The hospitality industry is one of the worlds fastest-growing and job-creating professions. Since his early days, David Odhiambo has always had a passion for cooking. Being one of his hobbies, he was not ready to leave it at that, but worked hard to open a restaurant. The 37 year old Kenyan national is now the proud owner of Alcanos restaurant that is based at the Hurlingham shopping centre. The African Executive talked to him.
A.E: Give me a brief description of yourself
Odhiambo: In 1993 I went out in search of a job as a cook and landed at Karen County Club where I was first trained and later became an Assistant cook. I worked there for a while and moved to UNICEF-Lokichoggio as a cook and later joined International Medical Corps in Southern Sudan as a Camp Manager. In 1995, I left Sudan for Kenya and joined Barclays Institute for six months, then Overland Tour Company. In 2001, I left for Germany where I worked as a cook for five years and came back home in Nov. 2006.
A.E: What made you leave your job?
Odhiambo: I was simply fed up with being employed and wanted to start my own business. I love cooking and wanted something linked to that so I went in search of space for a restaurant.
A.E: How did you land in Hurlingham?
Odhiambo: I looked for space in town and did not find any. So I started searching for space on the outskirts of the city centre and landed in Hurlingham. There was a hotel called Green Forest that looked dirty and very unattractive. I talked to the owner and bought the hotel. I renovated it and began operation in January this year.
A.E: How much did the hotel cost?
Odhiambo: I bought it at Ksh. 600,000.
A.E: How much did you spend to renovate it?
Odhiambo: When I add all the expenses I incurred and the equipment I bought such as the music system, tables, chairs, the machines in the kitchen among others, I spent approximately Ksh. 2.3 million.
A.E: Where did you get the money from?
Odhiambo: From my savings. I never took any loan
A.E: What type of products did you aim at selling?
Odhiambo: My initial plan was to sell both food and alcohol. However, the alcohol license delayed and I began by selling food only. When I acquired the license I stocked alcoholic drinks in February.
A.E: What other services do you offer?
Odhiambo: Outside catering. If you have an event such as a wedding or party, we provide food and drinks
A.E: So what happens when you have to provide outside catering. Do you close the restaurant?
Odhiambo: No, since we cannot close the restaurant, we are forced to outsource for people to assist in this. If the client has space where we can cook from, we utilize it. If he has none, we cook in the restaurant and transport the food and drinks to the venue.
A.E: How often do you provide this service?
Odhiambo: We are still new in this and on average we have 3 events in a month.
A.E: Is the hotel opened everyday?
Odhiambo: Yes. Its open from 6.00am to 11.00pm on Mondays to Saturdays and between 12.00 noon and 11.00pm on Sundays.
A.E: How many customers do you serve in a day?
Odhiambo: We have an average of 300 people coming to the hotel on week days. However, on weekends we have fewer customers as most offices around this area are closed. We get on average around 100 people.
A.E: Where do you get your products?
Odhiambo: I go to several markets both in and out of the city centre. In most cases, products at the city centre are more expensive than those outside the city centre.
A.E: There are many restaurants around here. How do you maintain your customers?
Odhiambo: First of all we offer food that is fresh and of good quality. We do relate well with our customers. We ensure we provide the best services possible.
A.E: Do you have problems with the customers?
Odhiambo: Yes. Each customer has his own preferences. Some customers complain the food is cold, others say it is not well cooked and do not want to pay for it. In other instances, customers order for food without knowing what it is, and when they are served, they complain that it was not what they expected.
A.E: How do you deal with such cases?
Odhiambo: If the customer says the food is cold, we warm it. If he says it is not well cooked, we ask him to order for something else. If he is not willing, we apologize and tell him next time he visits us, he will find something better.
A.E: Whats your message to the customers?
Odhiambo: They should learn to read the menu and ask questions where they do not understand to avoid situations where they order something they do not know, and when served they start complaining.
A.E: How many employees do you have?
Odhiambo: In total I have seven employees at the restaurant. When we offer outside catering, we get some people to assist on casual basis.
A.E: Do you train them yourself?
Odhiambo: The waiters are qualified, however for the cooks I have one who is qualified and I am training two more.
A.E: How much profit do you make in a day from the restaurant?
Odhiambo: About Ksh. 2,000
A.E: What brings more money, outside catering or the restaurant?
Odhiambo: Outside catering. One event can bring the profit we make in ten days in the restaurant.
A.E: What are your future plans?
Odhiambo: To open several other restaurants in several estates in Nairobi and the other two cities, Kisumu and Mombasa.
By Purity Njeru
Ms. Njeru is an African Executive staff writer
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