Monday, 19 January 2009

Coffee house observations

No matter how short the visit or however pressed for time I may be, I love hanging out in a coffee house. I 'm not sure how many there are in Cambridge, maybe I should do a coffee bean count, dare to break the weekly routine and seek out and destroy as many cappuccino's in as many coffee houses as this University town has to offer. Many would disagree that Starbucks and Cafe Nero count as the genuine article, but on a weekend trip into town, this is usually where the lovely Mrs.K and myself end up.

This weekend we had a supersonic 15 minute cappuccino before stepping back on the treadmill. Well that is to say that I spent 10 minutes in a long of line of thirsty shoppers waiting for a much loved and looked forward to shot of caffeine. Almost everyone seemed resigned to the fact that service is rarely less than 5 minutes away in a culture where instant gratification comes as standard, isn't it?

Anyway, I took my place at the back of the line behind two happily nattering women, I caught up on their news of burst water pipes, new shoes and the latest goings on in the Big Brother household. It was at this point that I started going out with the tide, or was that out the door? In fact the glass door was keeping my butt cheeks icy cool, because to save myself from intruding on their not so private chat I had to press myself up against the exit and double up as Cafe Nero doorman.

Already I was seeing the bigger picture. The coffee and ambiance here is so desirable that customers are prepared to wait longer than is comfortably exceptable, there are only two people serving, one of whom is a 'Trainee Barista', and even though the coffee is good, the term Barista is stretching it a wee tad.

Okay, coffee now coursing through the veins and Mrs.K off powdering her nose, I was taking more of an interest in the workings of the house. For a kick off, I had to clear away the fall out from previous visitors to our table, I hate that! It's a recurring irritation to me that no matter how busy or not busy these places are they still can't manage to clear the crap off the tables, how hard can it be?

The poor sod who has to mop the floor and empty the bins looks like he/she is running on year old batteries! And who can blame them, what is the incentive? In America there is a tipping culture,it's a case of you scratch my back and I will scratch yours. As far as I am aware a team of waitresses and bar staff will be tipping out the Bus boy(the guy who clears the tables),15% of the tips that they make on the night. The wages are low but the tip incentives are high.

So my theory is that it's not the employees fault. I wouldn't mind tipping if it led to shorter lines at the till and a clean table to sit down at. And when I say tipping I certainly don't mean the stealth tip that gets added to the bill regardless of how good the food, drink and service has been. Over and out... of coffee, could someone get me a top-up?

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