Jinnie’s Story – Book Six, Chapter Twenty-Three

Another Project

WorthingGooner, Going Postal

After her lunch, Jinnie headed back to the garden office determined to produce a spreadsheet showing the approximate costs of setting up a new table d’hôte restaurant. She wasn’t exactly an expert with constructing a spreadsheet, but she had seen loads and had the basic idea of how they worked. Both Paolo and her father had shown her how to create headings for columns and rows and how to populate cells with data and then add, subtract, multiply and divide the cells and get a result in another cell. Her father had even shown her how to use multiple sheets to work out different things and then bring the results forward from several sheets to a main sheet where she could combine all the results into a single sheet.

Her dad had said to use the front sheet as your summary, to add up all the income from your other sheets and take away all the costs you work out on the various sheets and if the grand total is a positive number, you have a winner. She started planning out her sheets. Sheet one would be a summary just like Dad said, then she thought about costs. She started making a list of what she needed to know on a sheet of A4. If she could list all the outgoings, she could construct the spreadsheet and populate the cells on all the other sheets later. First, she listed the one-off costs; buying the restaurant, estate agent’s fees, legal fees, fitting out the kitchen, refurbishing, furniture, cutlery, glasses, crockery, linen, stocking the bar, advertising for staff, the list seemed endless. Jinnie was confident that she knew enough about spreadsheets that if something cropped up that she hadn’t thought about at this stage, she could insert a line and the results would ripple through the sheets and appear in the summary.

The more Jinnie thought about her spreadsheet, the more daunting a task it became. When she initially sat down after lunch, she had the thought that she would be able to very quickly knock something together to show Alberto and the board, now she realised that if she wanted to produce a spreadsheet that could be taken seriously she had a lot of work to do and the design of the spreadsheet was important. She decided that she needed a sheet for recurring costs like council tax, electricity, water, gas, wages, national insurance, and bonuses. Then she needed a sheet for the cost of food based on different menus, she had a plan to have four menus A, B, C and D and alternate weekly between them. Then there was the income sheet with the estimated income per cover, the number of covers per day, the number of days open per week. Then there was other income, basically drinks, maybe cigarettes.

Jinnie’s spreadsheet design was beginning to get there, she could see the summary page in her mind’s eye, years as columns heading across the top in row one. Then a space and down the side another series of headings for each row, set up costs, recurring costs, food costs, employment costs, income, and at the bottom the grand total for each year. She hoped the first year would be in black ink and not red ink or she might have to introduce a new sheet for the cost of borrowing money internally from the group!

Jinnie decided that before she started constructing the spreadsheet, she had better do a bit of research on costs and for that she had a number of Belinda’s quotes for Artisan Sandwich shops, together with records of what they had cost to buy or lease. They were perhaps a little smaller premises than she would like, she wanted to aim at 60 covers, rather similar to the size of Trattoria Trevi before she became involved in their initial expansion, but she could add a margin. In any case this was only supposed to be a guesstimate for the board to get an idea of the project. It was of course a spreadsheet and numbers could easily be revised if a real project was agreed.

Jinnie set to work, and the spreadsheet started to come together, she went into the company HR records for the wages of a head chef, a kitchen brigade, a manager, waiters, receptionist and barman. She found the purchase price of the latest sandwich shop in Holloway and decided that if she added 10% it would probably be representative of buying an outlet anywhere in London. After one or two hiccups she got the spreadsheet working with the guessed income per cover she had talked to Paolo about on the drive home from Gatwick and was delighted to see that after everything, they just about broke even in the first year but made a substantial profit in the second year.

Jinnie was just playing with adding 50p to the cost of a cup of coffee and watching it turn the bottom line into a small first-year profit when Paolo arrived home from the office and came to remind her that she needed to get ready for her parents coming for dinner. Reluctantly Jinnie saved the spreadsheet, shut down the computer and together with Paolo and Larry headed for the house where she was delighted to find Izzy had laid the table and even got a couple of bottles of red out on the side and a couple of bottles of white were in the fridge.

Of course, Nigel was first to arrive carrying a bottle of Barolo. Before he could be greeted by Jinnie and Paolo the twins descended on him, thanking him for their Christmas presents, their first two-wheel bikes with stabilisers. They then switched to telling him about their holiday. Willie told him about eating in the ship’s Main Dining Room and how they had cushions to sit on and a ‘huge’ menu to choose from. Millie told him about the club and meeting Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit. Nigel was rescued by Granny and Grandpa’s arrival and the twins rushing off to them.

A bewildered Nigel finally kissed Jinnie on the cheek and shook hands with Paolo saying, “Good evening and Happy New Year.” He handed the wine over to Paolo who eyed it with interest saying, much to Nigel’s amusement, “Ah, you have brought us the King of Wines and the Wine of Kings.” Nigel replied, “From the English mustard and horseradish on the table I guess we are having roast beef, so it’s an appropriate wine.”

