Thought Leadership

Best barman in the world

By Colin Walls

On a previous occasion, I wrote about a waiter who delivered amazing service. In his case, I have only met him on the one occasion [though I do very much hope that there will be more visits to that restaurant]. I want to tell you about someone else, who has a rather individual style with which he delivers great service, whom I have had the pleasure of encountering many times. He is the Best Barman in the World.

There is a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden called Kista [which is pronounced “Sheesta” just in case you want to go there], which is where many of the high-tech companies are located [including Mentor Graphics]. It is a rather uninspiring place – lots of concrete and triple-glazed windows. There used to be just two hotels in the town, both of which were owned by the same company and both of which lacked something. They were comfortable enough, with all the right facilities, but they lacked soul. One of them, however, had a major asset: his name was Alan and he ran the bar.



The bar had all the right ingredients for failure: it was an annexe to the hotel lobby, so it was brightly lit and noisy. It was expensive [all bars in Sweden are expensive] and had decor designed to give you the feeling that you were in the waiting area for something. However, the bar was always well used and the only way I can account for this is to observe Alan’s unique style

He did three separate things that make the bar more appealing:

First, he employed interesting staff. One guy [from Latvia I think] would challenge anyone who was interested to play chess, producing a set from under the bar at a moment’s notice. I seem to recall him having three games on the go simultaneously on one occasion. Another member of the bar staff was a small dark haired girl, with a deathly pale complexion and tiny black eyes. She had an interesting accent and I enquired after her origins. “I am from Transylvania” she annunciated

Second, Alan gave customers a reason to stay. For example, if you sat at the bar, he would engage you in conversation. Then he would talk to someone else at the bar. Then he would encompass both people in the discussion and then disappear, leaving you talking to your new friend. You would probably have one more beer than if you were by yourself and have a more pleasant evening than just sitting alone admiring the decor [or not!]. A winning formula for all concerned.

Lastly, Alan had an amazing memory. On one occasion, I showed up, having not been to Kista for at least 9 months. He welcomed me ebulliently and said, solemnly, that he had bad news and good news. The bad news was that they had ceased production of my favorite beer [Gammel Brygg – I probably have the spelling wrong – it means “old brew” in Swedish], but he did have a GB glass that I was welcome to have as a souvenir. How could he remember what I liked when I was such an infrequent visitor to the bar? I do not know, but he did and I have been boring people with this story ever since. A Swedish friend later found me a bottle of GB so that I could put the glass to good use.

I have not been to Kista for a very long time and have heard a rumor that Alan is no longer there. My favorite beer gone and now my favorite barman departed. The world is going to the dogs.


0 thoughts about “Best barman in the world
  • hey colin, stumbled upon your blog doing a search for “alan hotel memory kits sweden”
    i used to go there in 1997 when i was about 25, working for applied materials in ericsson. it was a great place., the latvian guy i believe was actually estonian if he was called nathan? he became a good friend of mine at the time. it was a great bar. i was there for a solid 6 months and i would see different groups of people come and go, and then return a couple of weeks later as their work schedule demanded. it was like a had an ever revolving group of friends. there was one english guy (I’m scottish) from ( i think) cambrdigeshire that was a great guy. i wish i could remember his name. i did think it might have been colin but its so long ago now I’m not sure. Anyway, your blog cheered me up so much i thought id post a comment

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