How pop culture is driving growth of fast-food business in Rwanda

A waitress at Gisementi-based The Junction’s Pizza Inn serves Abdallah (lest) and this writer during the interview. The number of fast-food cafes is growing in Kigali. / Faustin Niyigena.

By Julius Bizimungu –

It is a beehive of activity at Pizza Inn in Gisementi, Remera as customers make orders while others leave with their takeaway, and yet more people are enjoying their meals in the café. A supervisor gives instructions to waiters as a booking clerk is receiving a client’s order on phone. Time check, 10pm. Gisimenti is one of Kigali’s busy and vibrant centres with various drinking, eating and shopping spots. Like elsewhere across the city, the area is experiencing a surge in outlets serving fast-foods.

Shinny Abdallah, a regular customer at Pizza Inn, says he prefers fast-food restaurants because they offer a variety of foods at affordable prices.

“This is my favourite place, but generally frequent fast-food restaurants,” he tells me when I ask about whether he is into fast-foods.

For the 24 year-old entrepreneur, patronising a fast-food restaurant “reflects taste and status”. He earns between Rwf150,000 and Rwf200,000 per month.

“This is not enough for me to eat fancy restaurants or hotels regularly,” says Abdallah, who operates a multimedia start-up in Kigali.

Fast-food prices range from Rwf1,200 to Rwf2,000 in many of the restaurants this writer visited compared to Rwf2,500 and up to Rwf20,000 or more in hotels and upmarket restaurants.

For Frank Ishimwe, a 21-year-old sales executive based in Kigali, fast-food is his preference. Ishimwe, who frequents Chicken Tonight, says the place offers fresh foods. “I usually spend most of my weekends here with my friends,” says Ishimwe, who is also a student of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.

“The people that frequent these places are mostly young people. Instead of spending time in bars and other drinking spots, we come here to network and spend quality time together especially during the weekends,” he says.

I met Nsengiyumva at Fixtech, one of the fastest-rising restaurants in the city. He told me that small fast-food joints offer wide choices and any time of the day at affordable prices.

“The menu is extensive with good choices for breakfast, lunch or supper as well as coffee and tea. Service is good and prices are pocket-friendly,” he notes.

More businesses coming up

The growing number of young people, especially corporates, and other patrons that frequent fast-food joints has created immense business opportunities for enterprising Rwandans.

According to Ernest Sebera, the owner of Fixtech, demand for fast-foods is growing rapidly, giving operators opportunities to expand their businesses.

“More small fast-food businesses are being established around the city driven by the surging demand (mostly) from young people that are swayed by popular culture,” he notes.

The trend is also riding on the growing use of online platforms that deliver items, including food to people’s offices and homes.

From Pizza Inn, Chicken Tonight and Fixtech to New Fiesta, KGL Fast Food, and Camellia, among others, the service is growing and bringing with it a new food culture among Rwandans.

“We typically serve a limited menu, and are always prepared on order. We also cater for those who want takeaway. Fast-food establishments are increasingly gaining popularity because of fast and quality services as well as affordable prices,” says Abdoul Nyonga, the owner of New Fiesta Cafe.

Business owners estimate that they can receive between 100-150 people a day, bringing in close to Rwf1 million on good days, especially weekends.

Ordering online

As fast-food joints increase, business owners are tapping into the power of innovations to cater for wider customer segments, mainly those who don’t want to leave the comfort of their offices or homes. Presently, an increasing number of fast-food outlets offer options for clients to order online and have the food delivered wherever they could but at an addition fee.

“We deliver food for those who order online or through mobile phones because we believe in technology driving and enabling business operations,” says Sebera, noting that customers can order food through the mobile app or website. To lure more customers, business owners are tapping the power of e-commerce and technology in general to drive operations and their growth plans.

Constant innovation

Sector players and experts say the hospitality industry including provision of fast-food services, require constant innovation and new ideas, as well as topnotch service delivery for one to stay relevant, competitive and be able to grow in a sustainable manner.

Source: The New Times

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