It can’t be easy making money out of a cafe in Melbourne or Sydney these days. There’s rent, staff, competition on every corner and the price of avocadoes going through the roof – not to mention our outrageous expectations of coffee quality versus cost.
So I sympathise with cafe owners when a middle-aged couple turn up at 11am on a Sunday – prime time – occupy a sought-after table, take up the overpaid wait person’s time while they pore over the menu … and then order the shiitake mushroom omelette to share.
Even if I am one half of the middle-aged couple.
Frugal Gen-Xers just want to share the occasional smashed avocado on toast.
The wait person just managed to conceal whatever her reaction was – a sense of Gah! Sharing! – which she must have absorbed from the generally fraught hospitality atmosphere. But surely she gets paid, whatever we order?
I thought this over while the omelette chef was at work on the omelette. My wife and I have shared food at cafes for ages – usually just something sweet with our coffee. No one objects to that.
But lately we’ve extended the range. A week or so ago we stopped mid-morning at another cafe for something post-breakfast, pre-lunch: a shared serve of avocado on toast. Again, I felt the slight vibe of disapproval emanating from the wait person.
Does it really matter if we just want something to keep us going rather than the full brunch catastrophe? Better than an empty table, right?
And anyway, the kitchen was busy shovelling sandwiches into Uber Eats bags. About eight went out while we were waiting, with not a knife soiled or a table to be cleared.
(What is it with Millennials Ubering in sandwiches on a Saturday morning? Do they not know how to slice and butter bread?)
Cafe serves can be big, but that is not why we share. Eating avocado toast gets in the way of buying a house, but we already own (most of) one of those.
No, as members of Gen X, we lack the Boomer’s grip on retirement assets (no investment properties, chequered work histories leaving our super looking less than super, two kids to shoehorn into the housing market); we already have our 50-something eyes on a frugal retirement of drinking coffee at home and eating the odd shared shiitake omelette out. We’re practising.
I watched the tattooed Millennial at the pass who was plating eggs and giving avocado a dusting of dukkah. Our omelette was ready for its pinch of salad. He reached down, picked a shiitake off the plate and popped it in his mouth.
I think they call it the sharing economy. And I think it’s here to stay.
Matt Holden is an Age columnist.
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