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

Written by Staff Writer


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 completed his MBA 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?

The Starbucks brand was introduced to South Africa in 2016 by Taste Holdings, which was later forced to sell off its food business. With the approval of Starbucks Corporation, Rand Capital Coffee acquired the license to operate Starbucks in December 2019. Since then, during some of the most challenging months ever for retail in South Africa, we have opened a further 16 Starbucks stores in addition to the 13 legacy stores, expanded the brand’s footprint into Cape Town, and successfully refocused our strategy on neighborhood locations.


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

The South African consumer has responded quite well. We are in the infancy stages of the business, over 20 years behind the leaders in the South African market, so we have a lot of catching up to do.

It’s a massive opportunity. With 28 stores as of next week, we have only scratched the surface of the potential for a country our size. But what we lack in reach, we more than make up for in brand recognition.

This brand power and growth potential are material advantages for us. The response from the market indicates that the brand resonates with the South African consumer, but time will be the judge of our long-term sustainable success.

As the South Africans leading and building this business, I firmly believe it’s on us to deliver on our promise to customers, satisfy their wants and needs, and exceed the high expectations they have of this exceptional brand.


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

My personal goal has always been to live up to my fullest potential. I don’t want to look back and have any regrets about things I could have done better, worked harder, or made an extra effort. The same applies to the potential of Rand Capital Coffee.

I want to see Starbucks South Africa live up to and then exceed its potential thanks to the extraordinary efforts of everyone involved. That means being the best we can be in every moment of every day. It means being better today than we were the day before. It means working to the highest standards. It means living up to the power of the brand we’ve brought to life in South Africa.

My goal is to create an environment where people feel they belong, and do below, to something exceptional; where they get to contribute their value and feel valued for their contributions. I think this is what people want in life, to be part of something great, to be challenged to add value and be appreciated when they do.

One of the reasons I’m so excited to be a South African custodian of the Starbucks brand is that all of these values have always been at the heart of this extraordinary global brand. It’s a brand that always has and always can make a positive difference to the employee-partners who work with us, the guests who visit us, the neighbourhoods we occupy, and the communities we serve. It’s in the respect we have for our environment, the humanity with which we treat our people, and the quality of the experience we share with everyone whose lives we touch.
That’s how I’d like to make a difference in South Africa – through hard work, humility and humanity, the Starbucks way. I would like to be able to look back knowing I gave it my all, with no regrets, knowing my team and I did everything we could to make Starbucks South Africa an outstanding success on the levels of people, planet, and product.


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

I was born and raised in Pretoria, and I was the first in my family to go to university. Then I earned a tennis scholarship to the University of Nebraska. Early on in my career, I worked for Deloitte, where I gained some excellent corporate experience. Later I did an MBA at Harvard University, which was life-changing. It was worth 10 times what I paid for it in the value of opportunities it presented, doors it opened and the network it helped provide.

After moving to the West Coast, I worked for the largest equity firm in the retail space, which was another education. But all in all, I would say that working with a man called Eddie Lampert made the most significant impact on my career. He is an impressive person, totally focused, immune to distractions, and a stickler for structure, the importance of organisation and fair play. Not an easy boss, he held you to a high standard and expected nothing less than supreme effort and absolute commitment. It was a work ethic that rubbed off on me and one that I continue to admire most in other people to this day.

Starting in 2016, I worked as a partner in an investment firm looking into opportunities in South Africa. This was where I first became aware of the Starbucks opportunity. Three years later, I put everything I had learned into my efforts to rescue Taste Holdings, culminating in the acquisition of Starbucks SA.


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

It’s about making a difference, seeing what I can achieve and creating something meaningful. As much as I am a qualified accountant, I defy that stereotype with a strong creative streak. I genuinely enjoy building complex spreadsheets and formulae, but I am more fascinated by industrial design, architecture, product packaging, the principles of persuasion, the elegant narrative of a perfectly written proposal document.

Working through life and building a career up to this point has allowed me to express more of that creativity. I now have the opportunity to create a vision rather than follow the idea of others. I can conceive the strategy rather than executing a tactic. I can pick a team I want to be a part of rather than wait to be chosen by people I admire. And most importantly, I can play a vital role in that team, I can lead by example, and I can learn the next great new thing I didn’t know before.

This is the joy of the Starbucks South Africa enterprise for me. It aligns my experience with a vision, a strategy, and a team that does something great in the world. It’s all about creating a system and an organisation where every person in head office and in-store is a valued partner making a valuable contribution.

This is why sports is such a powerful metaphor for business. The most rewarding moments of my sports career were being part of a team where I felt respected, recognised and relied upon to do my absolute best for the success of that team. That’s what excites me today – the chance to create that Starbucks team.


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

That’s a tough one, and I’m mindful that people have different roles in different industries. But, I think at the end of the day, it’s about creating a vision, proposing a strategic direction, then helping people navigate their way to the most rewarding outcome, no matter what obstacles or distractions get in the way.

If you can do that, you’ve got a head start in any sector. In the investment management industry, I’d add you’ve got to communicate your story clearly, and then execute and follow up with substance.


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

I’ve listened to many over the years. They are all valuable at different life and career stages and even down to a particular point in time. I read Leaders Eat Last early in my career and The Infinite Game is another book by Simon Sinek I’ve read recently. The Hard Things About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz and the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, are great books. Ego Is The Enemy by Ryan Holiday is another excellent book I’d recommend. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead is always worth a read. Then How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is a great book about interacting with people. I also really enjoy books about the history of South Africa.


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

I can’t just sit still. If I don’t feel like I’m moving forward, I’m going backwards, so I try every day to be a little better than the day before. It’s more than ambition; it’s the need for a sense of forward motion, progress, accomplishment. To be faster, stronger, better, and smarter than yesterday.


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

When I’m not riding my bike in the mountains, I’m in Santa Monica, one hand on my bike and one hand on my phone speaking but hardly cycling. I love cycling alone and in a team. I love triathlons, although I haven’t done one since Covid. Before, there was tennis and cricket, both of which I still enjoy as I grow older.


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

Keep your head down and work through it, don’t throw in the towel because on the other side of every enormous obstacle, there’s a fantastic opportunity. As we say in Afrikaans, “maak ‘n plan”, make a plan. Figure it out, keep moving forward, and another option will present itself. This is especially true for business as the economy recovers.

On a personal basis, things are tough for everyone right now, but no one should become despondent. Surround yourself with the right folks that have a positive attitude. Things will get better. The vaccine will roll out, and a new normality will arrive. The vaccine is everywhere in the US now, and face masks are almost a thing of the past. The same can happen in South Africa. Play your part, add value, make a difference, be your best.


*Check out the latest edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication here.

For enquiries, regarding being profiled or showcased in the next edition of the Public Sector Leaders publication, please contact National Project Manager, Emlyn Dunn: 

Telephone: 086 000 9590 |  Mobile: 072 126 3962 |  e-Mail: [email protected]



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