Monday, 20 June 2016

Things I Have Learnt Working in a Café

by Florence Willcocks



I am fortunate enough to have had a pretty decent part-time job for the last four years of my life. “The Compton Village Shop and Tea Room” is a small local business which despite its isolated rural location, is popular amongst the village residents, and always crammed with hungry cyclists and walkers. Living literally next door, I found this job practically fell into my lap when I was just 13 and offering to help with the washing up on Sundays. All of a sudden I found myself taking on the full-on responsibility and excitement of paid work, and what I have learnt over the many shifts I have since done is invaluable to me. Here's why…

I believe everyone should get a part time job in their teenage years. Nothing can teach you the value of money, time and responsibility better than throwing yourself into some sort of employment before you leave school. Perhaps this is why interviewers value some degree of work experience so highly when assessing a candidate; it proves that the person has enough initiative and dedication to find and maintain a boring repetitive job. Furthermore, general common sense, people-skills and the ability to do what you're told successfully (or even maturely instruct others) are all key-aspects that anyone with a job must have.

 The money attitude is a big one. It (literally) pays to know the value of what you earn, and as well as having a little more cash to splash, I for one spend what I earn with far more maturity and consideration than I used to with my pocket money. Seeing things you want in “hours of your hard work” really puts a perspective on how much you really need it, and I think this is a vital viewpoint to have before I leave home and become entirely self-reliant.

Finally, the reality check that a job gives you is a necessary one. I have learnt so much about how business is successfully managed, even on a scale as small as this local café I work at. The organisation of records and finance, staffing and safety, and even the politics of staff gossip are all things I feel I learnt a great deal about, and they will apply to any future employment I may take on. Furthermore, you get a lot of different people walking through the door each day. Sure, in my case it's usually some local OAP who orders the usual Earl Grey, which you have to remember to give extra hot water with because she complains if it's too strong. But still, you pick up a lot of life experience in a job like mine, so knowing that I have a grounding in the basics makes me feel a lot more prepared for future life.

That concludes my sensible rant, here's some other important things I have learnt working in a café…

How to lose all feeling of touch in your hands…
Seriously, the steam wand of the coffee machine was lethal for the first few weeks, but after all the splashing hot water and the countless times I've been caught by the toastie-machine, my heat-resistant skin is invincible.

How to repeatedly explain where the toilet is…
“Though the back, second door on the left…”

How to kill time when there's no customers…
My favourite is the store cupboard! No one can see you in there and you can pretend you're sorting out the stock when you're really just moving butter packets from one shelf to another.

How to make awkward small talk while you wait for the card machine to process…
“It was supposed to be sunny today! Classic British weather…” (note: this line works any time of day, all year round. On the rare occasion that it's actually nice weather the café is too busy for me to bother with small talk.)

How to abuse my staff freebies to the extreme…
More tea is drunk during my Sunday shift than the combined total I drink all week. I have also taken more “out of date” sausage rolls home at the end of a shift than I can carry and, on one momentous occasion, an entire crate of creme eggs.

How to efficiently clean the coffee machine in less than half an hour…
Those who regularly operate the dreaded coffee machine know how pointlessly long the cleaning process is. EVERYTHING has to be taken apart and scrubbed, and I have a personal hatred to the little toothbrush-thing which you have to scrub filter ridges with. But my perfected system of fast-paced-yet-highly-effective-coffee-machine-cleansing has routine order and tactical method; all coffee grains and smudges: gone. And in less than thirty minutes. Beat that.

How to understand your own shorthand when writing down orders…
The usual looks something like...
     Capp L
     T x2
     Bacon swch (brown br)
     M. Shortbr
     Vict sp.
(But in a far less comprehensible scrawl on a crumpled piece of note paper)

How to mop the entire floor without having to step on the clean parts…
It takes years to perfect it, but it's all about starting from the corners, navigating around the floor backwards, and leaving a secret dry path back to the mop cupboard.

And most importantly
How to keep smiling at customers…
...while you are in fact planning where to hide their dead body if they send that cappuccino back one more time…



Stop off some time and I'll sort you out with a free latte :)

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