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It takes direction and vision – Starbucks SA’s Chief Executive Adrian Maizey talks customer satisfaction

It takes direction and vision - Starbucks SA’s Chief Executive Adrian Maizey talks customer satisfaction

By Charndré Emma Kippie


Adrian Maizey, CEO of Rand Capital Coffee, the licensee of Starbucks in SA, is passionate about the American coffee brand’s impact on our community, and remains dedicated to taking a proudly South African approach. A savvy businessman and entrepreneur, Adrian aims to significantly scale the brand across South Africa and successfully launch the various store incarnations across the country.

A Pretoria Boys High alumni, Adrian is the Founder of Rand Capital and is currently based in Los Angeles, California. Before beginning his career as an entrepreneur, he obtained an NBA at Harvard Business School, an Accounting qualification from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and a BComm in Business Management from the University of Pretoria. 


Starbucks SA: How did this come about?

Back in early 2019 I could see the writing was on the wall for Taste Holdings, as at that point I was the second largest shareholder in Taste Holdings. I was worried about my investment, so I spent most of the next few months (from May through to October) travelling around the world and around the United States – trying to raise capital to save Taste Holdings. At the 11th hour Taste Holdings actually raised money through a private equity firm, which invested about 500 million rand. Then at the 11th hour that deal fell apart and I had raised some capital, but not enough to save the whole of Taste Holdings.

It was a long, hard journey and my team and I eventually managed to keep Taste Holdings alive. We had raised enough money to acquire Starbucks. We re- lent them some money from investors and partners. What was decided was that we’ll give you equity in exchange for Starbucks. So, that’s how the Starbucks SA deal came about. 


How has the South African consumer market responded to the launch of Starbucks SA?

The consumer response has gone quite well so far. The brand is exceptionally well known around the world as one of the top 2 food brands in the world. It goes without saying that the South African consumer market responded well. The challenge for us now is to retain that shine and Cape Town would be a great indication of how the consumer has responded to the brand, where we’ve seen great uptake in sales earlier on, and we hope to continue the excitement.

I think there’s been a gap in the market for a long time without Starbucks in South Africa, given that it’s in most countries around the world. So, South Africa is quite late in launching the Starbucks brand. This is why the demand was quite high and consumer uptake has been quite solid.  I think we’ve done relatively well and our offering is quite broad, and differentiated from competitors.  


What are your objectives going forward? How do you hope to make a difference in SA?

My personal objective has always been to live up to my potential. I don’t want to look back and have any regrets. As an organisation, I adopt the same concept. I want to see Starbucks South Africa live up to its potential, and that means being the best it can be everyday and being better everyday than the day before.

With South Africa, in a very small way, we can create an environment where people feel like they are part of a system where they belong, where they contribute and feel valued. I think that’s all people really want to be in life – acknowledged, heard and appreciated. We hope to make a difference on many levels – individual and communal, by contributing and creating happy people, happy partners, happy baristas, and happy customers.

I would like to look back on my deathbed one day and think back, knowing I gave it my all and I have no regrets, and that Starbucks South Africa was a great success because we made a difference in people’s lives. 


Please could you tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point in your career? 

Born and raised in Pretoria, I attended Pretoria Boys High, TUKS University, and then went to attend the University of Nebraska. I worked for Deloitte for a very long time and I went to business school in between. I then came back and I worked for a guy named Eddie Lampert who’s the most influential in my career – a very serious individual, focused, no distractions kind of guy. He held me to a high standard and as a result I think I developed more under him than I have under anyone else’s mentorship. 

Completing my NBA at Harvard University was a life changing opportunity. Having gone to Harvard really made a difference for me; it was an incredible experience and opened doors to incredible networks. 

In 2016 I joined a partner and explored the investment space in South Africa, and that’s really how I came across the Starbucks opportunity.  I was looking back into South Africa and investing, and then in 2019, on my own, I made an effort to acquire Taste Holdings which ended up with Starbucks, and that’s how I got to where I am.  


What excites you the most about the work that you do?

I think it’s about making a difference and seeing what I can live up to, and creating something impactful. I enjoy being able to contribute and really feel part of something – be a part of a team. 


What 3 tips do you have when it comes to implementing solutions in your field?

  • Take some time to create direction and a clear vision. This is essential.
  • Help your people reach that vision by enabling them and ensuring execution takes place efficiently. 
  • You’ve got to be able to communicate your story well to your team and your customers – provide real substance and value. 


Have you read any books that have inspired you and your career thus far? 

  • The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek
  • The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
  • Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  • Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


What is your ‘why’ i.e. Bottom line? And how do you stay motivated? 

I can’t just sit still, honestly. If I don’t feel like I’m moving forward, I’m going backwards. That’s why everyday I try to be as productive as possible. What keeps me motivated is knowing that there’s a mountain to climb (the mountain that is life) and what I commit to doing today may make me faster, stronger, better and smarter than yesterday. 


Outside of work, are you involved in any extracurricular activities?

I love cycling (alone or with a team) and taking part in triathlons. I haven’t done one in a few years now thanks to Covid-19 and cycling with my team. I am also quite fond of Cricket and Tennis. 


What advice do you have for businesses in SA that are experiencing challenges due to the pandemic?

  • You’ve got to keep your head down and work through it – don’t just throw in the towel until you’ve explored all possibilities. 
  • Know that on the other side of the pandemic there’s a great opportunity for business and the market when the economy recovers.
  • Surround yourself with the right folks that have the right attitude – a positive attitude – and as we say in Afrikaans “maak ‘n plan”. Make a plan, figure it out and keep pushing forward – another opportunity will present itself eventually. Just be open to the possibility. 



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