As more Kenyans find it hard to provide a home-cooked meal for their families everyday due to growing demands of work environment, supermarkets and restaurant chains have stepped in as “home kitchens.”
Restaurant chains are expanding fast and supermarket outlets becoming deliberate in adding food options to meet the growing appetite.
According to Naivas Supermarket, the delis in their outlets bring in approximately 10 per cent of total food sales. Further, they attract income, as shoppers usually need to grab other items in the store.
“The delis are a traffic pooler and a differentiator too because the way I do my chapos is different from the way the next guy does their chapos,” says Willy Kimani, Naivas chief operations officer.
Although many would assume that a majority of delis’ customers would be single professionals, Naivas has seen many families coming in to pick up a quick dinner.
“Our target market is also the family person, not necessarily bachelors, but the family guys who are so busy because of the urban lifestyle that they don’t have time to cook,” says Mr Kimani.
He finds that Kenyans are particularly attracted to chicken, chips, sausages, chapattis and stew which are the fastest movers in the delis.
However, in outlets situated inside residential estates such as on Nairobi’s Kiambu Road, rice, pizza and fruit salad are popular, indicating a slight difference in what families prefer.
“The African culture upholds sharing as a core value. Hence, families are attracted to shareable meals such as pizzas and mixed-grill platters,” says Carolle Kariuki, the head of marketing at Big Square.
“Consumers are now craving healthy meals. Low-calorie, allergen-aware, vegetarian and vegan meal options have now become a common ask from diners. To align to this consumer preference, restaurants keen to win are now adopting a wider menu,” she adds.
Big Square is expanding fast and now has 12 branches. It plans to set up three more in 2019 across the country. They have evolved their space so that it can cater to both adults and children.
“Most of our outlets have kiddie play areas therefore very family friendly. Additionally, our menu allows friends to have a meal while enjoying a glass of our signature sangria, bru or cocktails as they hang out,” says Ms Kariuki.
“Events and experiences are a core part of Big Square and every so often, we host karaoke nights, game nights, and hangouts among others to offer our guests a memorable let-your-hair-down kind of evening,” she adds.
However, it remains true that the quality of the food itself is the most important factor attracting Kenyans. For Naivas, they invest in training professionals in the food industry to oversee their menus.
“There’s only a few guys who are able to get consistent. That way, you will actually taste our food in Mombasa and find it is the same way you will taste it in Kisumu. Getting the taste right is the hardest thing,” says Mr Kimani.
Other than food quality, restaurants are particular about curating experiences that are memorable for diners.
“Consumers’ dining preferences have now evolved to not just good food but also unique and immersive experiences. Big Square has begun to adopt theme nights, live bands and other experiences to keep our consumers happy,” says Ms Kariuki.
“Further, in this digital age where consumers are constantly on their phones, ‘insta-moments’ form a key part of our consumers lives. Restaurants have begun to appreciate this fact hence making food presentation, interiors and experiences ‘insta-friendly.’ In the consumers’ mind, ‘if it is not worth my gram, it is not worth my money!’” she adds.