McMicheal: Nigerian Market Fertile for Business Growth

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The Chief Executive Officer, Eat’n’Go Limited, Nigeria’s franchisee for Domino’s Pizza, Patrick McMicheal, in this interview with Reheem Akingbolu, speaks about how government positive disposition to foreign-direct investment has helped his business to expand. Excerpts:

Eat ‘n’ Go launched the Domino’s Pizza brand in Nigeria seven years ago, when competition in the Quick Service Restaurant sub-sector of the food and drink industry was almost at the peak. How has the brand fared?

There is no doubt the fact that it is a very competitive market but we have always been confident because there are a lot of big businesses in the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) field. When it is like that, a serious player in the field really has to work hard to appeal to consumers. In any field at all where human beings are the stakeholders; either as operator or customer, success is rented and the rents are due every day. For you to remain a preferred brand, you and your team have to work hard. In this regard, I think our strength lies in the fact that we have continued to reposition through products and marketing to continue to move forward.

How do you keep your consumers loyal to your brand?
Like I just pointed out, first of all, you have to be proud of a great product. Secondly, you must have great service and third and you should have a great image. After that, you have to try and back up what you say with what you do and for us it is just about making sure that we serve our customers the best way so that they can get great value. This is a very driven value market place and you must be able to provide products that customers can afford and that they like.

As a player in the Nigerian market, how can you describe government’s disposition towards businesses?

In any market at all, both government and investors have roles to play to sustain the economy and that is what I see in Nigeria. Manufacturers and other businesses work hard, employ people and pay tax as their contribution to the economy. When this is done, government reciprocates through provision of basic infrastructure that will make business easy to do. Over the years, we have seen and experienced the government of Nigeria being very supportive of our business. As a company, we will continue to grow and contribute to the ecosystem because we are part of the fabric of Nigeria now and we are giving back. As we are growing and employing people along the way, I think our strategy is in line with the government at both the federal and state level. It is about advancing Nigeria.

You have just crossed the 100th line in your business expansion with the reopening the Yaba outlet. What does that portend for the company?

We are really excited because it has taken us a long time to get to this spot. The team is working credibly hard to get to a 100 stores. You know it is never easy because everybody looks at it and think that it is quite easy that the stores are opened. It is incredibly a lot of work from finding the right location, to getting all the approvals to open the stores and then putting in the infrastructure, hiring the local team, training the local team and then getting the store opened. After that stage, you will be thinking of advertising to customers to let them know that we are actually here, so it is quite a huge task just to get there.

Beyond Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan and perhaps Port Harcourt, what are your plans to deepen the penetration in other part of Nigeria?
Our company targets the entire country with spread all over and this informs why we have continued to deepen penetration beyond the four cities you mentioned. For instance, we have just opened in Akure, we have opened in IIorin, we have opened in Enugu while we have gotten Calabar under construction as I speak. So we will continue to roll out across these big major regional cities in Nigeria.

This is your seventh year and you have opened 100 stores, can you please share the challenges you have faced so far and how you have been able to cope?
There are challenges with every single store; you learn, you never stop learning as you are continuously opening stores and as you hit the huddles, you just have to think your way through it. The good thing about the Eat’n’Go culture is that every problem that presents itself to us is a solution somewhere and as a team like I said earlier, we have to hustle to get the business and you got to think smart to get the business as well.

Going forward, are we going to see more stores being opened?
Yes, right now, we celebrate a 100th store today but we have already put some under construction to up the ante to 116 stores and we are continuously looking for sites. We have built a plan across Nigeria in the next five years to open more than 300 stores.

How much have you spent so far?
Right now, we have invested over N10 billion in doing the business in Nigeria but we cannot quantify what it will be in five years to this period when we would have opened 300 stores. We will continue to invest into Nigerian economy because we have very strong local bankers here. Let me quickly add that we rely on local funding as none of our funding partner is coming from overseas. Therefore, we will continue to work with our bankers and our shareholders to grow the business.

Seven years after, what has been your company’s attitude towards CSR?

As a responsible company, we know it is really important to give back to the society. In doing so, we partner the promoters of Slum2School Africa to touch lives. As a successful business in Nigeria, it is really important for us that we give back and at the same time, our DNA with our team is all about the education and the training of members of our team.
So; the Slum2School Foundation fits in very well for us because it is all about training and educating young children who may not have had that opportunity in Nigeria. This year, we are going to support a 1000 children into school through the Eat’n’Go partner; Slum2School Foundation.

It appears the brand is stronger in the southern part of Nigeria, is it a deliberate plan?
It is where we started and you are always stronger where you start. If you ask me this question in five years, we will probably be really strong in Kano at that time and different parts of Nigeria but for now, we are stronger in the South because that was where we started.