This morning I had a chat with this operator of a small cafe in a hotel. How did he do it as a one-man-operator and with diabetes?
"There are a lot of procedures to do," he said. "From switching on the computers, taking out the ice-cream from the freezer, cleaning, sweeping, making coffee and serving. Closing accounts and preparing for the next day. I had to make sure that sandwiches are available for sale."
"How do you, as a one-man-operator serve so many people at lunch-time?" I asked.
"I will just shout e.g. sandwiches ready and the buyer will come to collect."
"Why don't you have a self-service sign?" I asked.
"Then all customers will bunch up in a queue. They can sit and wait while I call them." This was a good idea as the shop front is very short for this retail space of 200 sq. ft. Around 5 people will fill the queue.
There are educated people who would try to take advantage of this old man.
The insurance company held a standing buffet lunch in the hotel for its executives. This old man had rented a space where his clients could have tables and chairs to sit. One 40-year-old insurance manager sat on his table. When the old man said: "Please do not sit here as this table and chair are reserved for my customers," the manager said: "Call the security!"
"Repeat what you have just said," the old man challenged him as he was about to roll up his sleeve to sock him. The manager vacated his seat as the old man was about to grab him by his neck to yank him up.
The old man would usually ask those intruders whether they wanted to buy a drink when they sat on his chairs. "Sometimes they buy one drink and sat with their friends. I can't stop this."
A staff of the hotel sat on his seat without ordering any drink or food. When the old man said: "My company bought the tables and chairs for our customers," she replied: "I understand." She just would not budge.
"So what can you do?" I asked the old man.
"I went to see her manager. She must have a scolding as the next time, she put her head down whenever she passed by. I can understand that the staff may be tired, but if they ask me, I do not mind them sitting for a while to rest."
From these 2 examples, you can see that this old man is responsible in earning his keep.
"How much was the income from a younger man employed before you?" I asked.
"Around $40 per day. The store was losing at least a thousand dollars. He would close the shop for smoking or for his one-hour lunch. I don't close for lunch."
By being proactive and caring for his employer's need to get sales income, the shop now loses much less money as its income is around $150 per day. He works 6 days a week.
"Will your boss be renewing the leasing contract at the end of the year?" I asked.
"No," he said. "The hotel management wants to increase rentals." In Singapore.as in Hongkong, every retail landlord wants to increase rental on renewal. So it is hard for small operators.
I have no doubt that this old man could get a job easily and hope he would take good care of his diabetic control.