The future is yours to create: Keith Motsi


Keith Motsi, head bartender at VIRTÙ and head of beverage operations at Four Seasons Hotel Toyko at Otemachi is the sixth in our series. He tells us how he loves to see other people flourish, why the term ‘role model’ has become obsolete, and what we should encourage the next generation to do

A little bit about me  

I started out in a place called Jake’s Bar & Still Room back home in Leeds as a part-time job as a student (it’s a great cocktail bar and institution which is still around to this day). Back then I wasn’t exposed to high-end hospitality or bartending – I wish I had been taught sooner about the different paths available in the hospitality sector. No one ever tells us about these great hotel schools.   

Helping others to realise their dreams drives me. When everyone around you flourishes, you flourish too. Pushing myself to be better than I was yesterday is something I like to focus on as well. Small steps, whether that be learning one word or learning something new, all add up.  

Helping others to realise their dreams drives me. When everyone around you flourishes, you flourish too.

We work in an industry in which being selfless is an important trait – nothing makes me more fulfilled than seeing people around me succeed and flourish in whatever they do. I’m always here to support anyone in need. Generally, when everyone around me thrives in their endeavours, it makes me feel wholesome. 

The most important part is the time I spend with my colleagues – they inspire me to be better on a daily basis.  

How I approach my work 

The most helpful advice I’ve ever been given is to be the best version of yourself in everything you do. Sometimes we concentrate so much on the future that we forget to be our best on a daily basis. Live in the moment as we are not guaranteed tomorrow; take good care of yourself first and you’ll be able to be in a mindset to take of others even better; surround yourself with good people, don’t take things too seriously, always have fun. The most priceless piece of advice I recently picked up from a colleague of mine though is to ‘have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously’.  

Take good care of yourself first and you’ll be able to be in a mindset to take of others even better.

Education and learning are massive one for me. Sharing information and having the opportunity to travel around the world to exchange information and knowledge with fellow peers from faraway places is inspiring and one of the great privileges available to us these days. Hopefully, I am taking that information and sharing it with those who aren’t in the same privileged position.  

Brand have been huge supporters in my career. Without them, the opportunities that have come my way would have not been there. The brand and industry relationship has also progressed over the past few years. They have the resources to reach far-flung places, and we are the bridge who connects them to the consumer on a deep personal and human level. 

My thoughts on mentorship 

Within the industry I admire a lot of people’s work, but in terms of looking up to them it is tricky because I don’t know them enough to be able to say I look up to them. Sometimes they might not be the best people, but they have the best work or output. It is a fine line of: how do you separate the artist from the work? I tend to lean towards the people I truly know closely and those who have supported me way before my profile got somewhat a little higher. 

‘Role model’ is a term that I think is now nearly obsolete. We’ve got way more access to people than never before. Plus, we tend to look at people with higher profiles and idolise them without knowing their character. There are a lot of people doing great things behind the scenes and they tend to not get the press or profile they deserve. A role model for me is someone doing their best day-in and day-out. The issue with the term ‘role model’ nowadays is we want people to be holier than thou which leads to non-authentic characters within our industry. Authentic and genuine people should be lauded for who they are. The pressure on young people to try to emulate our idols is more intense than ever before. 

We should encourage the next generation to take their time and explore different things at their own pace, and not feel pressured to be like X person or be there in X amount of time. ‘You are progressing and are at the right place you should be’ should be the message.  

What do I look for in a mentor or leader? Empathy, compassion, kindness, and selfless ego. 

My hopes for the future 

The pandemic showed us how the governments around us don’t value us enough. There should be government positions for voices hospitality that help shape our industries.  

Employers need to focus more on the importance of work-life balance. Meaningful trainings and less meetings. Opportunities to work closely with the leaders of our organisations to see how the top end of the luxury business really operates. Sometimes I feel we are not exposed enough to the demands and skills needed to thrive into the latter stages of our careers.  

Society has always appreciated the characters in our industry, but do not value what we do. That is the next challenge facing us.

With social media, the ability to reach a wider audience means we have a voice and an impact like never before. How far our voices reach without the support of the big players or brands though remains to be seen.  

We need to become much more business savvy and know our worth. It’s an area where there is a lot of opportunity to commercialise our talents. Society, I feel, has always appreciated the characters in our industry, but do not value what we do. That is the next challenge facing us. How do we get the larger society to embrace our profession? Answers on a postcard.  

I want my legacy to be as someone who was kind, compassionate and authentic with everyone in the big or small moments I spent with them. Kindness costs us nothing.