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This Is How You Lose Staff

, , , | Working | May 5, 2022

In the summer of 2021, I was looking for work and came across a vacancy at a new vegan cafe that was opening in an upmarket area of the city. Health crisis restrictions at the time were still in place but not very strict, so whilst it was brave to set up a new business at the time, it wasn’t crazy, and the owner was a local who already owned a few pubs in the area and seemed optimistic that the cafe would be successful. I am vegan, so I was really excited to work there. I did all the training and arrived for my first shift, by which time the cafe had been open for a few weeks already.

From the beginning, the whole thing seemed chaotic. When my colleague was showing me the ropes, it soon became clear there were no clear protocols in place for… anything. I was shown how to make various coffees and dishes by different colleagues during my training, each time slightly differently. Fortunately, (maybe), not much of the food was made fresh, so it was mostly a case of cooking frozen pastries and breakfast items in the oven, but we had some paninis on the menu which we would make the fillings for, to no specific recipe and with no measuring equipment. The kitchen area was tiny with limited equipment, and things were constantly being knocked over or clean utensils mixed with dirty ones.

Over the next few weeks, business was slow. The owner would often stop by, and one time he was present when a couple came in, realised we only had plant milk and no dairy milk, and left immediately. He was annoyed and decided we should start serving dairy milk. All the (female) staff told him this was a terrible idea; this had only happened a handful of times and more often people came in expressing delight at there being a fully vegan cafe in the area at last. 

Of course, he didn’t listen. I didn’t want to work for someone so fickle, so I quit, but I heard the rest from my colleagues. After that, apparently, the owner had some conversations with the (male) bartender from one of the pubs he owned, who also told him the dairy milk was a terrible idea. And guess what? He changed his mind. It might be a coincidence, or I might have dodged a bullet; I also wouldn’t have wanted to work for a misogynist. Either way, I guess whatever else he tried didn’t work, because when I passed the cafe a few months later, it had shut down.

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