The name Oye Fanimora may not ring a bell within the country’s political space. But, in the Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) sector where he has operated for more than two decades, Fanimora has established his presence managing one of the best and longest running eateries in Lagos, Savoury Snacks and meals, Fagba.
Though, Mr. Oye Fanimora admitted that when the food outfit started operation in the Fagba location more than 20 years ago, it was more of a gamble considering the class of the people in the locality, but that decision turned out to be the best business decision. The outfit turned out to be the cash cow upon which Fanimora established other outlets of the restaurant chain. And, as it stands the outlet is the only surviving outlets of them all.
Presently, he is not only managing his QSR business among other establishments he presently run, he is also involved in the training and building capacity of members of Restaurants and Food services Proprietors Association of Nigeria (RESFPAN), under his capacity as the vice president of the association.
In this interview with MediaConsurtium which comprises of Amechi Obiakpu of Espinews (www.espinews.com.ng), Godwin Anyebe of Consumers Assembly (www.consumersassembly.com) and Adetunji Faleye of Brand Impact (www.brandimpact.com.ng) conducted recently at the Fagba outlets, Mr. Fanimora talked about some of the challenges associated with operating in the QSR sector in particular and doing business in Nigeria in general. Excerpt:
Considering the fact that QSR is a multi-billion naira business in Nigeria, how will you rate the industry?
The industry is still growing- it is still a new industry, by new I mean the phenomenon of eating outside is still improving in Nigeria. So, there are opportunities for the industry to grow and expand.
As the Vice President of Restaurants and Food services Proprietors Association of Nigeria (RESFPAN), how are you correcting some of the challenges in the industry?
Firstly, not every eatery is a member of RESFPAN and its not compulsory but, there are advantages of being a member. It’s a national body that cuts across the different region- Abuja (North), Lagos (Southwest), Port Harcourt (South)- being a member you would have been told of what is expected of you. We organize training and auditors in the various aspect of restaurant operation- occupational hazard, health hazard and the like and we provide guardians also. The good thing is that we are aware of all the agencies and health officials to deal with and we train them on it. We equally help to negotiate some of the charges to pay whereas non members may not get the opportunities. Should they issues with the government, we serve as mediators and a copy of what they have done will be sent to us. There had been occasions where our interference helped to ameliorate sanctions.
We also conduct trainings for members from time to time and organise seminars too.
Please give us an overview of Savoury Snacks and Meal
Savoury was 20 years in November. We started operation in 2001, November to be precise. Though we have had our issues we have dealt with and surpassed them. The industry too has its issues as we are having new entrants, so are some closing shops. We also have some who did not last up to one year. Apart, the business is capital intensive and going into the business you know you need lots of equipment- industrial fryer, milling machine and the rest, you don’t buy them for home use. This is almost of a necessity for every cooking business. Everybody can find a way to cook and eat however, some may decide not to cook and eat outside, that is where QSR come in, and with the advancement in communication we can make orders and get orders which will be delivered without actually being present. And the dimension the eatery business is assuming is interesting. Like I said, we have gone through our own share of the problems, which also include, challenges from competition, inconsistency in the system, challenges of price changes and price instability.
Few years ago a bag of rice was about N3,000 or N4,000 but now the price hovers around N28 000. In the QSR business there are options to choose between what to eat from the varied of available outlets.
For you to have survived 20 years despite all the challenges, knowing that some eatries have closed shop, there must be something you are doing right?
Well, I have closed some shops too. Even in some conspicuous and bigger places. One thing about the QSR business is location, location and location. We are lucky to have secured this location, when we did. Because of its strategic position- sitting on a four-way junction. People living in this environment don’t work here so when they don’t go to work on weekends they come here. And at the time we secured this place, we were the first from the stretch that leads and exited this place, Fagba. However, if we were not doing it right, we would not have been getting the huge patronage we enjoy. Specifically, some of the feedbacks from our customers state that they love our bread, they say that the bread is one of our strongest points. With a lot of people requesting, we sell beyond the outlet to the general public, but we tell them our bread do not have preservatives- and as such is not supposed to last like the regular bread sold on the road. Once we start distribution people buying will always request for the fresh ones. And not the carry-over bread.
We ensure that the bread we produce are all sold out for the day to retain its freshness. 99% of the time, we don’t have carry over bread. It is a guarantee that if you are buying our bread, it is fresh… putting our bread in a class of its own.
We have our moimoi which is wrapped in leaves specially prepared by professionals and for people who appreciate moimoi. Also, our doughnut and ice-cream are unique. We try as much as possible to maintain our standard and give our people the best.
As the vice president are you not worried that some of your members are closing shops?
I have closed shops myself in some locations. This is not new, it comes with the terrain of business. I once had an ice-cream parlour in Adeniyi jones. Within the stretch of that location I was the only outfit. I was selling ice-cream. After a while three other outlets surfaced within the area and in another three or so years, the shops were closed down remaining our ice-cream parlour. Eventually, we started having leftovers which made me closing the outlet. It was after this time that we realized the reason for the fall in sales. There were many reasons for closing shop, for us, we realized that residents there are few. There are also some high class who could afford to stock their fridges and deep freezers with huge jars of ice-cream and hence may not buy much from us. Also, someof the few existing organizations were not paying their staff enough to afford some of our offerings.
Meanwhile, the outlet in Fagba that is in the rural area was doing well. When we started the ice-cream the machine was practically forced on us by Just Food for about N870,000 after back and forth we agreed on the sale that was when the company got us a company to finance the sale. After buying the machine though patronage was high but the machine could only dispense more than five at a time. When the demand was much more we went back to Just Food and exchanged the initial machine to a much bigger machine which could dispensed 15 cups of ice-cream, even with that supply was still lower than demand, hence we decided to buy deep freezers to store the dispenced ice-cream all through the night so much so that in two years, we became the highest selling mix feed in all the eateries. This was a supposed outlet in a rural area, Fagba.
That got us award from Just Food. The company gifted us the initial ice-cream machine that was worth- N870,000 for being their best customer at the time.
After twenty years of production, what should your customer expect from Savoury Food?
With my age I discovered it is not easy to run eatery in Nigeria compared to the western world. In Europe everything is done electronically- stock taking and supply of materials are well captured without haven to be physically present in any of the shops and there are equally many vendors and suppliers who make the business easy for them unlike in Nigeria. Here you deal with all manner of people at the various markets- including dubious staff. And as the owner you still will deal with all the operational costs including staff salaries after which you can then talk of how much profit one has made.
But in the civilized societies some of these attitudes are checked and minimal.
What is your ten years projection for the outlet?
In the next ten years, if I can have another 3 or 4 outlets it will be fine. At least a deviate from how I started where after about four years of operation I opened four/five outlets and in few years all the outlets were closed down remining only one. My joy is that, a lot of them were not closed down due to bad management but in some cases the greed of some of the facility owners we hired the spaces from. That is why I do say that people should negotiate very well before going into any business arrangement with other people especially when the property you want to use is not yours.