Eugene Zietsman wins New Busin

Eugene Zietsman wins New Business of the Year award [interview]

Eugene Zietsman started GJ’s Sports Bar in Wandsworth with two others with no experience what so ever in the hospitality field. Having trained as an accountant and having worked in that field until fulfilling his dream of running a sports bar, Zietsman certainly has made it work.

Eugene Zietsman wins New Busin

The South African chatted with Eugene Zietsman after he won his award at the South African Chamber of Commerce UK Awards ceremony last week. Zietsman is possibly the most charismatic winner of this award and certain had some unique answers that had laughter flowing all around. There is no doubt with his incredibly amiable personality, that certainly attributes to his businesses success.

First of all congratulations on your award!

Thank you!

Your online bio says you have no experience whatsoever in the hospitality ? What was your biggest stuff up in doing this?

Inexperience and patience. I don’t have much patience.

Your biggest success?

I drink more than my customers do! So I drink one for each one they drink. It is detrimental in one regard but at least I drink at cost price.

What did you find to be the biggest difference between working in South Africa and working in the London?

Firstly, in South Africa and Dubai, I only did accounting and financial management work. Over here [in London] the main learning I had to do was political correctness. In South Africa, we say what we want, we do what we want and we carry on with our lives. In London, you have to be careful what you say, what you do and how you treat people. The health and safety rules are not something you mess around with. There is also a little bit of a cultural difference.

Well you seem to have found the balance! Your award says you must be doing something right.

We are doing okay! We are getting there.

Your plans for the future?

GJ’s bar is a vessel, it is a cash generating mechanism. I am buying VW transporter buses to shuttle people from train stations to and from my bar. Every Friday and Saturday night I have a captive audience of people because I have a late licence, and if they need to get home there is no public transport at that time of night. So, they have to take black cabs, or night buses. I will charge them £5 from Earlsfield to Wandsworth but when you arrive at my bar you get a free beer, so the transport will only cost you a £1 to use the bus services. At the end of the evening, the service offers to drive you to the main hubs like Earlsfield, Wimbledon, Putney and the surrounding areas.

Amongst other things, I have five bedrooms in my bar upstairs which I am busy converting. I currently have bar staff living there at £70 a week, where the value of the rooms in considerably more. Due to the noise of the DJ, I am looking to rent these rooms on a short term rental basis of around £200 to £350 per week per room.

It seems what you might have lacked in hospitality experience you have certainly made up for that with your accounting background. Being able to see the basic nuts and bolts of the figures must have helped tremendously?

It has been trial and error, with regard to the hospitality operations. I don’t ever work behind my own bar. I manage the bar, I manage the business on a higher level. I pay the bills, I do the marketing, I do the strategizing, I do all those things. But I have managers who manage the bar the way I want is managed.

Photo by Ronel van Zyl