The Kitchen Is Closing In Five Minutes

Ever been to a mess hall and discovered that you’re too late for chow? Some mess halls run on a very strict schedule – based upon the knowledge that they’ll have to serve out a meal to the next lot of troops at a specified time and they need the dixies back to clean and use again. Bad luck for you if you’ve just been marched up during the hungry interval.

How about a commercial restaurant or bar at about midnight? That’s a reasonable time to shut the hatch as well, as the staff need to clean up for the next day and it’ll be on into the night for them.

But how about a café on a trendy restaurant strip in the centre of town – on Saturday lunchtime? Closing the kitchen at 1:00 and turning the eaters out at 2:00 in the afternoon when they still have hunger and money seems to be a particularly stupid thing to do. Yet it happens all the time here in trendy, cosmopolitan Perth. Eat up and get out and you can admire our decor from the street…

We have been in the habit these last few years of thinking that Perth has become an international city, open for art, cuisine, and commerce. We thought that the days of the 1960’s when 1:00 Saturday saw the shop doors slam shut and the sidewalks roll up were finished. We thought we could get something to eat on Saturday Arvo, without having to go to a pub or the footy. So it might have been during the Café Spring…but we have passed into a different season. Back to the good old days of dead Saturday afternoon.

Well, the coffee pot at home still works, and the biscuit barrel is full. And another lesson has been learned.

Advertisements

The Superstore With No Staff

I rather like superstores. They are impersonal, but if they are big enough you can find all sorts of things to occupy your mind as you search for whatever it was you actually came in for. This is the principle of the giant size – you are forced to search and to be tempted all along the way.

I’m strong – I did not succumb to the plastic flamingos or the in-floor safe. The three hose clamps and spare toilet roll holder – it cost $ 1 – were all that drew money from me. But I was a little nonplussed at the end of the shopping experience to see that the entire row of cashier’s tills had no staff members serving them.

You could go through a cashless self-serve checkout if you wished – thereby saving the hardware firm the price of a person’s wages – or you could go to the trade desk and pay over the counter there. A trade desk that was swamped with people trying to pay money.

Some accountant has thought this staff scheduling up, and probably gloats over it at the end of the month…but if you were in a hurry or wanted to buy an expensive item, you would feel somewhat underserved by it all. Makes you wonder if this sort of thing was part of the reason this chain of stores failed in the UK. They might have been open all hours, but if there was no Arkwright to man the till, no money would have lodged in the shop.

Granville! Ffetch a cloth…

Imported Beer

Australians run on beer.

From the little toddlers clasping their cans of Fosters with the rubber nipple on the top to the octogenarians sitting at the bus stop with their yards of ale and matchlock pistols, the whole nation is permanently on the grog. Morning recess at the primary school means collecting a bin full of empty cans and even the WCTU Prawn and Piss Night is renowned for the spectacular fist fights after 10:00 o’clock.

This has been made possible by the establishment in every town and city of some sort of a brewery. Many large cities have multiple breweries and there is a constant trade across state lines of container trucks and trainloads of beer. But one part of the trade has become a puzzle in the last few years – the imported beer market. I cannot figure out why it has arisen.

Oh, I realise that there are different tastes in beer from different traditions. And some people genuinely like one thing over another. But that may also have been the case in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s…and no-one died of beer drought when there was no import trade. People drank what was brewed locally – and the growers of the ingredients prospered along with the bottlers. Now I cannot see that they might – if everything that is bottled comes in on a container ship and the trade is conducted to enrich only the middle man and the shipper.

How much cheaper might we get our beer, in spite of local taxes,  if the cost of the importation and all the overseas transportation were to be removed from the brewery’s balance sheet? Trust me – the beer would be just as cold and just as tasty if it were all made here by Australian firms.

 

Treasure The Honest Shopkeeper

If you find a shopkeeper who will refuse to sell you something on the basis that it is not right for you, you have a gem.

