The future of dinning in Uganda post Covid-19

Sunday May 10 2020

A close examination of the dining scene that

A close examination of the dining scene that obtains in Kampala, shows that most of the informal eateries that serve local food are de facto takeaways so this edict comes as music to their ears 

By A. Kadumukasa Kironde II

News last week that restaurants will be allowed to open, and allow only takeaways.
A close examination of the dining scene that obtains in Kampala, shows that most of the informal eateries that serve local food are de facto takeaways so this edict comes as music to their ears. The other beneficiaries would be the likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Bon Appetite, Chicken Tonight, Pizza Hut to mention a few.
However, the soft underbelly with the mentioned establishments, is their general lack of menu diversity.

KFC specializes in fried chicken and burgers along with fries. Chicken Tonight has a similar menu though they also have a local component while Pizza Hut gives you pizzas so in terms of variety, the consumer really has a limited menu.
It is a good bet that they can make ends meet under this new regimen. As for the fully fledged restaurants such as Java House, Café Series, Il Patio, Karveli Restaurant, Caramel et al. it becomes a different cup of tea; they have the diversity but their Achilles heel is the lack of a Central Kitchen and this is where Café Javas beats them all. This begs the question, will these establishments open up as takeaways and be sustainable?

The numbers
Running a restaurant does not come cheap and the total payroll cost should not exceed 30 to 35 percent of gross sales for full service operations. To wit, the cost for limited service joints would be 25 to 30 per cent of sales. Food cost as a percentage of food sales (cost/sales) is generally in the 28 percent to 32 percent range in many full service and limited service restaurants.

Rent is another factor which is largely determined by location. Regardless, a good rule of thumb would be to aim at you rent equaling a maximum of 5 days of sales in a month. A simple illustration would be gross sales of five million shillings per day would be 150 million shillings in a month. Five days of sales is Shs25’000’000 which would be the rent component enough to offset your monthly rent.

Include local city and sales tax, utilities, NSSF and Medicare. At the end of all those calculations would be the profit margin. Most eateries in town are rented, opening the door for business, in the light of these expenses, is not something to take lightly and in the end I doubt if many of the aforementioned mainstream places will be able to survive from takeaways alone. Granted these places are already doing takeaway business, the million-dollar question will be, what percent of sales would that amount to on a monthly basis? If they are garnering 10 percent, it is well but not good enough to sustain the business.

Winners
It is surely an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the undisputed winner in all this upheaval would be none other than Café Javas, who need little or no introduction since they have become a household name in the country and industry. Why do I say that they are coming out of this as winners?
Simple; a few years ago they had the insight to set up a state of the art, costing several 100 thousand dollars, Central Kitchen in Nakawa, which has paid off handsome dividends and more than ever is the complete solution to the prevailing takeaway situation. Last but not least they own a fleet of mopeds that are branded in the CJ familiar colors and number no less than fifty!

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Today’s discerning Café Javas loyal client can order a takeaway with unbridled peace of mind for their favorite menu offering, which are all prepared (in their Central Kitchen) to the exacting standard to which they are accustomed and delivered free within a certain radius of Kampala. In one fell swoop, takeaways at Café Javas are a happy reality that allows one to order from the full range of the menu and dine in the comfort of one’s home.

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