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Green energy a unique menu to build fast food chain

Investor pins hope on green energy, unique menu to build fast food chain

If the city council bylaws allowed, Abbas Kitogo would be hawking food in the heart of Nairobi.

But after his proposal was turned down by the city fathers, he decided to station his green minivan on a vacant lot adjacent to the City Market on Koinange Street.

The electric vehicle stands out in the vicinity, not only for its distinct nature, but because it also houses a food stand.

Borrowing a decidedly “green” leaf idea from his years studying and working in Europe, Mr Kitogo — an entrepreneur and the proprietor of Green Clean Mobile Takeaway — says he took up the rather unorthodox venture upon his return to Kenya.

“I am employed but I wanted another source of income” Mr Kitogo told Money.

His decision to get a supplementary source of income was based on market research, he says. And he chose to go into the food industry upon discovering its high potential, especially in the city centre. His business plan was to replicate mobile food trucks, which are common in European cities.

Further, a mobile catering venture was appealing because of the low rent besides the ability to move around the city to meet customers’ demands.

Mr Kitogo imported the electric mini van from South Korea at a cost of Sh1.1 million. It is powered by batteries which, once charged for five hours, can fuel the van for about 70 kilometres.

Although the cost of importing the vehicle was high, Mr Kitogo notes that he was lucky to avoid paying excessive tax since Kenya does not impose duty on electric vehicles.

Despite being only a few months old, Green Clean Mobile Takeaway is making good strides.

“I have not yet reached my target but it is slowly picking up,” he notes.

He attributes the steady growth of the investment to pocket-friendly prices and quality of the food he sells. But pricing alone can not be the game changer; he says he has to be creative in order to keep customers coming. His menu includes unique offerings that one will be hard-pressed to find in the conventional fast food joints that dot the CBD. He sells spiral chips, which have proven to be quite a favourite, as well as pilau and Swahili pasta.

However, he cannot run the business on his own. After hiring two employees at the start, he quickly discovered that it was neither profitable nor sustainable to keep both of them. So, he and his wife decided to devote their time to the business and employ one full-time worker.

Having studied marketing, Mrs Kitogo is in charge of advertising and creating awareness about the business. She also helps with the cooking, thus ensuring that food does not runs out. Some types of food such as chips are cooked on location.

Mrs Kitogo is currently working on a marketing strategy to make the minivan more visible to passersby by equipping it with lights and decorations. The main target market is the nine-to-five office workers as well as college students.

No business comes without challenges and this one is no different. At the beginning, Mr Kitogo says the venture ran at a loss. Over the past two months, though, the couple has learnt to plan appropriately and only cook enough food for each day.

Green Clean Mobile Takeaway plans to expand to Nakuru and Mombasa and eventually the rest of East Africa. Mr Kitogo also plans to bring in mobile trailers. “We have already taken one to Tanzania,” says Mr Kitogo, who is also a dealer in electric cars.

Following in the footsteps of successful fast food giants, he envisions building a strong brand for Green Clean Mobile Takeaway. As he ventures in this field, Mr Kitogo is not without worthy competition. Global food brands have come to Kenya.

In August, American restaurant chain, Subway, is expected to open shop at the Junction Mall. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), another American brand, is also making headway locally. Other established brands such as Galitos and Steers as well as coffee houses sprouting all over Nairobi.

By SILVIA MWENDIA mwendiasilvia@gmail.com Posted Thursday, May 23 2013 at 01:00