Meet Peter and Annette.
These lovely folks service my coffee needs when I’m working in Geelong.
Their old-school coffee shop is situated in the equally old-school Centrepoint Arcade.
The arcade, like so many of its kind, is a little dowdy these days, forced to stand in the metaphorical shadows of two nearby shopping centres.
It has a beauty salon (of course), a frock shop, a loan merchant, while quite a few of the shop fronts and other spaces are used by Diversitat for training purposes.
No surprise there are few empty shops as well, while at one end is a beaut barber emporium staffed entirely by also-lovely gals of a certain age.
Peter and Annette serve up sangers and a range of homemade goodies to customers almost all of whom seem to be long-standing regulars.
They display a generosity of spirit and patience with the dears who expect a bit of a natter as they mull over the choice schnitzel or meatloaf.
I’ve learned to depart and return in 10 minutes or so when there are more than a couple of customers waiting to be served.
I’d always had them pegged as a retired couple who were using their business as a way of staying active and topping up the super a bit.
So I was delightedly surprised to discover they have been doing business in the same premises for 25 years.
I doubt Peter and Annette consider themselves baristas, but nevertheless they consistently turn out affordable coffee ($3) that tastes like coffee – something that cannot be said of their various competitors a block or so in any direction.
The whole vibe could not be of a contrast to that of Padre Coffee at South Melbourne Market.
On a recent visit to the market, I enjoyed a superb coffee at the Padre out let there.
Writing about it, I tossed in the casual observation that Padre seemed to to be “one of those new-school cool coffee chains staffed exclusively by young hipsters”.
Later that night, I thought to myself: “Am I really OK with that?”
To tell you the truth, I’m still not really sure.
But giving free rein to some good-natured curiosity, I emailed the company asking about its policy regarding mature-age workers and whether only young staff were employed.
The company did reply, the gist of it being:
In response to your query – you can rest assured our company is not one ‘in
pursuit of a certain look and image’.
As you would have seen – we’re all about coffee, our customers and a great
space to relax and enjoy a coffee (although South Melbourne can be very
hectic on the weekends).
Kudos for actually replying to my inquiry, except for the fact it did not address my main question.
In fact, it’s pretty much a gold-plated fob-off!
And had it not been for the nature of the reply, I most likely would’ve let the matter drop.
But, instead, it spurred me top check out one of the company’s other outlets – the Brunswick East Project in upper Lygon St.
There, by contrast with the South Melbourne Market shop, the coffee was barely average.
The fittings, furnishings, the whole vibe were pure-bred inner-city hip to an almost painful degree.
And the half-dozen or so staff had many, many years – decades, in fact – to travel in life before anyone would think of calling them mature age.
Padre Coffee seems in many way admirable endeavour – passionate about its product, professionally run and so on.
Like so many employers, Padre would no doubt claim it does not discriminate on the basis of age – that those employed are chosen simply on the basis of merit.
Such may even be the case.
Equally obviously, though, there are cases in which discrimination is at work.
Proving so, of course, is well nigh impossible.
Commenting on my thoughts on this topic, a friend said:
And anyway, if I owned an inner city cafe, I probably wouldn’t employ anyone over the age of 25 anyway. I suspect that younger people could be more easily trained, they would have the stamina to do the job, and as a group, it is far easier to get a team to bond when they’re all in the same age bracket. And younger people are more likely to accept the pitiful wages they would be earning and be more flexible with the working hours required.
My reply to that is simple: Piffle!
As this is a subject of personal significance to me, I have read much about it.
I cannot recall reading about a single instance in which these hoary old (!) arguments have been substantiated or quantified in any way.
Indeed, the available research seems to overwhelmingly indicate the exact opposite – that mature-age workers are rich assets on almost every level.
And anyone who thinks I’m raking in the dough working as a part-time sub-editor for the Geelong Advertiser is utterly deluded.
Besides, at the risk of sounding precious, I’m interested in work that is an enriching, creative part of life; the money side of it is very negotiable depending on the circumstances.
In terms of the hospitality industry, there are many grey areas when exploring this issue.
All power, for instance, to the self-employed of all ages who run owner-operated businesses.
A sub-set of that are the many great family-run businesses that provide so much of our eating-out pleasure.
That’s some real hard yards right there, too, spread right through whole extended families – from toddlers to venerable elders.
But presumably the benefits, investment and security derived are likewise spread.
But when it comes to an employer like Padre, it seems fair enough to ask the question.
Getting a straight answer, of course, is another issue entirely.
In the meantime, I plan to make it my business to direct my business – and my mature-age-dollars – wherever possible towards food and coffee outlets and employers that obviously do NOT discriminate on the basis of age.
And in discriminating against those I suspect of doing otherwise, I won’t be breaking the law.
Besides, in the case of Padre and its Brunswick outlet, the welcome mat is not out anyway: