The CEO of Yummie Delite, Akanimo Edem Etuk and his partner, Christy Samali, are two young but very innovative Nigerians, who have created a niche for themselves in the fast food delivery industry by creating varieties out of the ordinary and this has drawn a mountainous clientele from across Lagos and its environs. In this interview with Mary Ekah, they tell the story of how they started out, the accompanying challenges, and how they have surmounted them along the way
Tell us about Yummie Delite?
We are into fast food delivery and we are one of the best in the business. We do a particular kind of rice called Basmati. It originated from India and it is quite healthy because it is low in cholesterol and it’s very good for diabetic patients and people who are health conscious. We do noodles, spaghettis and Shawarma. We do not do swallows at all. We needed to create a niche for ourselves instead of doing what every other person was doing. Now when you talk about Basmati rice, people don’t really know much about it. This brand of rice is very expensive and is only obtainable when you got to 5-Star hotels and in selected Chinese restaurants. So we said let’s make this brand of rice very affordable for everybody and also create awareness about its importance for those who are health conscious.
We also said we should create a niche for ourselves in noodles preparation. So our noodles are prepared, garnished with assorted vegetables and then it comes in different varieties. We make noodles with beef, catfish, shrimps, snails, goat meat, chicken, gizzards and others with protein. And recently we introduced our own kind of Shawarma. We wanted our products to be very different from what we have out there. If you look around, you find only two types of Shawarma, which is Shawarma with beef and Shawarma with chicken. And we now thought that what happens to those who do not eat beef and chicken, it means they would not eat Shawarma. And so we thought of how to bring varieties to Shawarma and today we have about nine types of Shawarma. We have Shawarma with Crocker fish without bones; we have Shawarma with goat meat, Shawarma with beef meat, Shawarma with assorted vegetables. Shawarma with shrimps and then there are other mixed varieties of Shawarma and so on.
With all these varieties, you may be too expensive. How affordable your products?
One of our strategies has to do with the affordability of our products. Although we are aiming to get to that level and at the same time, we need to put some structures in place. The Basmati we do is very expensive because the cost is also very expensive in the market. And what we do here is Ala-earte, where you just come or call and we prepare and serve, we don’t cook our meals down, so that you would get it fresh, spicy and hot and with all these our ordinary Basmati rice goes for as small as #1,000 with chicken and other spices while our noodles go for as small as #800.
Tell us how it all started?
Funny enough, we started in a mechanic worship where the environment was so dirty, judging by the mentality of roadside mechanics. We had to get a space there because we could not afford a space at any other place due to lack of funds when we started. So we stationed a container there where we do the cooking and then we expected also that people would come in once in a while to sit in and eat because that was where my partner started with bear and pepper soup. And most time the roadside mechanics were those that patronised us and we thought with such environment, we were not going to go far and so we had to make a whole lot of research and strategise on how to reach out to people without them having to come from their office to that place. And before then, those big guys used to send cleaners and office assistants to buy our food for them and each time they decide to come on their own, they drive down in their big cars hoping to cite us looking out for a big sign post but only to find that we are sandwiched in a mechanic workshop and they feel disappointed and turn back. So before we launched officially, we then decided that we don’t need to wait for these guys to come to us but we have to take what we have to them. That was when I started intensive
marketing. So we did a little flyer to let people know what we were actually doing and then we did free delivery then to discourage them from coming to our little container kiosk. There was even a woman who had been buying our meal and liked them so much and then one day she wanted to organise a party and she asked that we bring her to our location so that she can make her orders but we lost her because we never wanted her to know we were operating from a mechanic workshop. So, some how we lost lots of customers because of the environment we were located then but today we thank God that we can proudly tell people that this is where we are and you can come, buy and eat in if you chose to. And today also we deliver our meals through dispatch riders, we have about 12 staff excluding the two of us and we are brining in more staff as the place is expanding.
How does your partner come in?
She is the Managing Director of Yummie Delite and she is also my fiancée, and by the grace of God we are getting married this year. The idea for Yummie Delite was actually born from the fact that she had the passion for cooking. As friends, we were working somewhere together and she keeps talking about how she would own a place of her own and when the opportunity came, we grabbed it with both hands. She handles all the cooking and everything that has to do with the kitchen and also the training of the chefs and cooks while I do the administrative work. Although she went to catering school but what she does now is out of the passion she has for cooking. She used to tell me of the story of when she was a child and how she usually cooked and everyone would be like wow! And she grew up with those feelings that one day she would have a very big place of her own where she would be cooking for people to buy. And while we worked together at one point she kept talking about it and then she eventually started with drinks, just selling drinks and pepper soup and then one day, one of the customers came and said he was so hungry and needed something to eat and that was how the idea of the noodles came, when she quickly prepared some noodles with catfish. And the demand for the noodles and catfish continued and the idea kept growing as she thought of other varieties of noodles. We were just doing noodles and spaghetti when I went out one day and saw the Basmati rice and I said we should try it and see and we saw that it was okay and quickly customers started demanding for that too.
You started like three years ago, how has the reception been?
The acceptance has been generally great. Nigerians love adventures. When we started newly, we had our normal challenge but because of the adventurous nature of Nigerians, we were able to forge ahead. Nigerians love to explore and so when we started newly, Nigerian wanted to know what noodles and goat meat would taste like and so they wanted to explore. So they tried it, and they loved what they saw and they went for it. That was the same idea with the Basmati rice. The acceptance was very great and the patronage has been very good. As a matter of fact, we have not done any awareness for a while now but the turn up has been wow! And it has been mostly through referrals. You eat, like what you saw and then tell another person and another person tells another. The turn out has been massive and we are having a lot of challenges right now with delivery.
How large is your scope of coverage?
Presently we cover Lagos as whole, especially Lagos metropolis so that somebody will not order from Ikorodu and expect us to bring it there at the same rate. However, we cover everywhere as far as Nigeria is concerned when it comes to outdoor catering because we do catering services as well. For our normally delivery we cover everywhere but there are certain conditions attached to it in the sense that if we do Surulere, which is the vicinity in which we are located, we can do one pack, but if it is outside Surulere, it must not be less than two packs and there are certain charges attached to those too. We can go everywhere in Lagos, as long as you are ready to pay the delivery charge.
What particular challenge have you faced so far?
The challenging we are facing presently is the issue of delivery. We have a very wide clientele base that a lot of time we cancelled orders. Another challenge is staffing, that is being able to get the right person for the job. You find that it is only when you are there that you get good result but when you are not there, there is chaos. Another challenge that we are having has to do with the expansion of the business. We have some of our clients in Victoria Island and it is very difficult at times to reach them from here and so if we can get a space there and put a little structure where we can make our meals and then deliver them to our clients, it will make life much more better for us and that of our clients. For us to send a staff from Surulere to Lekki will take much time and energy that would have been used to serve more than five customers in Surulere and it’s environs. So having a space in Victoria Island will be a welcome development for us.
What did you study in school?
Although, I will not like to be defined by my qualifications, I have different professional qualifications. I have a Diploma in Business and Entrepreneurship and right now I am undergoing training on leadership and management.
What vision do you have for Yummie Delite?
The challenge was there from the beginning and at this stage, we have passed that stage, we are no longer a startup any more because we have been here. So right now we have written down our blueprint of what we want to do when it comes to food merchandise. And that we will be working on as time goes on. We are actually looking at having a central location in every state in Nigeria where all the necessary things are prepared and then we would also have mobile units at different places, and then all our calls will be routed to one unit where we do and receive all calls. In that way, we will create a very strong and powerful delivery system. We hope to achieve that in the next three years.