The purpose of this paper is to give an in depth review of my recent visit to the MP Island Cafe at 5957 E Virginia Beach Blvd, Norfolk,VA 23502. Telephone: 757-466-0220. It is advertised as: “Hampton Road’s Premier Caribbean and Soul Food Restaurant,” and states that: “We offer a wide variety of Caribbean and Soul Food cuisine, including an all you can eat lunch and dinner buffet which is sure to delight your taste buds” (MP Island Cafe, n.d.).
The MP Island Cafe started out as a grocery store when it opened in 1995. It is now a popular fast paced Caribbean restaurant which has three locations: ” 5957 E. Va beach Blvd. in Norfolk, VA. and 12914 Jefferson Ave. in Newport News, VA. and 5583 Portsmouth Blvd. Portsmouth, VA” (MP Island Cafe, n.d.), and is open seven days a week. It serves food on Monday to Thursday between 9am and 10pm, Saturday between 9pm and 2am, and Sunday between 9am and 8pm. The restaurant’s busiest days are Thursdays and Sundays. This group of restaurants offers customers a broad selection of Soul Food and Caribbean cuisine. One of its very popular features is its all you can eat buffet which is available at both dinner and lunch. It also offers a $6.95 lunch buffet price tag that everyone can afford. The largest restaurant boasts 200 seats.
The owner, who is also the purchasing manager, Mr Palmer, is from Manchester, Jamaica. His wife, Mrs Palmer, who was born in Queens New York, and later moved to Norfolk, VA, is of Caribbean descent, and is the human resource manager. Mrs Palmer had substantial work experience before opening the first MP Island Cafe. She worked as a rehab specialist at Louise Eggleston Service, Engleside, where she was catering to adolescents with physical and mental disabilities. She was also a Serve Safe manager at Base Gallery. The executive chef, Neal, is from NY, and Ashley Allen the step daughter of Micheal Palmer, is also a chef. There are two main cooks, and two dishwashers.
The restaurant seems very welcoming, and is simply but very effectively decorated with shades of reds and browns, so it gives off a feeling of Jamaican culture and warmth. It has various types of cooking facilities for different results,and to suit different taste buds: a flat top gas stove, a tin burner stove, and a char grill. They entice customers to try their cuisine by stating in their advertising that: “Our meals are prepared fresh daily using the finest authentic Caribbean and Soul Food ingredients” (MP Island Cafe, n.d.). And in order to introduce people to their delicious cultural dishes, they write in their ads: “Come join us for an “Authentic Taste of the Islands!” (MP Island Cafe, n.d.).
The MP Ultra Lounge Club opened in 2008. It boasts a high class bar, an excellent beverage service, four smooth VIP sections, and two sides for partying. It is very busy on the weekends, and offers R&B, Hip-Hop, Reggie and Dance hall, among other genres. It also has regular live performances from celebrity artists. And there is a fantastic light show.
In regard to where the food is sourced from: all the exotic meats such as the beef, chicken, goat, chicken foot, oxtail, cow foot, pig tail; and the fish including smoked herring, shrimp and snapper; and the fruit and vegetables such as white yam, papaya and mango, are delivered from the Terminal Market in NYC. Deliveries to the restaurants are made three times a week. The main menu includes dishes such as plantain, Jamaican vegetable, chicken or beef patties, hot fried BBQ or jerk, french fries, hand breaded chicken tenders, hot fresh popcorn shrimp, fish and chips, crispy fried chicken, and seasoned croaker. Other popular savory Caribbean dishes include: curry chicken with rice and peas, stew chicken, jerk chicken with rice and peas. And from the soul food buffet selection: fried chicken, candied yams, collard greens, and mashed potatoes. The Norfolk restaurant branch has 50 employees, and the Portsmouth branch, which opened in 2011, has 12. There is a high staff turnover rate at the restaurants. The staff duties include working in the restaurant, bar, buffet or kitchen, Within the first 90 days of employment, a member of staff can be terminated immediately. There is a policy of being terminated after a three time call out. The break period is just 30 minutes long, and all staff report to the manager.
There is an online app interview process which is very straightforward, and saves a lot of time, especially when there are so many people applying. There is also an informative hands on video which is very useful. When an employee is taken on at entry level, meaning that they have not had any prior restaurant experience, then they are paid minimum wage. This is different for applicants who have proven restaurant experience either managing, serving or cooking. In this case, the salary is higher depending on the position offered, and the experience of the applicant. Anyone can approach Mrs Palmer in Human Resources if they have an issue or concern that they need to discuss. She is based at the chain of command main restaurant. Naturally, all members of staff, no matter what their position, has to adhere to the current health and safety laws of the state. The restaurants have the relevant insurance to cover both customers and staff.
- MP Island Cafe (n.d.). Retrieved from http://mpislandcafeonline.com/