The Lawns: Paradise for game meat lovers

Diners have a treat at The Lawns in Lower Kololo, Kampala recently. PHOTO / EDGAR R. BATTE

What you need to know:

  • Eventually, what struck her were the social patterns of so-called Kampalans—outgoing folks whose nightlife knew no bounds. Most Indians tend to live restricted and sometimes insular existences.

In 2009, when Meena Patel left India for Uganda, she had no idea about how she was going to use her degree in electronic engineering.

Eventually, what struck her were the social patterns of so-called Kampalans—outgoing folks whose nightlife knew no bounds. Most Indians tend to live restricted and sometimes insular existences.

Armed with only a postgraduate degree in Finance, Meena needed to find her business footing in Kampala, where folks seemed happy to spend if they got good value for money.

Convinced that cutting her business teeth in Kampala would be an ideal prospect, she started conjuring ideas around fine dining. A number of restaurants, however, offered fine dining, so Meena needed to further refine her idea. When Meena visited The Carnivore Restaurant in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, she had her lightbulb moment—Uganda needed a hangout where patrons are served wild game meat.

Almost immediately, she approached Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) for permission for a game meat licence. She got it and was placed under supervision. She proceeded to source suppliers from South Africa. She then got on the drawing board with her husband—Nimit Patel—and planned what they needed to start a restaurant.

The name of the restaurant, The Lawns, was informed by its initial location—sizeable, well-maintained lawns.

To kickstart the food business, Meena used her savings that matched a $250,000 (Shs952m) loan she took out from Orient Bank (presently known as I&M Bank Uganda). The seed capital was used to set up the restaurant—both construction, as well as furnishings (furniture and decor).

Meena also elicited her hobby as gardener, choosing plants that added beauty, colour, and aroma to the hangout spaces.

When The Lawn opened its doors to patrons in 2009, it had unique servings of a dozen meat varieties such as crocodile, waterbucks, bushbuck, reedbuck, buffalo and antelope. To date, all these are served alongside some local and continental culinary infusions.

From 200kg to two tonnes

The Patels started by importing 200kg of wild meat per year. They have since increased their volume to two tonnes annually. And unlike before when they imported all the meat, today they buy it from a local licensed safari company.

Meena says the dynamism with their menus to cater to meat, as well as Indian and local food lovers, has boded well for The Lawns. Such is the restaurant’s flexibility that customers can even come up with their own menu.

“We constantly engage customers to give us feedback on what they do or do not enjoy on the menu and we adjust accordingly,” Meena explains.

Like most eateries, The Lawns had to reinvent itself when Covid-19 pandemic curbs barred dining experiences. The restaurant became a delivery entity. To push its delivery rate, Meena signed on Jumia Food and Glovo.

Meena treasures the feedback she receives from customers and acts upon it by revising the restaurant recipes and menu every three months.

“I have been a loyal customer of The Lawns since they opened doors in Kololo at Impala Avenue before it moved to Lower Kololo,” Paul Malcom Kabuye says, adding, “They have created an excellent environment, friendly service, great menu choices and really exceptional food at affordable prices.”

Christine Nakate, a banker, is also a happy customer. She says of The Lawns: “They have well organised and welcoming staff, delicious food and various dishes and the understandable management with quick response.”

Operating expenses

From her earnings, she splits the restaurant expenditure into monthly portions, namely daily and weekly payments, employee salaries of between 25 and 30 people, and general maintenance to keep the place in good and habitable condition.

Costs

Her food items range from Shs20,000 to 35,000 for starters, then Shs40,000 to Shs75,000 for the main course and Shs40,000 for barbeque. To draw in people, she introduced the idea of customers making an affordable lunch box that can go for Shs29,000 with special promotional food items every month for take-away customers.

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