These people may be hard to find – but if you enter into conversation with them over a regular basis -and if it is a genuine and respectful exchange…you can find a whole new world of intelligent help out there.

I talk regularly to the family who run our local post office agency – and to the lady and the chap who run the Asian food store in the shopping centre. I talk to the man who runs the bottle shop, and to the lady who is teller at my local bank. The result is I get told how to cook well with the Asian ingredients, when to change my deposits for good interest rates, and how to send postal items safely at low cost.

Occasionally the bottle shop man warns me off a dud or mentions a good deal. I am always repaid for listening.

Moral: Your local retailers are human beings who appreciate being treated as such and who  will  make your life better if you recognise the fact.

When You Lose Sight Of the Ball

Went to a local petrol station last week -a 24 hr place – to get a couple of hose clamps to repair something. The sort of clamp that you tighten round a rubber hose with a screwdriver. Standard repair part to get you on the road again.

I might as well have asked for mortar bombs or flea boots. The pleasant chap behind the counter could point me to a coffee machine, glazed doughnuts, teddy bears, or bargain packs of toilet tissue. Bottled water, chocolate bars, magazines, or prepacked sandwiches.

But a car repair item in an automotive service station? Unheard of…

I suspect this will be the trend of the new shops that open up – Chemists that cannot sell you aspirin but that can retail fire logs and water pump impellers. Newsagents that don’t actually sell newspapers or magazines but who can do you a nice line of decorated coffee mugs. Lingerie shops that will sell you the knickers but not the girls to go in them. Dang.

I got out of dentistry too early. I am sure that if I opened another surgery I could sell bags of peat moss and live puppies.

Note: went to Bunnings next day. All the hose clamps that you can eat. Hot, fresh, and tasty.

Yup. It’s A Car Wash.

And not just any car wash. A hand car wash. As opposed to the ones that they operate with their feet or ears…

Our local shopping centre has used up one of their limited car parks for the hand car wash. The building’s being finished and the signage is going up. Soon employees in rubber boots will be standing in the winter rain washing cars. Or not, if the state of the other hand car wash facilities in the area are any indication…

The proliferation of car washes has been an interesting phenomenon here in Perth. I remember the establishment of one of the first ones on the site of an old petrol station. It straddles a major highway and a busy feeder road and stands opposite a 24 Hr McDonalds. ( for our North American readers, McDonalds is a franchised fast-food restaurant. ) It was probably a good choice of location as it gives the people who leave their cars to be cleaned a place to go during the process. Interestingly, the owners of the car wash also put up a café on their site. This, and the stated prices on the signage, indicates that they would like each post to be a winner…

I suspect this is the case, as well, for the owners of the shopping centre. They have already leased out a great deal of their land to a tavern, Asian restaurants, and…a McDonalds…but would seem to want to cram more on the area. I’m betting that the rent they demand from the car wash owners will make the washing fees pretty remarkable.

I mourn the loss of adequate parking, but as I own a bucket, a sponge, and my own hands, I am not too frightened by the car wash.

 

The Lease Is Up

I note that there are a number of premises for lease in…

Everywhere.

Just back from a trip to Melbourne and Sydney and the number of ” for lease ” signs that line the streets are staggering. Not so much on the main city streets – though there are plenty of empty premises in the arcades and back ways. It’s the secondary suburbs that are really quite surprising…even Brunswick Street in Fitzroy – my favourite crap shop and dodgy restaurant district – is thinning out and looking for tenants.

Our own city suburbs have long stretches of highway that are all going begging. But the interesting thing is I bet they are not willing to beg. I suspect the landlords are still trying for every price increase and every winning extra charge that they can get. The fact that they cannot get them hasn’t quite registered.

I even see the foolishness of our local large shopping centre -a place that has a lack of parking space most of the time – ripping up the carpark for more stand-alone businesses at a time when other shops and spaces in their main building are hoarded over.

I am not sure whether it is the lease or the jig that is up…