By Ahmed Rahma
Last year, many businesses in the world, including Nigeria, had it tough because of COVID-19 pandemic, which triggered the closure of offices, shops and many enterprises.
For months, some businesses, including those in the food sector, were unable to connect to their customers because of limited digital footprints.
But Africa’s leading e-commerce platform, Jumia, was able to help players in the food business, partnering with several local restaurants to keep their food, beverage and grocery services going.
One of the firms that benefited from this was Sooyah Bistro, a food company owned by a popular pop singer, Mr Bankole Wellington, otherwise known as Banky W.
“The lockdown was an incredibly challenging period for most people and businesses alike. Sales dropped drastically, companies shut down, and a lot of people lost their jobs.
“We’re grateful that Jumia kept their operation going; it was reassuring to customers, helped give them options for food at a very uncertain and difficult time, and for vendors like us, it was a huge help to still be able to keep sales going during that period.
“The one thing we didn’t want to have to do was to do a mass layoff like a lot of other companies; at that point, it wasn’t so much about making a profit, as it was about making payroll.
“And even though we ran a limited operation during the lockdown, the sales we got through Jumia helped greatly in keeping our employees paid, and our operation running,” he said.
For Banky W, his experience during the lockdown and the role Jumia played in keeping his company afloat has reaffirmed his stance that the food industry in Nigeria is very bright with the likes of Jumia.
Banky W noted that in the future, the sector would be hugely influenced by technology and its accompanying marketplace platforms.
He said, “I think one of the trends that we’re seeing on the rise is the demand for food delivery services.
“That was already the case prior to the COVID-induced lockdown era, but the lockdown certainly escalated it exponentially, especially in a metropolitan area like Lagos, the traffic challenges alone are enough to encourage people to stay in the comfort of their homes and offices and have the food come to them.
“We’re even seeing an uptick in people who choose to use Grocery delivery services as well.
“There’s also an increase in food trucks, pop-up restaurants, and quick-service food options.
“I think the use of technology, especially as regards delivery services and retail/point-of-sale/inventory management systems will continue to be the number one game-changer in the Nigerian Food scene.
“Another point is food restaurants embracing social media to engage their customers, and customers embracing their favourite food brands online as well.
“About a year or so ago, we only had a little over 1,000 followers on Sooyah Bistro’s Instagram handle.
“Right now that number is at about 21,000 – so brands like ours are embracing social media as a way of telling our stories, communicating our culture and connecting with our customers, and the customers themselves are being receptive to engaging with their favourite food spots in that way,” he said.
Other restaurants such as Chicken Republic, Sweet Sensation, Kilimanjaro, Drumstick, to mention a few, have also embraced Jumia to reach more customers. The progress made in the online food community during the lockdown was captured in the recent food index report released by Africa’s leading e-tailer, Jumia.
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