying into, but with all that technology it is so much more. I’m seriously thinking it might be time to hand over the day-to-day running of the business to Monica. She is good with modern technology. I’m thinking of semi-retirement but with a garden office with a computer so I can keep an eye on things, including my bank balance.” Jinnie replied, “But you are still only young, you’ve got a few years yet.” Patrica signed and said, “But we don’t live so long as you British. I want to enjoy my retirement while I’m still young enough. I want to spend time on the beach, I want to eat good food. Thanks to you I am now wealthy enough to be able to do it, and I have a good monthly income and a business to leave to my descendants. When I get home, I’m going to talk to my accountant and solicitor.”


On Monday morning Jinnie drove around the M25 to the M23 and then to the DKL offices and kitchens in Crawley. Jinnie waved her ‘magic’ card over the reader at the gate and as it slid open she saw a busy facility with lots of staff parked and delivery trucks bringing in ingredients. Jinnie parked in her spot and noted most of the directors were in. There was also a Jaguar I-PACE plugged in at one of the EV chargers and Jinnie wondered who it belonged to. Jinnie strolled to the main entrance and waved her card over the card reader that opened the entrance doors. As she walked in, Jenny looked up from her computer and said, “Good morning, Mrs De Luca, from your tan it looks like you enjoyed your cruise.” “It was wonderful thanks, so good we have already booked for next year.”

Jinnie chose to take the stairs to the first floor and waved her magic key to release the doors. But before doing so she remembered the I-PACE and asked, “Whose is the electric Jaguar?” “Oh, it’s Mr Parkinson, he is with Mr Quarandon in meeting room two, I think he is from Barclays.” As Jinnie climbed up the stairs Jinnie thought, ‘Someone from the bank coming to see us, now that’s unusual.’ Jinnie walked through the main office space and was delighted to see how busy it was. When they had opened the offices, she had secretly wondered if she would ever see it this busy.

Ro had seen her coming and greeted her with her usual “Morning Boss” as she handed her a mug of coffee. Jinnie stopped by Ro’s desk and asked, “How’s the new house coming along.” Ro and Jed had purchased, off plan, at a new development at Broadridge Heath twenty minutes south of Crawley. “They say it’ll be ready in a fortnight, but we had a walk around at the weekend and I can’t see it. There was loads still to be done.” “When they want to hand it over, I suggest you ask Belinda to go round with you,” said Jinnie. “I have walked round with her on numerous jobs and her trained eye sees snags I just never see.” “That sounds like a great idea,” replied Ro.

Jinnie had hardly sat down and turned on her computer when Nigel bustled in. While logging on Jinnie said, “Good morning Nigel, I take it this isn’t just a visit for a chat and that you have something on your mind.” “Well, yes,” said Nigel as Ro presented him with a mug of coffee, “You remember when we first opened, I said that one day we would need to put in an upgraded computer software system, one that had integrated modules, well I think that time is fast approaching. As we have grown, I have been getting more and more problems keeping all our systems talking to each other. The payroll software struggles to communicate with the HR software. Procurement is a nightmare for Belinda, it has got so slow. Finding archived documents is not easy, just ask Ro. The two big ERP companies, SAP and Oracle, both have loads of modules that all talk to each other properly.”

Nigel paused to slurp his coffee and Jinnie took the opportunity to ask, “Have you spoken to Brian? What does he think.” “Yes,” replied Nigel, “He is in favour, and he says we can afford it. We can drop several software licenses and move over to one of the ERP modules. Other things like AutoCAD can talk to the database and drawings can be viewed on any PC by anyone authorised anywhere on the system. Also, the ERP systems now all run in the cloud, so no more me needing to come begging for expensive upgrades to the server room, that’s the software provider’s problem, we just need a good internet access. Oh, and I think Brian is on the brink of talking to you about a similar upgrade to the Trattoria Trevi network.”

“Really!” said Jinnie, “Does this have anything to do with Mr Parkinson from Barclays meeting with Brian at the moment?” “I don’t think so,” replied Nigel, “He hasn’t mentioned it to me.” “So, what is the next step?” asked Jinnie. “I want permission to talk to some of the big ERP companies and get them to suggest what we need and how much it will cost us to install and to run. Then I suggest I write a report for the board with a recommendation. But I think I should keep you and Brian updated with progress and we can decide if we continue to the report and board presentation stage.” “OK,” said Jinnie, “Let’s do it but keep it on a need-to-know basis at the moment. I don’t want people thinking we are going to computerise them out of their jobs.” “That’s the last thing this will do,” replied Nigel, “We may have to retrain a few people so I might need to talk to HR and a few directors.”

Jinnie settled down to going through the company e-mails and reports. Everything seemed to be under control with the exception of IT. Nigel’s report highlighted the growing number of IT problems they were experiencing without going into the solution he had offered. Jinnie was reading the Construction Division report and marvelling at how Belinda managed to juggle so many active projects and bids at the same time when Brian knocked on her open door. Jinnie said “Come in” and called to Ro for more coffee. Brian closed the office door behind him and sat down on one of the visitor chairs. Jinnie thought, ‘Brian only shuts the door when it’s a serious discussion.’

Brian started, “I guess you realised I have been chatting to Russell Parkinson from the bank this morning.” “Trouble?” asked Jinnie. “Quite the opposite, replied Brian. “He wanted to talk about our cash balance. I must admit it has grown rather quicker than I anticipated over Christmas and the New Year. He wanted to talk about our investment plans. I think he was trying to get us to buy into some of their schemes, but I don’t want to do that. Firstly, I agree with Nigel we need a major overhaul of our computer system and I have put £1,000,000 aside for that. Secondly, I want to talk to you about plans for our overseas expansion. We have a fully funded plan for new kitchens in the U.K. but now that the Barbados kitchens are nearly ready to open I expect them to be adding to our cash pile in a month or so rather than being a cost drain.”

