CoffeeBeer >> Double Shot Buzz >> Previous Coffee Columns >> Millennium Galleries Coffee Station

Back Buzz - May 20, 2009

pumping heartMillennium Galleries Coffee Station, Arundel Gate, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

During this depressing economic period many shops and businesses are offering price reductions. In the worst cases, where shop windows are plastered with "75% OFF EVERYTHING" signs, this is because the shop is either going out of business or in grave danger of going out of business. In most cases, cutting prices is simply a means of luring cash-strapped customers into the premises which, to be honest, is the only way many businesses are going to stay afloat. After all, people don't have to go out for meals or go to the pub, and they certainly aren't required by law to buy new wardrobes, dining room suites, or cars. So if retail-orientated businesses are to survive these times they must offer something that makes economic sense to the consumer.

Nevertheless I was surprised to discover a small kiosk situated inside the main door of the Millennium Galleries, just outside the cafe, which offers all hot drinks for £1.00. And they mean it: this £1.00 covers tea, coffee, hot chocolate, plain and flavoured lattes, mochas, and my own double macchiatos. I first discovered this kiosk when I was on my way to work one afternoon. As I sometimes do when I'm already in town and not running late, I cut through the Winter Garden and the Millennium Galleries, intending to cross the road and buy myself an espresso in the University. But the £1.00 sign caught my eye and I couldn't resist giving it a try.

My double macchiato, like all their drinks, was served in a standard-sized take-away cup with sipping lid, as opposed to a proper little macchiato cup. But I can't complain, because for my quid I got a surprisingly decent double macchiato, better -- and cheaper -- than any I can get at the University. And the homemade sandwiches, biscuits, and cakes they offer also look quite tasty and refreshingly original -- for instance, the egg mayo and sun-dried tomato sandwich sounds like one of my own creations.

The frustrating thing about recommending this brilliant gem of a "coffee cart" is that it doesn't seem to have a name. It's not the Millennium Galleries Cafe, because there is a sign warning you not to take any of the drinks from the kiosk into the cafe. But it is in the gallery itself. So what should I call it? Bob? Dave? Gladys? Francine? I guess for now I'll stick with the Millennium Galleries Coffee Station, because it's the best I can come up with.

Speaking of saving money, especially at the expense of employees, reminds me of a recent e-mail exchange with my Bay Area friend:

Yesterday I was chatting with a couple of people who were laughing about a workmate signing in and out for a 42-minute lunch. After I told them that American aerospace companies had determined through scientific studies that 42 minutes was the optimum length for an employee's lunch, for the first time I realised that it was 42 minutes. 42! The answer to Life, the Universe, and Lunch! Of course, as with every topic of significance, there's a whole Wikipedia entry devoted to the number 42 that elaborates on its relevance in math, science, astronomy and religion as well as literature. At first glance it doesn't seem to cover the reason that I thought Northrop allotted us a 42-min lunch. Since an hour is clearly too much for highly productive Americans, three quarters of an hour is ideal; but old mechanical timeclocks recorded the time in tenths of an hour, instead of minutes, and Northrop's punch-card payroll system was still based on the timeclock standard. 42 minutes is 7 tenths of an hour, the nearest multiple you can get without exceeding 45 min. (Now 48 min. is an even multiple too, but that would be too generous.) In scientific tests with employees Northrop probably determined that during the last 3 minutes of a 48-minute lunch there was a 67.358% probability that employees would finish their current conversation topic with co-workers and launch into a new conversation topic about their houses, their cars, their children, their electrical appliances, or millet, increasing the possibility that they would return late to work -- and this probability was too high to risk the lost minutes of manpower. Either that or they were easily influenced by mice.