Siyanda Nondwayi – loving the Starbucks culture

Discovering the world of Starbucks has been “an amazing journey” for Siyanda Nondwayi since August 2017, when he joined the company as store manager of the first Starbucks to open in KwaZulu-Natal, in Florida Road, Durban.

“When I joined Starbucks, I spent the first six months in Gauteng, learning about the brand – and my love for Starbucks was born. What I love about the brand is its culture that is founded on passion for people and for great coffee. As a partner – that’s what staff members are called at Starbucks – we are pushed to succeed by the system and processes that the company has in place. Starbucks wants all its partners to be the best that they can be.”

About the coffee, Nondwayi is equally enthusiastic. “I am not ashamed to say that I have become a coffee snob. I have learned so much about coffee, different brewing methods, how to best enjoy it, the intricacies in the taste profiles, and more, so that if I go into a coffee shop and I see the barista making sub-grade coffee, I change my order to tea. I know I would be disappointed in that cup of coffee – and that shouldn’t happen.”

Starbucks Florida Road has the luxury of being one of four stores in South Africa that serves Starbucks Reserve coffees, the best quality small-lot coffees. Through this, Nondwayi says he has learned a lot about coffee from Africa. “In my opinion, Africa produces the best coffee, but it hasn’t been given the global attention and recognition it deserves. Our ongoing Starbucks Reserve menu is doing a lot to raise the profile of excellent coffees from our continent.”

Nondwayi’s career in hospitality had started earlier in his life. He grew up in Cape Town and after matric, he obtained qualifications in marketing, events management, and public relations, and spent a few months working with a communications company. But his passions lay elsewhere. When Moyo Restaurant opened at Spier Wine Farm, he called on them and asked them to employ him. His lack of experience was an issue so he asked for two weeks to prove himself. He did, and from 2004 to 2008, he went on to become an ambassador for Moyo, visiting locations in South Africa and other African countries, and then moved to Durban where he spent three years at Moyo uShaka.

His next career move was to Woolworths Café, where he spent more than four years, as general manager in the Gateway store and head of customer services in the province, training staff in customer service excellence.

He was ready for a new challenge when Starbucks approached him and offered him a position. “Starbucks has the same values that I have. It instils a culture of excellence in its people – and my personal passion is with people, particularly the unsung heroes of life. I love interacting with customers, and brightening their days with a quick chat, a smile, a joke, and personal service that surprises and delights them – which is what Starbucks is all about.”

The passion for people shared by Nondwayi and Starbucks is evident in their approach to staff too. “To have an amazing team, you need to invest in them all the time. We’re constantly training to ensure the global customer service ethic is instilled in all our partners. I believe that when you have the right people and the right training in place, the rest will follow.”

Nondwayi says he had the privilege last year of training Teddy Nzama, the 2019 Starbucks EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa region) Barista Champion, who brought home the trophy to the Florida Road store in a competition between the finalists of the 30 countries of the region. “Teddy is a wonderful young man,  the group as a whole is exceptionally proud of him – not just for winning the 2019 EMEA barista championship, but also for is work ethic, his passion for learning, and his commitment to the brand.”

Nondwayi, who describes himself as “that guy who solves things” says he is constantly striving to equip himself for new challenges and find new ways to better himself. He spent lockdown, when the store was closed, doing 10 online courses that would add value to his efforts to succeed and learn in life.

He is also a family man with a wife and two children aged 11 and six, and in his spare time, he enjoys a good braai, a potjie, sporting activities, and more recently, cycling, participating in events for a cause, such as violence against women and children. “I have always tried to get involved in causes that are good for the community where I am, bringing hope into people’s lives. I have gone through some of the challenges that many people face and I try to give hope to people who feel hopeless.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *