Lucy Branson, co-owner of our sister business The Tenth Hole Tea Rooms describes her experience of working at the abar for a day.
When I suggested back in June that Steve and I shadow each other for “a day in the life”, I should’ve known he wouldn’t wrap me up in cotton wool for the day.
“We’ll probably work an 11-9; give you a full overview of the day”… ELEVEN NINE?! That’s half an hour past my bed time. And how does one plan their clothes, makeup, and most importantly, mealtimes around that!? Life in the restaurant business has its own set of challenges I can tell you that for starters.
Ok 11-9, sure. “And what should I wear?” I asked. “You know, something Emma would wear”.
The “effortlessly stylish and always in control” look. An easy one to nail thanks Steve. Ok, think Reem Team Lucy. Think Russell and Bromleys. Think chic. Then I remembered, I’m turning into my mother what did I have to worry about!?
“Nice dress” is my greeting as I walk through the door at 10:50am (arriving 10 minutes early in true “arrive on time, ready to shine”, The Tenth Hole style). Hurdle number one – nailed.
It’s all go at 11am at abar – there’s blackboard writing, three (everso handsome) boys (men?) working the floor, four head honchos catching up on admin, Jose beavering away in the Camber office, and a team of chefs in the kitchen. And the cleaner Jayne has been and gone by this point too. I think it’s fair to say they are well staffed.
Steve drops into the conversation that he, Emma and I will lunch at about 4 so I quickly steal a digestive biscuit in anticipation of the wait ahead…
Straight into a tour of back of house. Note to self: must make sure our chefs don’t ever see this – their walk in fridge and walk in freezer are SO spacious with oodles of room for all their well organised prep. What a luxury. A tour of the wine cellar shows me how extensive their wine collection really is, and much to my excitement Williams Chase Vodka have released a Rose wine! “Wow that looks amazing!” I innocently blurt. I am met with divided looks. It would seem I have stumbled across a hornets nest here and the jury is out on this one. Wine buffs eh? You never see us quibbling over a piece of Black Forest I tell you…
Back to the floor where it’s time to allocate tables for what looks to be a fairly quiet lunch. My role will be to “float”. Hmmm. On top of looking chic, reem and effortlessly in control I now need to learn how to float too – am I cut out for this!?
Lunch hots up and the conservatory quickly fills up. I learn that the pace of things here is the polar opposite to The Tenth Hole. I run flustered to Steve to tell him someone has waited 15 minutes for their food. (a code red situation at our end of the seafront) but Steve explains that the customer is enjoying some olives and a glass of wine and that 15 minutes is about right for a main course. This isn’t in and out sandwich, tea and go, this is a 3 course affair – a totally different ball game. So I return to “floating” around elegantly introducing myself to the regulars of whom there are many and enjoying this new pace of life.
After the lunch rush has died down we go through the details of Health & Safety, Food Hygiene and Allergen policies which are all very familiar to me but with their ever changing menu, their “ingredients” folder really does become a full time job. It’s great to see how fully prepared they are to deal with any allergies, especially gluten or lactose intolerances – the reality is that this is what the restaurant industry in the 21st Century is all about.
Amber also shares with me their “abar guide to a grade service” which every new employee is given as a service “Bible”. A great idea that really sets the standard and one I will most definitely be replicating.
Our lunchtime finally comes round and we exchange ideas and stories over Pierro’s delicious chicken and butternut squash risotto. Take heed Tenth Holers – every single staff member ate exactly the same thing with no complaints or amendments. No “please make my cheese toastie whilst standing on one leg and doing the hokey cokey” here. Just hungry, grateful staff with one staff lunch dish that everyone tucks into. That’s one to take back with me for sure…
Dinner service is imminent so after “re-reeming” and whilst James is upstairs training 6 team members on Health and Safety and Fire Policies, Amber and I set up the tables for the evening. Steve tells me I’m going to be “really getting stuck in” to seating tonight and hands me a clipboard. Cue the Rosie’s Vineyard flashbacks and a minor panic sweat. But I quickly got in the swing of things although was told it’s a bit naughty putting a 2 on a table for 5. Woops.
The evening rolls by without a hitch, and before I know it it’s 9pm and Steve’s ready to escort me home. It’s been a fantastic day and given me a real insight into a different way of working, with more than a handful of ideas to take back to the tearooms with me.
I walk through the door, throw myself on the bed and don’t move for the next 11 hours. Jeeps. The hospitality industry is hardcore. Not sure I could do that for a living! Oh no wait…