SUNDAY TIMES - The craft of serving beer -- and listening
Sunday Times Careers By Margaret Harris, 2017-04-16 00:00:00.0

The craft of serving beer -- and listening

HE HAS A DREAM: Thabani 'Rodger' Motshwa loves being a barman and getting to know people
Image: Supplied

Thabani ‘Rodger’ Motshwa is a barman at the Stanley Beer Yard at 44 Stanley in Milpark, Johannesburg. He tells Margaret Harris, however, that his dream is to eventually study mechanical engineering

What does your job involve?

Serving drinks to the customers. My day involves interacting with every customer who comes to our shop. The way Stanley Beer Yard works is that our shop is centralised so you order all food and drink at the bar - it's more of a self-service bar.

My typical day includes:

  • Putting smiles on customers' faces;
  • Keeping up to date with the trends, knowing all about the different brands, especially all the craft beer we sell;
  • Teaching customers about craft beer - and recommending what goes with what food;
  • Connecting with customers;
  • Many people don't have knowledge of craft beer so they tell me what they normally drink and I find a craft beer that I think will suit them;
  • If you know your stuff as a barman, you can persuade the customer to experiment; and
  • I also do stock-taking to ensure we always have stock available.

What makes you a good barman?

I always make sure I am ready for the day. This begins by making sure the bar is fully stocked and organised, including all the glassware.

I always ensure that I get to know the customers while I am serving them. I chat to them to make them feel at home while they are at our bar.

A barman needs to be outgoing and friendly, have a good sense of humour, be able to get on with different kinds of people, relax and be yourself and make other people feel at home. Barmen can serve 200 to 300 people a day.

You also need to leave your problems at home, because customers come to the restaurant to relax and have fun.

What do you love most about your job?

I am always meeting different people from different cultures, which I find adventurous. When you do work, you need to love it or you shouldn't be there. I really enjoy what I do, so I am lucky, because going to work is fun.

I love the energy, and the vibe of the restaurant is awesome. I am fortunate that I work with a great team, including the managers.

It is also a bonus for me, as Stanley Beer Yard has vinyl DJs twice a week, live bands on a Saturday and live jazz on a Sunday afternoon. So I also get to meet some well-known musicians.

How do you manage difficult and/or drunk customers?

The good thing is that I am also human, and I know when to draw the line between right and wrong. It helps when you are nice to a customer the first time they come into a shop, because you are able to understand each other.

In a bar, where we are serving alcohol, people can be more difficult to control when they have been drinking. If I feel something is out of my control, I have a great relationship with my managers and can call them any time.

Do you find that customers treat you like their therapist?

Yes, definitely! I think with more people new to craft beverages, they tend not to know what they are buying, so you need to be there and help them around so they can feel relaxed.

They confide in me. Sometimes I have customers sharing really personal things about themselves, and often all they would like is for someone to listen to them.

People who are stressed at home will often come and offload on the barman.

I like the fact that they see me as someone they can speak to, and it makes me feel good that I can help them feel better and find a solution.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

Actually, I wanted to do mechanical engineering - that was my dream. I never say never - I might still realise this dream.