May 25, 2004
Training to be a Carluccio's waitress

I met up for coffee, salad and chat on Sunday with my friend Elena. Elena has a quite good law degree, and has been job hunting, which was becoming pretty dispiriting on account of her fearing to be imprisoned in an office. But now it looks as if she has found a job with a real future. It seems that she may be about to become a waitress.

Carluccios.gifLet me explain. She has already started doing the training to become a waitress for Carluccio's, a chain of shops and "caffés" (I'm guessing that this is Italian for "café"), started in Covent Garden, London, by Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio in 1991.

Elena has only been doing the training for a few days, but was already full of praise for the whole experience. Did you know that there are fourteen separate processes involved in serving someone in a Carluccio's Caffé? Apparently so. She told me what many of these processes were, but I realise that I have forgotten. But I can tell you that - if my scribbled notes of our conversation are to be depended upon - Carluccio's has 7 business objectives and 2 philosophies. Also, trainees can read The Book, whatever exactly that is.

If you click on People at the Carluccio's site, you find this:

Carluccio's is a fast-growing, exciting restaurant and food business. We are serious about real Italian food and serious about training. The most important thing for us however, is finding the right people. We are looking for enthusiastic, hard working people with a passion for Italian food who thrive on working in a busy environment.

I get the very strong feeling that in Elena they have found just such a person. It wasn't so much the details of what she said as the obvious warmth of her response to the people she had met and the trouble they were taking to prepare her for her responsibilities.

You might say: but waitressing is a dead end job. Not, I believe, waitressing for Carluccio's, if you are as enthusiastic about waitressing for Carluccio's as Elena is. Nor are all those "rational" jobs, jobs "with a good future", actually such rational jobs with such a future if you hate doing them, clock watch until you leave the building each day, and them want to forget all about them.

CarluccioTraining.jpgI urged Elena to take the job, for the simple reason that she seemed to eager to take it. She has always been interested in the nuances of food – what's healthy what's not etc. She cares a lot about aesthetics, and she approves strongly of the aesthetics of the Carluccio's places she has seen. Carluccio's sounds like an impressive operation, that she would learn a lot by working for, with all manner of avenues for advancement. (That law degree might yet come in handy.) The Carluccio's training schemes are very highly regarded, and have won many awards, so Elena said. Simply to have done such training will itself be to have acquired knowledge well worth having, applicable in many other endeavours - knowledge of Italian food, and, perhaps even more significantly, knowledge about how to train people.

We believe in developing people to the very best of their ability. Our approach is to coach everyone to acquire an exceptional knowledge of Italy and Italian food.

Our staff training is thorough and challenging, sometimes tough, but a lot of fun! Antonio and Priscilla enjoy being involved in many aspects of training and imparting their knowledge of Italy and Italian food.

The future of the developed economies is partly computers and automation and clever stuff like that. Yes. But it is also in things like Carluccio's, where the organisation and discipline and preparation traditionally only associated with things like motor car manufacturing is brought to bear on the (actually rather complicated – if you think about it as thoroughly as the Carluccios have thought about it) process of making people feel happy and welcomed and content when they visit a caffé. As well as all those computers, the future consists of people like Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio, and in due course people like Elena, telling the computer geniuses exactly what to do with their computers.

Alright, Carluccio's wouldn't suit me, and probably not you either. But that is not my point. My point is that it sounds as if it will suit my friend Elena very well.

In general, I am impressed by the speed with which a good training scheme tells everyone involved, employer and employees, whether they are going to get along and do for each other what each wants. (Nothing is more grating and dispiriting than a "company philosophy" which you do not personally care for, or which you regard as all very well in theory but not actually being followed.) Elena has, as I say, only been doing her training for a few days, yet already she seems to have absorbed an enormous amount of information. More fundamentally, she has quickly learned that Carluccio's is a world in which she is likely to feel at home, among people whose approach to life and whose "philosophy" is in tune with hers.

Working for Carluccio's will also leave time for Elena to pursue other interests, such as writing (perhaps as a freelance for magazines, and perhaps even as some kind of blogger). It will not, in short, feel like being in a prison.

By the way, in case anyone wonders why I am making such a fuss on an "education" blog of a mere "training" scheme, well, the following is my answer, which rather to my surprise I heard myself saying to Elena last Sunday: "All good education includes training - all good training includes education."

What I have in mind with this bon (in my opinion) mot is that even the most humdrum training scheme has a philosophical dimension, a meaning dimension, a dimension which addresses the question "Why?" as well as the question "How?" And all good education involves understanding something of how things get done, as well as their abstract nature and philosophical justification and a pile of written down facts about them.

To put it another way, if you like Italian food and the idea of serving it well for a living, then Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio sound like a couple of very good philosophers to get an education from.

Buona fortuna Elena. Is that how they say it over there?

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 12:38 PM
Category: Jobs and careersTraining