Ntini's hard work pays off
CUSTOMERS at the recently launched Food Lover's Market Cafe in Nicolway, Johannesburg, might easily think that manager Methuseni Ntini owns the place.
He is not only dedicated to his job but is passionate about the brand. No wonder he was made the first black manager of the branch.
The Zimbabwean, who is known as Matt, came to South Africa in 2003 and worked in various restaurants as a waiter. He worked his way up and his first managerial position was at Tashas Cafe in Morningside.
"In 2009 the founding owners of the famous Tashas Cafe, Natasha and Savva Sideris, approached me with a managerial offer at the Morningside branch," Ntini says.
"Having worked for their late father, Harry, and with Natasha's business acumen and track record, it wasn't difficult to switch from waiter to manager."
The 36-year-old Ntini, who graduated from the Bulawayo Polytechnic College's commerce department in 1999 with a Higher National Diploma in Marketing Management, says he was in the kitchen when a customer who was having breakfast called him.
It happened to be his current employer.
"He sent a waiter to call me. He said: 'Hey man, I can see you are an operator here. You are running a very busy place. How about a career change? Here is my business card. Call me, I have a vision to share'," Ntini says.
"After googling his name I was humbled to find out that he was the founder of Fruit and Veg City.
"At that time I had no intention of leaving Tashas, but I had to look at an opportunity for personal development," he says.
Ntini's duty is to set standard operating procedures for the restaurant's back-of-house and front-of-house departments and to implement and evaluate them.
He says all these had to be synchronised to give customers the best service.
Ntini says what he loves about the Food Lover's Market Cafe is that the establishment provides a semi-casual atmosphere.
"It caters for business people who want to have a meeting over breakfast and for housewives looking for a healthy breakfast after they have dropped the kids at school. The menu is à la carte.
"The food is beautifully presented and cleverly tweaked to appeal to the affluent, yet it is astonishing value for money accompanied by service to rave about.
"There is a sushi bar with a revolving belt with coloured plates that are prepared by experienced chefs who are a joy to watch while they prepare your sushi," Ntini says.
So how does it feel to be the first black manager at Food Lover's Market stores?
Ntini says it feels good that society is shaping up to Mandela's dream.
He says that the motivation for going to work every morning is to exceed customer expectation.
"I also enjoy networking with customers without prejudice.
"I also enjoy serving my favourite dish on our menu: Salmon fish cakes."
Ntini says the job has its trials though.
"Some of the challenges are finding the right staff with the proper mindset and ambition to succeed and work without supervision to provide consistency.
"People getting into this industry are there for the money first and then only for the customer instead of being there for the customer first. If they did that, money would automatically be guaranteed. Service levels are generally low everywhere I go and worse still in the public sector," he says.
Ntini says it is necessary to plan every day.
"You've got to cover every little detail from the time the staff comes in for their shifts until you close the doors.
"You have to look after the difficult customers, hygiene issues, lazy staff who become a liability, wastage and breakages and keeping a high level of concentration throughout the day, regardless of whether the customer came in half an hour before closing time or five minutes before opening-time."
He says his managerial skills of communication, public relations, human resources, financial and product costing, stores and purchasing management have all come in handy in his job.
For those who aspire to enter his field, Ntini advises them to start at the bottom end, to understand the basics at waiter level.
"That actually sets you in good stead in management. In terms of educational skills, try to take some business management courses that include areas such as consumer behaviour, finance and so on," he says.
Any other advice to people interested in such a job?
"Never get irritated and emotional. As a manager, you need a great deal of empathy and understanding of your customers. You need to have integrity, be hard working, self-motivational and to persevere. Create your own personal brand and your reputation is key to success." - firstname.lastname@example.org