Nigel was right, the Barolo was delicious and went perfectly with the prime rib delivered from the Trattoria Trevi. As dessert was being served Nigel asked Jinnie if she was happy with her Caribbean investments. Jinnie asked if he meant the Trattoria Trevi or the DKL ones and Nigel laughed and replied, “Both really. But I was particularly interested in Aunty JoJo’s, my people tell me that it is looking to expand into Saint Lucia.” “Your spies are right as far as it goes,” said Jinnie, “but I really want to expand to other islands and quickly.” Nigel then said, “Well, my people have let me down, they haven’t picked up on that. They have told me that Patricia and Brooke have been looking at a few outlets in Saint Lucia and your outlet at Bridgetown Airport is packed out every day, but they haven’t mentioned anywhere else. I don’t suppose there is any point in me asking where.” “You can ask,” answered Jinnie, “but don’t expect an answer.”

Mr Walsh was helping Jinnie load the dishwasher when Jinnie closed the kitchen door and said, “Dad, can I ask you to do me a little favour? I have an idea for a new restaurant chain, and I’ve built a spreadsheet, but I would like you to have a look at it and make sure I haven’t done anything stupid.” “You have built a spreadsheet?” replied Mr Walsh, “Yes,” said Jinnie, “It’s not very complicated and I have no idea how to set it up to print, but I think it works. Before I describe the project to the Trattoria Trevi board, I want to make sure I have done nothing silly with the figures. It’s too late to do anything tonight, but could you pop round tomorrow morning, and I can show you what I have done and explain what the project entails?”


Before her dad arrived Jinnie spent a while trying to think up a name for the proposed chain. She liked Epicurean, but there were already several restaurants of that name in the U.K. and a chain registered at Companies House, so that was out. Jinnie did a bit of searching through Roget’s Thesaurus and came up with Sybaritic, meaning fond of luxurious pleasures. She then did a search of Companies House and was delighted to find that Sybaritic Limited wasn’t in use. She rather liked the name, it described what she wanted to achieve. If her dad, Alberto and the board liked the idea, she would get Brian to talk to the lawyers to get the name.

When Mr Walsh arrived, Jinnie explained her idea to him, a chain of table d’hote restaurants based on the cruise ship’s Epicurean Restaurant. They would offer a high-class menu, for a decent fixed price, in luxurious surroundings with top service. Of course, they couldn’t call it Epicurean, there were already several in the U.K., she wanted to call the chain Sybaritic. Mr Walsh asked, “Would it be expensive?” “That’s the USP,” replied Jinnie, “I want to keep the price down so that it’s affordable. I’m working with a £40 fixed price, but with drinks, wine and coffee I reckon on £50-a-cover minimum. I have been wondering if I should add something extra special like a fillet steak or beef wellington for an extra fiver, but I think the offering works without it. We could always add it in at a later date.”

“So, your idea would mean that I could take your mum out a luxurious meal on our anniversary for £100?” “Yes,” replied Jinnie, “but I have done my basic costing on a G&T on arrival, a glass of house wine with the meal, and coffee after. But if someone wanted a nice bottle of wine and a liquor with coffee you can push that £50-a-cover up quite quickly.” “OK,” said Mr Walsh, “Let’s have a look at this spreadsheet of yours.”

Jinnie called up the spreadsheet on the Trattoria Trevi network and slid over so her dad could sit at the terminal. As he started his investigation Jinnie made the coffee and got out the Hobnobs. Half an hour later Mr Walsh said “Well, the spreadsheet works, I can’t fault it mathematically, but is not the prettiest thing I have ever seen. When we’ve finished the coffee, I’ll show you how to tidy it up with a common sheet heading, the date, emboldened column and row headings, printing negatives in red and positives in black and how to set up print areas.”

By lunchtime Jinnie had to admit the spreadsheet looked quite professional and she stapled together two printed copies, one for herself and one for Alberto. Mr Walsh refused lunch saying he had promised Mrs Walsh a pub lunch, so after saying goodbye to the twins he headed for home and to pick her up. Jinnie helped Izzy with lunch then headed back to the garden office. She wanted to drive into Potters Bar later, when she knew Alberto would be in the Trattoria Trevi preparing for the evening service. She could sit in his office with him and talk through the spreadsheet, besides he knew much more about menus than she did and if they wanted to prepare for this, his input was essential.

Jinnie decided that the next thing she needed to do was write a proposal for a test Artisan Sandwich outlet on one of the P&O ships. She called up Word and started to draft a letter introducing herself, the Trattoria Trevi group and the idea of an onboard sandwich outlet. She floated the idea of a meeting where she could present a fully costed proposal. Jinnie printed out a draft of the letter and read through it, making notes in red. This was what Jinnie liked about a word processing programme, it was so easy to make alterations and corrections. She changed a few words, inserted a bit, cut out another bit, and swapped the order of a couple of paragraphs and then she was happy it sounded right. However, the sandwich business was Brooke’s baby, and she really didn’t want to go to P&O behind her back. So, she wrote a quick email to her explaining what she was proposing and attached the letter asking for her thoughts.

Looking at the office clock Jinnie knew Alberto would be in the office, so she shut down the computers, turned off the lights and much to Larry’s disgust she turned off the air conditioning. Jinnie looked at her cat and said to him, “Don’t look at me like that, I have to go out and I’m not leaving the A/C on for you. It’s nice and warm in the house and you can take your pick of where to go. Come on it’s time I was moving.” Larry beat her to the house and was curled up next to the kitchen radiator when she walked in the door.


Jinnie found Alberto in his office in the Dark Kitchen complex. She said, “Hello,” and sat down in one of his visitor chairs. Alberto looked up from his computer screen and said, “Hello Jinnie, gosh you are brown, you must have had good weather.” Jinnie replied, “Yes, it was wonderful, wherever we went it seemed to be 28° and sunny. I wonder if you have some time to spare, I have an idea I want to run past you.” “Give me a minute,” said Alberto, “I’m just looking at last night’s sales from the restaurants, I know finance will be all over them for takings, but I like to see what is selling and not selling, sometimes we have to tinker with the menu.”

A few minutes later Alberto closed the software he had been using and said, “That was an excellent evening’s trading, and I don’t think I need to tinker with anything. Now what can I do for you?” Jinnie explained how the cruise ship had offered various dining options and how she had loved them all, but some a little more than others. She told Alberto that by far the best restaurant on board had charged a £30 cover per person, but it had been worth it for the exceptional food and service. Jinnie explained that it was really a table d’hôte menu offering what was described as a three-course meal but actually started with an amuse-bouche, then a choice of starter from a list of four or five. The mains were split in two with standard mains like beer battered monkfish tail and chips and prime roasts with the likes of rack of lamb. Then there was a sorbet as a pallet cleanser before the dessert. Jinnie said she had been impressed by the crape Suzette and vanilla ice cream. Coffee was included and came with petit fours.

Alberto thought for a moment and then said, “And this cost only £30.” “Yes,” replied Jinnie, “But you must remember that we were also forgoing our meal in the Main Dining Room. I believe they budget £7 for that.” “So that makes £37, doable but not a huge profit,” said Alberto. Pulling out her spreadsheet printout, Jinnie said, “I have worked on £40 a cover but rounded it up to £50 with coffee and drinks.” “Without looking at your numbers I reckon you have badly underestimated what people spend on drinks and coffee, two small glasses of house wine are going to cost £10 and most covers drink more than that,” commented Alberto.

Alberto settled back and worked his way through the spreadsheet, making the occasional pencil note on the printout before finally saying, “I like the basic idea. Most of the costings make sense, but without four fully costed menus we are only guessing we can make money. Obviously, there is a lot of money needed upfront for set up and I would normally expect a loss in year one because of it, but you have come up with break even. I can’t find a problem with your figures other than the menu design and costing. So, give me a couple of weeks to sit down with chef and we can work something out, then we can meet again and plug some real meal costs into your spreadsheet.”


Jinnie got an email back from Brooke who asked if she could go on a cruise to demonstrate Artisan Sandwiches. Jinnie chuckled and read on, Brooke liked the idea but questioned how Jinnie planned to make money out of a deal. Jinnie had thought of two formats, either they licensed P&O to use their name, but quality was the problem here, could they be sure the sandwiches met their standards? Or they could go for a franchise-type deal? All the shops on board were franchises, they even had Costa coffee outlets on board which she guessed was a franchise.

Of course, if they just licensed the name, there would be no problems with supplying various breads and fillings, that would be the ship’s catering department’s problem and there would be no accounting to do as she guessed the sandwiches would be supplied free to passengers, just like hot dogs and burgers. If they went for a franchise, they would have to source bread and fillings, maybe P&O could supply them, but they would have to sell to the passengers and there was no cash on board. That meant using the cabin card and the P&O accounting system to settle up daily, weekly, monthly? Who knew?

Jinnie decided she favoured the license idea with a quality clause where Artisan Sandwiches checked the quality every so often. She quickly drafted an email to Brooke saying what she favoured and adding that she would send the letter soon but not agree to a meeting until Brooke was back and could attend. The message back from Brooke said, “Can I be an inspector? Send the letter on Trattoria Trevi headed paper and make sure you use your title. Have you got paper that says, ‘From the desk of Dame Jinnie De Luca’ or something similar?”

