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The Bridge: The Parker Clay Cafe

The P.C. Cafe – Open For Business!
Sorry to our local coffee lovers – this hot spot is 9,000 miles away. We sat down with head chef Meseret "Mesi" Mamo and sous chef Genet "Geni'' Mekonnen to take you behind the scenes of our newly launched on-site cafe. At the cafe, we're providing healthy, subsidized meals and beverages to our employees for a more affordable and convenient solution for workplace lunches.

 

So, what's the background on the cafe? How long has it taken to launch?
Mesi: Prior to it becoming a cafe, we used this space to serve coffee and tea for employee's breaks. We had the idea to add simple sandwiches using potatoes and spices to the menu, and people really enjoyed the small snacks. Then we added shiro, a classic vegetarian stew, to the menu so people had an alternative to going out for lunch on their break. It's been 8 months since we began the whole operation, and now with the new expanded menu, the cafe has been running smoothly for about a week.
What's the reaction been so far?
Mesi: Oh my goodness, they were so happy. They were thanking us a lot that first day! There were some who decided to not eat their lunchbox and just have what was on the menu instead. For the first day, we made pasta with tomato sauce and rice with veggies. The next day we made meat and potato wot (a stew eaten with injera). Their reactions really made me appreciate what I do more and more. 

Mesi heads off to track down ingredients for today's lunch – shiro spices and lentils. Geni was peeling potatoes nearby and picked up the conservation.


Geni: I think everyone is happy and we’re happy too! I think they especially like the prices and the taste of the food being similar to what they make at home. Those who would pack lunch before, now don’t have to worry about cooking food for themselves. Others used to go out and eat in nearby restaurants, but the prices and quality we have here are much better, so now they stick around as well.


I see everyone carrying little chips… are they poker chips? How does that work?


Geni: We assign different colors to coffee, tea, and whatever dishes we have listed on the menu each day. They first pay to get their chips, then come to us to collect the dishes they paid for. It's also how we know how much we sold of each item so we can keep track of ingredients. Today’s breakfast for instance was chechebsa (a ripped up flat bread with berbere and butter) and that was 10 Birr - one meal chip. The menu items for lunch will also be 10 Birr. If they were to go eat these meals at a nearby cafe, they would easily pay 35 Birr for each.


Mesi: We've also had a few employees want to pay in advance to make sure they are counted for a meal everyday. We're also trying to plan our menus in advance to take orders earlier. That way, we can have a better idea of how many meals to prepare and not have any waste or shortage.


Mesi and Geni are a dynamic duo, but they're not alone. The factory cleaning staff also help out in the kitchen between their other tasks. Zebedar is peeling carrots, Dejea is on injera duty, and Desta is washing dishes. 

 

 

I walked around the factory floor to try and hear some employee perspectives on the new cafe. In the storage room, I found Hurwey (a.k.a. "Baby") and Getiya.


Baby: I usually bring a lunchbox... my mom packs it for me and she would be really sad if I didn't take it! But I like to eat breakfast at the cafe when I'm running late, it's really good food and good quality. There are times when I eat my lunchbox and still eat lunch at the cafe too, it just smells so good!


Getiya: I love it, I paid 300 Birr in advance because I used to have breakfast at a cafe near my home and bring a packed lunch, and now I don't have to. The food here is healthy and fresh, and it tastes great! Ok, it's not better than what I make at home, but it’s a hot meal compared to my cold lunchbox.


Baby: The only place in Addis that a person can have a meal for 10 Birr is the Parker Clay cafe! (laughing)


In the cutting room, I bumped into Nati and asked for his thoughts on the cafe.


Nati: It’s really good! Before, I used to bring my lunch from home. It was my wife that would pack it for me, but we already have one kid and with me having lunch here, she no longer has to wake up early to pack my lunch. It’s less work for her, it’s great! 


And lastly, I visited Yesi in the stitching room. She's known as Mama Yesi to her younger colleagues, and her opinion carries weight around here!


Yesi: The price and taste is really, really good. They don’t put too much salt in the food which allows me to eat there and not worry. I used to pack my own lunch in the morning, so now I don’t have to wake up so early. The meals are fast, cheap, and it's been good for me and my health.


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With the Mama Yesi stamp of approval, I had all I needed for this story! The work goes on – we're finding ways to make the cafe more efficient and convenient, while continuing to offer a way for employees to eat healthy meals, keep more change in their wallets, and enjoy each other's company. Until next time, ciao for now! 

P.S. We're taking any and all suggestions to rename the cafe! Parker and Clay have their names on enough, don't you think? Text, DM, email – we're all ears for your ideas.


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