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Tuesday March 10, 2015

At one Spanish bar everyone is still young at heart

A Spanish bar is on a mission to recruit the over 50s

The day my favourite café in Palma closed its doors I remember experiencing a real sense of loss not only because I would never have the pleasure of entering this historic establishment ever again but that it would be the last time I’d ever see old Antoní, the discreet, wry and experienced maître d’ who kept all the plates spinning. Over the years young waiters came and went but Antoní was ever present like a sturdy rock, fussing over his flock of loyal customers and always remembering their orders without the aid of pen and paper.

Some years ago a close Majorcan friend died suddenly and I returned to the café in a wretched state, sitting at the table where we’d shared many a happy morning chat over coffees and buttery croissants. On this occasion Antoní approached me wordlessly, huge tears forming in his eyes and gave me a bear like hug. In that moment I realised that he too felt acute sadness at the demise of one of his most reliable, larger than life clients, a man he’d come to cherish as a friend.
In my home town of Soller, one of the town’s most popular cafés was a great success thanks to the dynamic double act of José who managed the bar and Mateo, his older chief waiter with his wicked sense of humour and cheeky grin. Between them they ran the slickest joint in town and like psychics dished out breakfast orders for their regulars as soon as they set foot in the place without any words being exchanged.

So I was heartened to read of the opening of Entrepanes, meaning sandwiches in Catalan, a new bar in Barcelona that particularly targets and welcomes staff over the age of 50. Owner Kim Díaz acknowledges that the two million unemployed in the 45-65 age group in Spain are often overlooked in favour of younger people. Youth unemployment is also wincingly high in Spain with approximately 53 per cent idle so everyone is scrabbling for work. But with age comes experience and whereas many young employees may regard bar work as a brief stepping stone to a better job elsewhere, older and more loyal recruits will often be content to stay in their new position and be grateful for the regular salary.

I’m not sure how the philosophy of Entrepanes would go down with the UK government which would no doubt heartily disapprove of what would be considered to be age discrimination. Eons ago, when running a PR business in Mayfair, I attempted to place an advert in a trade magazine in which I suggested that any ‘flopsy or mopsy’ need not apply. I’d grown weary of the often arrogant, under qualified and ill prepared young interviewees that rolled up on my doorstep. The female advertising manager said that flopsy and mopsy implied that the CVs of brainless young women were not welcome and I conceded that she might have a point although technically speaking it meant that I didn’t want to recruit any bunny rabbits.

The publication refused to place the advert on the grounds of age and sex discrimination but the diary of a London daily newspaper picked up the story with relish and I was inundated with CVs from bright and talented people of both sexes and all ages. A win win situation – great PR for my agency and I never had to pay for an advert to find excellent recruits. I hope therefore that Entrepanes will be allowed to continue its enlightened recruitment policy which gives older unemployed workers a fighting chance.

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