Ask any fund manager, investor or business development direct and they'll all say the same thing – this is the time to invest in Africa. The continent is regularly touted as the ultimate investment destination and it's easy to see why it is so attractive. Over the past decade Africa has been the second-fastest growing economy in the world according to the World Bank, with GDP increasing an average of five percent a year. Oil-rich Nigeria ticks all the right boxes so far as investors are concerned and, as its middle class grows along with the appetite for foreign brands, more foreign restaurants and lifestyle companies are entering the country.
Locally-owned and operated Port Harcourt based Sundry Foods Limited (SFL) is taking advantage of the obvious opportunity, says Managing Director Ebele Enunwa.
"We are building new restaurants mainly in different cities around the country," he explains. "We want to offer good wholesome African food."
SFL is an integrated food services company founded by young and enterprising Nigerian professionals from diverse backgrounds within and outside the food industry who saw a gap in the provision of quality food services in the retail, commercial and industrial sectors and the urgent need to fill it.
SFL has many strings to its bow. It is an integrated food services company.
"We provide a full range of products and services: contract and events catering, restaurants and bakeries," says Enunwa. "We have focused a lot more on the restaurant side of the business because that is where we have seen the biggest growth opportunities. Our bakery business provides support to the restaurants while also exploring opportunities in the mass retail baked goods markets. Our catering businesses leverage on our expertise and investments in the other businesses and enables us provide wholesale catering and related hospitality solutions to corporate organisations and high net worth individuals at their locations."
It's targeting growth in the quick service industry through its restaurant brand Kilimanjaro.
"We recently opened a restaurant in the Food Court of the Polo Park Mall, Enugu, which also houses Shoprite and Game stores," says Enunwa. "The restaurant business is a part of our business that is fast growing and where we are targeting expansion. We will be opening several restaurants in major cities across the country in a determined effort to ensure that we get out to as many potential customers as possible.
"We have also launched a new restaurant brand called Coral Blue, a seafood restaurant. The first one is in Lagos. It opened recently. That is another avenue we want to explore to reach a different demographic market, a more affluent consumer."
Coral Blue Seafood Restaurant aims to offer a variety of exciting seafood dishes, filling a gap in Nigeria's casual dining sector.
"Is there a big demand for it? There is. Seafood is something people like here in Africa and in Nigeria particularly. We noticed a gap in the casual dining segment of the food business in the country and no restaurant offered a seafood-focused cuisine.
"There are many out there that offer seafood as part of a broader menu but none focus exclusively on it. That's why we opened this restaurant to fill the gap."
It is a restaurant for the "discerning" consumer. A place people can dine alone or bring the family. The menu is however designed to encourage group or communal dining.
"That's what we aimed for. We created a fantastic environment where you can dine alone, dine with a group while discussing business or bring the family and eat delicious seafood served in different forms that many may not have considered. We have the traditional dishes served alongside the continental and more exotic."
Seafood's health benefits are another plus, Enunwa says. "We also want to encourage the culture of good health by eating right. Seafood has a lot of health benefits." Of the opportunities in Nigeria, he adds, "The country is growing. A lot of people now have moved into the middle-income bracket. The retail sector in general is booming and you can see international retail chains coming into Nigeria and doing business in a way that Nigerians hadn't even consider, particularly in terms of scale. The opportunities are there and it was never too soon for us. We had been trying to secure capital for many years so as to grow the business. We are glad that we have now scaled that hurdle and been able to commence the process of expanding our business. This is a time when GDP is growing, disposable income is growing, and employment is rising. People have less time to prepare food at home because they are busy at work and they need somewhere to feed themselves. What we are trying to do is provide everyone a service through our business, whatever segment that might be. Our target is all the Nigerians out there trying to make a living. We know we need energy to function and energy is provided by food. We are trying to provide meals that are affordable. Meals that are similar to what you'd have at home and hopefully you will enjoy taking a break from the office and stopping by at a Kilimanjaro to have your home cooked meals and then get back to work."
The secret to SFL's success? Resilience.
"You have to have a firm objective and focus and just keep pushing at it. There are so many reasons to give up in Nigeria. There are so many things – be it energy problems, security challenges, staffing issues, start up costs, planning or regulation – that will make you want to throw the hat in if you don't have thick skin and you aren't focused on your objectives. If you are focused you can definitely succeed in Nigeria.
"For our business we see a bright future and are predicting astronomical GDP growth within the next five years especially considering the ongoing power sector reform in the country. The opportunities here are vast.
"Now is about creating the conditions that will drive growth."
To learn more visit www.sundryfood.com.
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