ALVIN CHIINGA, Lusaka
“THE investment environment in Zambia is so conducive that I have more Zambian customers than any other nationalities despite operating a Nigerian restaurant.”
These are words of Chinwe Ekeogu, a Nigerian entrepreneur who has established, Tasty Bite, the first Nigerian restaurant in the country.
With an investment of over K150,000 in the food and catering industry, Ms Ekeogu seems set to achieve what some may call the impossible.
Ms Ekeogu ventured into the food and catering business in 2009. Her business was ‘blessed’ by then Nigerian High Commissioner to Zambia, Folake Marcus who graced the official opening of the facility.
Nine years down the line, for Ms Ekeogu and the team she works with, there has been no looking back despite any challenges.
“You should start a business where you have a passion. I have seen a lot of people trying to imitate what I have done, but they have ended up closing,” she said in an interview.
Ms Ekeogu has been in this business for almost a decade and has so far achieved quite a lot, including almost doubling her initial investment capital.
A graduate of Fairview Hotel where she did a three year diploma in hotel management, a certificate in food production and a diploma in marketing from ZAMIM in 2001, Ms Ekeogu says she applied for jobs at different organisations and hotels but was not successful.
She says the lack of employment became a driving force for her to set up her own company, which has been a success over the years.
“When we opened in 2009, our clientele would boom to even 50 customers per day. Right now, we receive around 35 customers in a day. Business is good I cannot complain. Some high profile people come here as well,” she said.
What is actually inspiring is that Ms Ekeogu’s restaurant now receives more Zambian customers who have started appreciating Nigerian food.
“I serve egwusi soup, ofada rice, jellof rice which could be accompanied with goat meat, I also serve bitter leaf, uziza leaf, bitter kola and Alomo bitters which are highly medicinal in nature,” she said.
Bitter cola has innumerable health benefits: It is known to cure cold and fever, effective in case of arthritis, helpful in treating malaria, prevents glaucoma, boosts immunity, and prevents cancer and many more.
“There are innumerable cures within nature which we overlook and yet we need them in our lives when the complexity arises,” she says.
She said one such natural and wonderful cure for problems is bitter kola. As the name implies, it is bitter on the taste bud, but immensely sweet in the ways it helps cure ailments.
Ms Ekeogu usually orders her ingredients from Nigeria hence making her restaurant serve the purpose it was actually established for. She also gets local ingredients as well.
The restaurant is a marvel to customers who seem to long for the next meal.
Alick Banda, who is among the daily customers at the restaurant, simply runs out of words when it comes to describing the treat he receives at the Nigerian restaurant.
Another client, Elisha Makayi from Angola says he appreciates the food served at the outlet because of the high nutritional and medicinal value it has.
Mr Makayi says he has been in Zambia for more than nine years and has over the years come to enjoy meals at the Tasty Bite.
“The food plays around with my taste buds. The service is also great. I would urge others to come and sample the sumptuous meals here,” Mr Makayi said in an interview.
Ms Ekeogu says the zenith in her business came when she catered for Multichoice Zambia, the United Bank of Africa, CITI Bank and ACCESS Bank among others.
“I felt great because this was what I had wanted to achieve and it finally came to pass,” she said.
Ms Ekeogu said she also expanded her business in 2014, when she opened another outlet in Lusaka’s central business district along Ben Bella Road.
Apart from this, Ms Ekeogu says she is also planning to open another outlet in Lusaka’s Kamwala trading area.
A mother of one, Ms Ekeogu says she also wants to spread her wings further to Ndola on the Copperbelt come 2019.
An achiever by all standards, Ms Ekeogu says she is determined to make the only Nigerian restaurant in the country a place where people would want to have their meals from every day.
“Our motto is: Taste bite Nigerian restaurant giving your taste buds a taste bite”, she says.
True to this motto, one just needs to either take a walk or a drive to this first Nigerian restaurant in the country to experience this surge on the taste buds.
ALVIN CHIINGA, Lusaka