Joaquín 'El Sevillano' moved to the Costa del Sol (from Seville as his nickname suggests) roughly 30 years ago and started working as a waiter. Nowadays this hospitality entrepreneur is the owner of five restaurants in Nerja.
He may be the owner, but he can still suddenly appear in one his restaurants carrying a tray and serving customers, who are mainly foreign residents and tourists. Most of them can't pronounce his name correctly. So they just call him respectfully - Mr Sevillano.
In 1995 Joaquín opened El Sevillano - his own restaurant in Calle Chaparil, Nerja. Several more restaurants followed in the town, all under his umbrella brand El Sevillano. His yellow logo consists only of letters, and there is definitely no need for Joaquín's picture because he is always visible - either he gives or takes orders, as a waiter. Quite often you can see him running with a tray full of Andalusian dishes and drinks to the tables.
“I don't care about my 'status', whether I am a boss or an employee. The most important thing is to provide a good service, and better quality. That's why, when I see that one of my waiters can't manage the orders, I always give them a hand. I know the English word 'waiter' comes from the verb 'to wait' (though waiting at the table) but we here, at El Sevillano, cannot afford to let our guests wait too much,” Joaquín tells SUR in English.
That warm evening a few people nevertheless were waiting outside the restaurant in the most "foodie" street of Nerja - Calle Almirante Ferrándiz. But not for a waiter with their ordered dishes but to get a table. It is proof of the popularity of his dishes. In Nerja El Sevillano is considered the ambassador of Andalusian food culture.
“I have always wanted to open restaurants that could offer ways to encourage foreigners to try the best of Andalusian cuisine. We indeed prepare Andalusian cuisine but I prefer to be permanently developing and also follow the wishes of customers. I can come up to my guests and ask them directly what they would like to see on the table next time.
"We used to invite quite famous chefs to help develop new dishes. This season we're preparing a new fusion. So soon we will see the debut of Scandinavian open-topped sandwiches, but again... with an Andalusian touch. Scandinavians are especially aware of ecology and organic products. So we started cultivating vegetables to bring them directly from our own land to the plate,” stressed Joaquín.
Most of Joaquín's business developments were due to the direct or indirect help of foreign residents - French, Germans, Brits and often Swedes. Joaquín has not forgotten their support, and as a sort of gesture of gratitude his restaurants have always focused on foreigners. Incidentally, not only are El Sevillano's customers multi-national, but his staff are also quite international.
“I think diversity is a key word of the modern workplace. Of course, with such 'internationality', knowing languages for better understanding is quite important. Both guests and waiters feel much more comfortable when they can find a common language. Most of our staff speak English, but soon they will have a basic course not only in English but also in Swedish, German... Additionally they will be taught some of the peculiarities of national etiquettes,” Joaquín tells.
Since his introduction to hospitality at age 20, Joaquín has always been passionate about promoting the industry as a fantastic place in which to work. The work of a waiter as well as that of a cook is considered to be among the hardest. However, in his opinion, hospitality in general, is still an industry which does not receive as much recognition as it deserves.
“Here on the Costa the profession of a waiter should receive more accolades and attention. A waiters' contribution towards developing the tourism industry on the Costa del Sol is enormous. It was a great achievement to get a monument to the waiter put up in Benalmádena. So the logical next step is to establish our own professional day," he explained.
Waiters Day or Waiting Staff Day already exists in Britain and the USA, and both, Joaquín says, are held this month: 16 and 21 May respectively.
"So why not establish a Día de los Camareros in May here as well? I think it would be a great encouragement for everyone before the kick-off of the peak summer tourist season which demands working long hours on the feet in chaotic environments and even enduring not always nice customers. So why not start it within Malaga province? And, for sure, other provinces and regions will join us,” Joaquin 'El Sevilliano' tells.