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7 Lessons from Tina Shaire’s New Lagos Restaurant

Tina Shaire used to be a commercial lawyer and recently opened Zolene, a contemporary restaurant in Ikoyi dedicated to creating great food memories through a touch of western influences on the most loved Nigerian and African dishes. Zolene named after Tina’s two daughters has a 40-seater dining room with a cosy lounge space.

Tina is documenting the journey of becoming a restaurateur in Lagos on Bella Naija. Given we often get questions on the topic of starting a restaurants in Nigeria, here are our seven takeaways:

1. Starting a Restaurant in Lagos is hard

It has taken Tina Shaire around 7 years to go from concept to implementation which has left an impression on her: “Whoever said the hustle was sold separately from the dream was closer to the truth than most”. It is advisable to have at least funding to support 6-12 months of operating costs in addition to the start-up capital.

2. Restaurant Business is Saturated, Find a niche

We share Tina’s sentiment here, there are over 2,000 restaurants in Lagos and the numbers is growing daily. As result, it is even more critical to test new cuisines and menu concepts “to arrive at something eclectic” whilst “creating a cosy ambience all at the same time”.

3. Need to Adapt vision with time

The team also learnt that one must be “open to change that positively impacts” the business direction. Initially the plan was for Zolene not to make deliveries however due to location, the choice was made start food delivery from the first month of opening.

4. Go Local for Everything, no Importing

FX movement has hurt a lot of restaurant operators recently and starting up in this current environment is definitely challenging. “The dollar exchange rate situation increased the cost of procuring the kitchen equipment, down to the furniture and many other things. What we then did, to reduce our costs was to get top quality made in Nigeria furniture as opposed to importing”

5. Reduce Cost without Compromising

Get smart on operating cost which could hit harder over the longer term. Tina made a few decisions that directly reduced cost base at Zolene: “like taking out table cloths (eliminated the weekly cost of dry cleaning them, which is even the bigger expense) and having food served on reusable mats”.

6. Get Necessary Permits and Licenses to Operate in Lagos

Essential to know what sort of permits and licenses are required in operate: “if you will be using a TV for instance you will need a TV license” or selling liquor, a license is also required. Also ensure the inspectors actually do the work as that will save you headache down the road.

7. Staff training is ongoing

Training the team running the restaurant has to be “an ongoing process, never a one off. If you cannot train, you may do well to create a budget to engage experienced industry experts” As result, Zolene has engaged a culinary school in Lagos to help train staff and provide constructive criticism on menu concept.

Postcards from Lagos