“What I want to talk about are the plans in your head for expansion in the Caribbean so I can look at what money we might need to put aside and how much that would leave us either to find or have in hand. That’s why I shut the door.” Just then Ro knocked and brought in the two mugs of coffee. Jinnie said, “Thank you. While I’m chatting to Brian, please can you ring around the directors for a lunchtime get-together in the board room? Is it too late to organise food?” “I have already organised sandwiches and cake just in case, as you often want to talk to them about something.” “Excellent,” replied Jinnie, “and I guess you and Jed need to hear what I want to talk about, so you’re invited too.”

Jinnie thought for a moment and finally said to Brian, “As a Trattoria Trevi director you already know where we are going next, Trinidad. Belinda knows because she is quoting for all the Chicken Shacks, but I notice that in her monthly report she only obliquely refers to increased bidding activity by the Caribbean construction division subsidiary, she can keep a secret. Well, I think that we should follow, that means we should budget for at least three maybe four six kitchen facilities there in the next 12 months. I would start with Port of Spain and then Chaguanas, which is bigger than Port of Spain. Then I think it’s Jamaica, I want to stick to English-speaking countries initially. There are not so many big towns and cities in Jamaica. Kingston is huge, over half a million people and two other big places Portamore and Spanish Town are very close. We could probably do a 12-kitchen facility in Port of Spain, but I would prefer a six plus six just like we did in Potters Bar. Then a six in Spanish Town and a six in Portamore. Then up to the north of the island for a six in Montego Bay.”

“That’s about as far as my Caribbean thinking goes for DKL. What’s that, three or four sixes in Trinidad, mind I think we could go for another one or two after Jamaica, and a six plus six and three sixes for Jamaica. I see this lot over 24 months. So not too big a strain on resources. After that I’m not sure, maybe Bahamas or Bermuda. But here we diverge from Auntie JoJo’s. I think that they can expand a lot more in Trinidad and Jamaica. If it takes off in Trinidad, I can see us doubling the number of outlets in the second year, and Jamaica I have roughed in a minimum of 24 or 25 outlets in two years from opening. As for TT Continental restaurants I want at least one in Port of Spain and one in Tobago, probably Scarborough. As for Jamaica I don’t think Kingston at first, I want to open in places like Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril, and Port Antonio where there are lots of hotels and tourists.”

“That’s pretty ambitious,” said Brian, “but a lot of that expenditure is Trattoria Trevi. But I suppose it’s interlinked in that you will want delivery kitchens for both the Continentals and Aunty JoJo’s.” “Exactly,” replied Jinnie, “Sometimes I have to wear two hats at the same time as one business meshes with the other.” “I have been doing a rough calculation while we have been talking and I think that come the end of the financial year we will have at least £2 million in surplus cash. I want to run these numbers through my spreadsheets but if the predictions are right, what do you think of dividing it 50/50 between reserves and paying it in dividends and a profit-sharing bonus for workers?”

“Do we need a million in reserves?” Jinnie asked. “Strictly speaking, no,” replied Brian, “We are nowhere near breaking our banking covenants. But the bank might not like it if our reserves were to drop under a million. Mind you I am basing this on our current balance, by the end of the financial year we will probably have a lot more in cash. I would just like to tell Mr Parkinson that most of the money is allocated to expansion and bonuses.”

Jinnie spoke to the directors over the sandwich lunch saying, “I know that several of you have been having problems with our software systems. I can’t promise you that this is definitely going to happen, but I will let you in on the current thinking. We always intended to put in a proper fully integrated ERP system. I don’t mean a system like Microsoft 365, but a full-blown system like SAP or Oracle. Now Nigel is going to be looking at how we go about this and will need a lot of help from you guys in specifying what we need. I don’t want this leaking to the staff until we can place an order, as I don’t want them worrying about job losses that just aren’t going to happen.”

There were several questions, “Can we afford it?” “Definitely,” said Brian, “We have a very large cash reserve.” “What do you mean by a ‘fully integrated ERP system’?” Nigel explained, “It’s a system where there are several modules for each type of process we undertake, all of which work through a huge database. For example, we could have modules for HR, procurement, supply chain management, finance, payroll, sales and distribution, fleet management, plant maintenance and many, many more. The finance module alone has loads of submodules for every sort of bookkeeping function you could think of. The idea is that any single entity is available to any module that needs it. If HR hire someone and add them to the HR system, they will automatically get added to payroll system, but HR will see things like name and address and staff number where the address isn’t needed on the payroll. Oh, I forgot to mention that different companies in the group can have their own accounts which all share a single database. So, for example, Wright Refurbishment could have its own system for HR, project management and procurement but their financials would be fully integrated with the group figures without having to do anything.” And so it went on until Jinnie called a halt as it was getting into detail that would be settled only when a system was installed.

Jinnie then said, “The second thing I want you to think about, but not give me an answer until next week’s board meeting is this. All things being equal at the end of the financial year, on top of paying all our bills and having substantial reserves we expect to have a minimum of £1,000,000 in spare cash. The question I want you to answer is, should we pay a special dividend, should we pay all employees a special bonus, should we split it between dividend and bonus, or should it be something else, I’m not suggesting we do, but do we buy another company?

In Chapter 28 – A Trip to the Palace

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