We opened, people came and we sold all the food. So that was a pretty good start day, all told.
We started early with barista training - 8 different drinks, with varying forms, from one machine, made by 7 different people was a reasonable challenge, but it also produced a lot of coffee. A general (and correct) consensus that we shouldn’t waste anything, and an enthusiasm for ensuring that I tasted everyone’s samples (“You tried R’s cappuccino and not mine!”) did however mean that by late morning I was 8 coffees in and temporarily able to match the boundless energies of the group.
Then Muhammed arrived and the roles were assigned. Pretty much everyone wanted to be in the kitchen, safely away from having to use English to a bunch of strangers, so we drew lots. The kitchen crew headed off, relieved and beaming - the reluctant front of house group looked nervous and waited hesitantly. There was a lot of last minute scribbling in notebooks of greeting phrases, and types of coffees, and a quick rehash of pronunciation of certain ingredients (especially after one bewildered customer asked with whether we were really selling something made from little yellow chicks and was it an Easter special?) and there were also a few attempts to hide as the first customers arrived, but within minutes, things were running just fine.
Of course there were hiccups, but not many. One cup of coffee was served ice cold, and none of us is quite sure how. One of our team came to me in panic having no clue what “lemonade” could be. Someone accidentally said “chicken piss” instead of chick peas and, on clarification, was appalled at his own mistake (even though it had of course utterly delighted his friends, and the customer). But that’s fine; you simply cannot learn another language without moments like these.
There will be a fair few changes for next time. After everyone had gone we went through the feedback slips and looked at what we could implement. From now on, we will let people choose their accompaniments by setting up a salad bar behind a protective screen and having two people serve. More interaction, more language practice, and that works for me, if not so much for them. We will also be able to serve more promptly, now everyone knows what they are doing. And since three people asked for dessert, we might even set up a baklava station.
All in all, we sold out and everyone left grinning. However, the very best thing was how patient and how positive everyone was who came to eat with us today. One young man told me he didn’t know English people were friendly like that and another said he was over the moon that everyone had understood when he had spoken to them. These things mean a lot.
Finally, Muhammed spoke to us all. “Like you, I arrived here with nothing” he said “but I am so grateful to everyone who helped me. There are so many people who will help you too. We couldn’t stay at home, and so we have to make our lives somewhere else. If you have an idea, and you want to do something, focus on that. You can do it, and we can do this.”
A huge thank you from all of us to everyone who made the opening day such a happy experience; to Richard, Akira, Denise, Andy, Jemma and Louise for all the help in the workshops, to Jo for all the smiling serenity around the coffee machine and the till, and to Muhammed for his inspiration, his skills and his incredible secret sauce recipe (which we will never stop trying to discover).
The cafe is closed next Wednesday (24th April) for a private function. But we're open again on May 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd from around 12 - 2pm. We hope to see you there.