From New Delhi to Deli

For those that have heard the rumors, I am here to confess.  They are true.  I have started working in the deli at a major upscale grocery store in Mobile.  

I felt I needed to clear the air after a few encounters this week that probably left people wondering.  

I love cheese.  I love wine.  And I believe I have learned a lot about both.  However, that does not mean I am equipped to run a retail shop and cafe.  With that, I started researching how to fill this gap in my understanding.

All indications were - to learn you must do.  And "do" I have.  I began by applying about a month ago at one of the more prestigious grocery stores in the area.  My resume is printed with corporate jargon and supply chain lingo that even I do not understand, so I really was not expecting a first look, much less a second.  Then I received a call.

It was the Deli Manager.  She asked if I could stop by the next week for an interview.  I excitedly said, "Yes!".  I put on my best "dressed to impress" outfit and drove the 45 minutes, ready to ask for a job in my new chosen field.  

I was very forthcoming with the management of the store.  I was opening a specialty cheese shop and was looking to learn the in's and out's of the retail/deli business.  They welcomed me with open arms.

The next week was tedious and slow.  Drug screening, background checks, orientation and training was on the agenda.  I mean, I was supposed to be living the dream, right? This didn't feel like a dream, but an inconvenience.  

I committed during this first week to ask myself going forward, "What did I learn?".   This first week I learned finding the right employees will be critical and I should dedicate quality time to finding, screening, and training them.  

The second week was where the rubber met the road.  I was introduced to the SLICER.  Now, you may be saying, "SLICER. Really?".  To you, I say, "Yes."  I had never worked with something that could make you digit-less in one swipe before.  I had also never been trained in something by a 21 year old.  It was humbling.  In order to keep all of my fingers AND find the mesquite smoked turkey, I had to put my corporate ego aside and listen - to a 21 year old.  

The second week is also when I started to really wonder about this "dream".  The crazy hours.  The throbbing feet.  Smelling like fried chicken.  Was this really how I wanted to research?  

Towards the end of the second week is when I was able to recap what I had learned.  
1. There really is time to always do it right.  Short cuts are tempting, especially when there is an ever growing line of eager customers awaiting their turn to order.  If an order takes a little longer than expected or we redo our mistakes, we apologize up front.  The Cheese Cottage will be taking each and every order seriously to ensure it is right every time.
2. Attitudes are infectious.  If an employee, customer, or I came in distracted, negative, or distant, it spreads like wildfire.  The Cheese Cottage will insist that our attitude reflects our dream, therefore customers can expect a positive experience each time they interact with us.
3. Comfortable shoes are VERY important.  I underestimated the endless shifts spent standing/walking.  And this is while I am working for another company.  I appreciate the small business owner who dotes over their baby, properly caring and feeding it each day.  I also appreciate those that go to work in any field, knowing their feet will hurt but continue to do it to earn their living. The Cheese Cottage hours will be longer, harder and more difficult.   But we will wear comfortable shoes. We will push through.
4. Uniforms should be cute.  I threw this in here in silent protest to the ugly orange I am forced to wear for my research. Enough said.

So, I'll leave those that slink around the hummus case at the grocery store wondering, "That sure looks like Kristi that used to ____________________ (insert your confused thought here)."  Yes, it's me.  It will be until we get closer to opening.  And I'm doing it all - you've got it - to learn (that is unless you have a better idea).

Kristi Barber