THE FOOD COURT , Eateries, that is, Fast Foods/Quick Service Restaurants, can be found on almost every major street/road across major cities in Nigeria. In the Lagos metropolis, they have become ubiquitos. They come with flowery names, enticing as their many delicacies. We have Kenturkey Fried Chicken, KFC, Mr. Biggs, Chicken Republic, Tastee Fried Chicken, TFC; Mega Chicken; Magrellos Fast Food & Bakery; Sweet Sensation; Reeds Thai Restaurant; Tantalizers; Tetrazzini; Domino’s Pizza; Jevinik Restaurant; Edibles Fast Food and a host of others. They are just so many.
TMO findings have revealed that many people patronize these Eateries for various reasons ranging from clean, conducive & comfortable eating environment to hygienic display and presentation of meals. Other reasons include ready-made meals with varieties of food to choose from, availability of snacks and ice cream; trained sales people; spacious environment for parking cars and status symbol. There is also the belief that the foods are prepared in a very clean environment under strict rules of food security. All these ‘effizzy’, as we call it finally impact on cost. On average, a customer spends about N1500 to have a single meal. In summary, Eateries operate with a touch of class and their customers come in an air of importance which of course impacts on their pockets.
In contrast to Eateries, we have the local joints, otherwise called ‘Mama Put’. This name is derived from the usual refrain from customers each making an effort to be served first while stretching out their bowls. Mama Puts also have a very huge amount of patronage from the public. In fact, they command a bigger patronage in terms of number of customers even though their financial returns are comparatively small. They more in number and can be found on virtually every street corner in metropolis such as Lagos.
Mama Puts usually don’t come with enticing names. Many of them operate with the names of the owner of the joint with the prefix of ‘Mama’; others use acronyms of the business while many others don’t even have a name at all. You hear of ‘Alhaja’s Joint, ‘Amala’ Joint, ‘Man Must Wack’ Joint, ‘Iya Monday Restaurant’ ‘Mama Chi’ Foods, ‘Ofada Place’ to mention a few. One of their major characteristics is that their food is quite cheap, which explains why they attract more patronage.
It is interesting to note that despite the ‘prestige’ nature of Quick Service Restaurants in Nigeria, many more people still prefer and patronize the local joints (’Mama Put’) over Fast Food outlets. In a recent survey conducted by TMO, 90% of respondents said that they preferred Mama Put to Eateries. The following are some of the responses:
Debby, a middle aged executive in an advertising agency had this to say: “I prefer ‘Mama Put’ because it’s affordable and their food is always fresh since they don’t use preservatives and their food never remains till the next day. Sometimes, I spend just N200 for lunch and with this amount, I can buy rice, plantain and ‘kpomo’, but this same amount can’t even buy you one meat pie in some fast food outlets not to talk of their rice and chicken. Eateries always have leftovers which they put in refrigerator and served to customers the next day”.
Grace, a junior executive in a pharmaceutical firm said she prefers the local joints (‘Mama Put’) over Eateries because they use too much spices while cooking. She also claimed that Eateries use sugar to cook yam for instance, in order to make it sweeter.
James, a construction worker corroborated the issue of spices raised by Grace. According to him, Eateries are meant for people who have ‘sweet tooth’ and have money to waste. I do not like the taste of their food because the spices are too much. They use too much seasoning, curry, salt and even sugar. He argued that locally made delicacies are more nutritious because they use natural ingredients.
Lucky, a middle aged Driver of the Chairman of an investment company, says that he has become accustomed to ‘Mama Put’ due to its affordability but if he had the money, he would prefer to always eat in a fast food outlet just to show off. In his words “I don’t like sweating when I am eating. I like to eat in an air condition environment with TV screens showing musical entertainment program and that’s why, if I have my way, I will always prefer fast food over local joints”.
Lekan, a Senior Manager in a new generation bank had this to say: “Even though I am a banker, I still prefer local foods. But due to my profession and status, I can’t be seen patronizing road side food sellers, I usually send our office cleaners to buy my local foods for me. If I have to eat out, I would go to a nearby ‘Calabar Kitchen’; at least I can explain that one. My reason is simple, I just like the aroma and taste of local foods like ‘Pounded yam with Edi kaiko, Afang, Ofe Owerri, Ofe Onugbu and Ofe Nsala.
Tosin, a Manager in a multi-national company, said it will be a let down on his status to visit a local joint. The closest he has ever come is the company’s Executive Canteen which is operated under the highest hygiene standards. Majorly, he prefers fast food outlets. His reasons are as follows: conducive environment, quality of the foods and status symbol. In his words, “I like local foods but at the same time, due to my status, I can’t be seen eating food prepared by a road side seller. My company usually pays for my lunch on a daily basis and it comes with a 3 course meal.
Laraba, a Clearing Agent in Apapa, attempted to explain why many who care about their health would rather not patronize local joints. She argued thus: ‘I just don’t trust the local joints because of the way they prepare their foods. If the environment is not clean, the foods could be contaminated with micro organisms which are present in the air, water and in the hands of those who prepare them. Unclean environment can also lead to bacteria food poisoning. Diseases such as typhoid fever, dysentery and cholera could be contacted through foods bought from road sides. Also, foods prepared by road side vendors are not hygienic with flies, carbon fumes and dust in the air which settle on these foods and make them unsafe for human consumption”.
In spite of the touted health implication of patronizing road side food vendors, a 2007 study from the UN Food & Agricultural Organization (FAO), revealed that about 2.5 billion people eat street food everyday worldwide out of a population of 6.6 billion people. This represents a whopping 38% of the global population at the time. This figure is expected to have increased significantly by now due to global reduction of purchasing power of individuals. Also, most people are returning to the culturally home-made foods.
TMO enquired into the costs of setting up an Eatery and Mama Put. Our discovery partly explains the preponderance of Mama Puts in Nigeria. To own a Fast Food Franchise in Nigeria requires between N23m to N45m while to set up a local joint (‘Mama Put’), requires as little as N200,000, depending on the size of the joint.
In conclusion, the choice between Eatery and Mama Put varies from person to person. However as TMO findings have revealed, most consumers prefer the local Mama Put to the sophisticated Eatery. How about you?