Grandma dusts off waitress skills to help understaffed cafe

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Blenheim volunteer Ann Walker, 76, volunteers at the CPR cafe on Friday to help her granddaughter Brooke McLeod.

Scott Hammond / Stuff

Blenheim volunteer Ann Walker, 76, volunteers at the CPR cafe on Friday to help her granddaughter Brooke McLeod.

At 76, Ann Walker could be forgiven for putting her feet up.

Instead, the Blenheim woman returned to work, donning trainers and a smart black t-shirt as a volunteer helper at the CPR headquarters cafe.

Walker had seen a news report about a Covid-disrupted cafe asking customers if they could give them about an hour to help out.

“And apparently their customers were great. There were loads of them who offered to come and do an hour here, an hour there,” Walker said.

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So when she saw the pressure her granddaughter and CPR head office cafe manager, Brooke McLeod, was under, she sprang into action.

McLeod was only too happy to accept her grandmother’s offer.

“Covid is really affecting hospitality right now,” McLeod said.

“We had nine employees away for a week at our four cafes in Blenheim. We had to close some stores, we had to change our hours…

“She [Walker] since I was very busy, very stressed too, and it was all his initiative. It’s his personality, it’s his nature.

“She’s just one of the sweetest ladies, she knows half the customers here.

“We are so privileged to have him, we are very grateful.”

In hospitality more than 30 years ago, Blenheim volunteer Ann Walker returned to the CPR cafe floor.

SCOTT HAMMOND/STUFF/Marlborough Express

In hospitality more than 30 years ago, Blenheim volunteer Ann Walker returned to the CPR cafe floor.

For his first shift, Walker helped clear tables and serve customers, meeting old acquaintances.

“This man here was my daughter’s tennis coach. I liked that [being a waitress]. It’s nice here.

“I was in the hotel business, I did it part-time for 18 years. I was head waitress at the City Hotel,” she said.

Walker has volunteered for the past 11 years as one of St John’s Friends of the Emergency Department (FED), but had not been cleared in hospital for months due to Covid.

Walker said she was happy to help out at the cafe for as long as she was needed.

“It’s just a tryout today for them to see if they need me, and when they need me I come here, as long as it’s not my golf day I can come. “

Between 30 and 35 staff are typically employed at the city’s four CPR cafes, the airport, Marlborough Stadium and Westwood Business Park.

CPR Cafe owner Deborah Romano said she still needs to hire two or three baristas.

“It is very difficult to have good reception staff at the moment.

“So it’s nice to have that extra pair of hands, especially when we’re short-staffed.

“We now have Brooke’s grandmother and I also asked my father and another cousin to come and help us.”

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