How times have changed!

NAPKINS ON THE FLOOR: The sign of a very popular and busy restaurant back in the 80s.

Back in the early 80s people would leave their work place and go for breakfast. Curro’s bar in the centre of town was the place to be with a unique mix of builders and officer workers piling in and lining the pavement outside. Even Don Jaime de Mora went there daily.

It was almost a hole in the wall with barely room for the one long bar that went from the door to the small kitchen, tightly packed with bar stools. The first section of the bar, nearest to the door, would be laden with goodies: bowls of “manteca” (thick butter) sobrasada (bright red mushed up raw, cured sausage) to name but two of the ingredients the patrons would spoon onto their toasted baguettes “pulgas” that were reverently despatched from behind the bar by Curro.

It took me years to actually venture through the doors as there would be discarded, used napkin papers all over the floor, which grossed me out beyond belief. I had automatically assumed that if the floor of the place was “filthy” the kitchen had to be something to keep well away from.


I later learnt from Curro’s wife that the sign of a good bar would be the accumulation of these used paper napkins on the floor. The more papers on the floor the busier the establishment and therefore the more popular, which is why the floor would only be swept up after the breakfast rush. However, she was very quick to reassure me and show me that their kitchen was spotless, it was just a “marketing” tool.

Things have changed since then, due to new health standards this custom has disappeared and with so much competition it’s harder to get people into all the new bars and restaurants to keep them alive. Many people who had no idea what to do with their lives, or wanted to move “to the sun” thought that a bar or a restaurant is the key to an easy and fun life and many companies see Marbella as the ideal location. We have it all.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple to be successful in Marbella as people think and often, due to lack of market research and no mid-long-term plan, find themselves in a serious pickle.

Employment laws are very different in Spain and it’s very costly to maintain employees.

Getting people to change habits and visit a new establishment is harder than one would think and there are many areas that are just “white elephants” so the bargain isn’t such a bargain. Surviving long enough to build up clientele stressful and far too often means cutting costs and corners.

I only thought of all this as last week I interviewed a young Marbellí who has started an industrial kitchen cleaning company to service all these new businesses and it made me think just how much times have really changed.



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