Jinnie liked the intention but thought the suggestion sounded like her desk was writing the letter. However, she spoke to her dad, and he showed her how to add a bit to the letter that went after her signature and emphasised her damehood but not her George Cross as she didn’t know if it was public knowledge. She debated internally if she should send the letter as an attachment to an e-mail or in via snail mail. In the end she opted for snail mail in an official Trattoria Trevi Group envelope addressed to The President of Carnival U.K. whom the internet told her was also President of P&O Cruises. She dug in her handbag for a stamp and found that she didn’t have any, in fact she couldn’t remember the last time she had used one.


Jinnie decided to drive to the nearest main Post Office in Barnet High Street. She parked in one of the council car parks, paid the fee for two hours and headed to the Post Office where she was astonished to find that Recorded Delivery, was now called “Signed For” and cost her nearly £3 for what was said to be next day delivery. Coming out of the Post Office she realised she was only just over the road from Arni the shoemakers, so she decided to treat herself. What was the point of being a wealthy young woman and not having the best shoes?

Arni greeted her like an old friend, saying how he had been following the story of Trattoria Trevi in the Barnet Press, it was the sister paper of the Potters Bar Press. He said he had been moved by the restaurant setting up its annual lunch for the retirement home and how delighted he had been when the idea had been picked up all over the country. Half an hour later she had ordered a pair of knee-high leather boots for winter, and a pair of high heels for black tie events. She had discussed school shoes for the twins, but Arni had suggested that at their age their feet would be growing fast, and it would be better to buy good shoes from one of the better high street chains. Of course, he would be delighted to make them shoes for a special occasion and when they had stopped growing so quickly.

On the drive home Jinnie thought about what had been said about the retirement home. She realised it had been some time since she had visited the oldies. She hadn’t spoken to Fred, Bert and Jimmy since the last lunch in the autumn and that none of them was getting any younger. She decided she should pay a visit very soon and maybe take the twins; the oldies just loved seeing them. She decided that as soon as she got home, she would ring the matron, she was certain she would have heard if anyone had died.

The matron knew Jinnie and said she was delighted she had rung, all three of the surviving oldies were now confined to bed and had refused to allow her to call Jinnie saying they didn’t want to make a fuss. Jinnie thought this was typical of their generation, and asked if she could visit them. “Of course,” said matron, “but I’d make it sooner rather than later, the doctor thinks that Fred and Jimmy may need palliative care very soon. When they die, I suspect Bert will give up, but at the moment they are keeping each other alive. It is so sad, but Fred and Jimmy are well over 100 and Bert is nearly 100.” Jinnie said she would be in the next afternoon.

Jinnie was sat in her garden office trying to decide what three wealthy centurions would like as a present and having a little cry, when Nigel knocked on the door. Jinnie beckoned him in and he asked her what was wrong. She wiped her eyes and told him that it looked like her three old friends were dying of old age and there was nothing she could do other than visit them and maybe take a present, but she had no idea what to take. Nigel thought for a moment and said, “I seem to remember they liked the occasional drink.” “Yes,” said Jinnie remembering he had come to the very first lunch that Trattoria Trevi had held at the home and had met her friends.

“OK,” said Nigel, “How about we take them each a bottle of 12-year-old malt? I got a couple of dozen bottles of the Balvenie Double Wood 12-year-old single malt in the cellar, I can’t think of a better use for them. I’ll get Emma to sort them out and Freddie can drive us there tomorrow.” Jinnie asked, “Do you mean you are coming too?” “Of course,” said Nigel, “This is important. When I get home, I intend to see what else I can do, but I’m not telling you yet as it might not come off.” “I wanted to take the twins,” said Jinnie, “The oldies ask after them every time I visit, and they haven’t seen them for ages.” “That’s OK,” said Nigel, “There’s plenty of room in the Bentley.”

Nigel was just leaving when he suddenly stopped and said, “But I haven’t told you why I popped over. I know you have turned down my offer to find you a safe seat in the Commons, so over the years I have been talking to your father. He has been a party member for many years and has served his apprenticeship on the Potters Bar council. Well, last time I spoke to him he finally agreed he would stand for the party, but only on a couple of conditions, he wanted a local London seat, because he doesn’t want to move, and more importantly he doesn’t want to stand for a seat that you may want to stand for. Yesterday I heard that David Woodhouse, the MP for my old seat of Finchley and Golders Green, is likely to resign the seat because he has terminal cancer. Now I can almost guarantee that the local party will adopt whomever I recommend, so if you still don’t want a fast track to the Cabinet I intend to talk to your dad. I understand he took early retirement last summer so he can start campaigning just as soon as this becomes public.” Jinnie said, “Thank you for asking me again, but the answer is still no thanks. If my dad is willing to stand, he has my blessing.”

In Chapter 25 – A Royal Visit

© WorthingGooner 2024