The Guardian recently caught up with Aramide Bello, the CEO of Tank and Tummy, a popular Lagos eatery with branches in Ikeja and Festac Town. She discusses the challenges of running a restaurant in Nigeria especially in context of opening 3-storey restaurant complex in the heart of Ikeja . Here are the 6 insights from the Guardian interview:
1. Mum inspired Tank and Tummy
The name “Tank and Tummy” was inspired by Aramide’s Mum. “She came up with the two names: a food place and the filling station, a place where you can fill in your tank and your tummy simultaneously. The name just stuck when we tried to build the brand”
2. No plans to open a branch on the Island anytime soon
A key pillar of success so far has been not rushing to open more Tank and Tummy locations. “I am not in a hurry to open many branches. I believe that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. So, stability and consistency has been the key for me…When someone pays for something that is good, they are bound to come back again and again. There is no advertisement better than that”
3. Chefs are still not cool in Nigeria
Telling folks that you’re a chef or cook in Nigeria is not yet cool. “This job is actually looked at in the low circle. Nobody wants to send their children to school to be a chef. It is not like that in the international world, where being a chef is a great thing…when you see people come in and they say they are cooks or chef, they do not have that normal education.” She does agree that formal is helpful but not necessary “but then again, I must say that formal education is not needed in this industry. What is needed is to have the passion, to have the energy to do the job and have the vision.”
4. Whilst Chefs are not cool, not everyone should use the label
Staffing is a key challenge for restaurants in Lagos and not everyone should go around calling themselves a chef. “A lot of people walk around and say they are chefs, but then have not actually been to the school to learn anything. They just actually know how to cook [a few dishes] or they have worked for one or two hotels and they start to call themselves chefs.”
5. Opportunity alert: No real food distributors in Nigeria.
The likes of Sysco are non-existent in Nigeria today. There is money to be made because the model in Nigeria is typically market to restaurant. “Sadly, we don’t have middle markets or middle-vendors here and whoever decides to go into that kind of business would make a lot of profit in this country”. Aramide believes the ideal model should be “The company [distributor] prepares it, packages it and then ships it off to the restaurant”
6. End Game: Politics
When asked if she had any other passions, Aramide replied “Yes, politics is a good one. Eventually, I hope to go into politics to serve.” Watch out folks, Vote for Aramide Bello posters coming to a wall near you.