By Ikenna Asomba
Chief Anthony Edeh is the Managing Director, Satellite Kitchen & Bar, Satellite Town, Lagos. In this interview, he explains how he started the business in 2014, with his wife, Nneka, a caterer and graduate of computer education from the Enugu State University of Science & Technology. Edeh also bares his mind on the level of hunger in the country, advising government to wade into the challenge before it gets out of hand.
How did it start?
The Satellite Kitchen & Bar started in February 2014. Although we had had the vision for a very long time, it started after observing that several of our friends were traveling far from Satellite Town to Festac Town just to get good food to eat. Most times, they spend hours in traffic gridlock just to access Festac Town. This spurred us to find a way out to ameliorate their plight. We started and, as God would have it, some of our first callers gave us ideas which we implemented and here we are today.
Did you have any previous experience in the hospitality business?
Yes, I studied food hygiene in ROC, a degree running institution in Amsterdam, Netherlands. There, I worked for National Airline Catering Services, and this was the job I did for six years, where I was in-charge of their aviation catering services, before I decided to come back to Nigeria to see what I could do. I left Netherlands in 2003, but, during the summer, they usually call me to come and coach their students.
So, when I came back to Nigeria, I already had the idea that if you make your business unique within your environment, you will make waves. That’s how the whole thing started. Meanwhile, my wife, Nneka, a graduate of computer education from the Enugu State University of Science & Technology, is a caterer. She is a very good cook and in-charge of Satellite Kitchen & Bar. After doing her feasibility studies, we established the business. If I must tell you, restaurant business is a big and complex business. For instance, some people don’t like salt to be in their meals because of doctor’s prescription. In Satellite Kitchen & Bar, we take this into consideration.
Nigerians are hungry
Having been in this business, since 2014, my experience shows that Nigerians are really hungry, and that is why we make our meals affordable despite the quality services we render. And it is necessary for government to give loans to small-scale entrepreneurs who want to venture into food business. By doing so, we will begin to address the issue of hunger in the land.
Recently, I did a survey. I said that, from 4.00pm until what we had in stock is exhausted, whatever you eat here is free. The queue we had on that particular day was more than what you see in petrol station during fuel scarcity, which suggests that Nigerians are hungry. But because they don’t have the money to feed, they become helpless. So, if government intervenes, especially by fixing our power problem, the cost of doing this kind of business will drastically reduce, and food will be more affordable for Nigerians. When Nigerians are well fed, diseases and the aggression shown by Nigerians will go down.
We have really grown in leaps and bounds. But my happiness is that owing to the unique services we render, those who patronise us leave here happy. They also encourage us to show that they appreciate what we are doing.
However, one of our major challenges has been sourcing people to work with. This is because, most Nigerians don’t consider the restaurant business as a white-collar job, particularly graduate youths. Rather than work in the restaurant, they prefer to roam the streets for jobs that are not readily available. Again, those that want to work, when we give them our guidelines that make us unique, they feel they are unnecessary.
What are the guidelines that makes you unique?
For instance, we don’t like to expose meat. We don’t unfrozen meat and put the remainder back in the refrigerator. Once you have a fresh meat unfrozen, use them all; if not, what you are having is chaff. This is not a hygienic way of handling meat or fresh foods. Same thing goes with cooked foods. We don’t have left-overs as you see in other places. These are unhygienic practices. But when you tell some of these people, they feel it’s not necessary.
Some of them even query why we do our things the white-man’s way. I tell them that, should anyone eat here and suffer running stomach as a result of unhygienic food preservation, they will trace it to this place, which will give us a bad name. It’s cheaper to throw such meat away than to begin to convince large number of customers, telling them we have changed.
We have also taken these guidelines to several hotels that we manage their kitchens, such as the Golden Tree Hotel, Satellite Town. Because of our unique ways of handling our kitchen, hotels bring their staff here for training on how to manage their kitchens.
Given the rising youth unemployment in Nigeria, don’t you think youths can tap into the hospitality business, no matter how small?
It’s a very serious problem here in Nigeria. It’s high time our youths began to realise that there are no more white-collar jobs in the country. They have to start somewhere, no matter how small. For instance, I once employed a graduate of sociology here. And the young lady worked with all honesty and seriousness, not minding her certification. Today, she is working with an insurance firm, courtesy of a customer. Even, if you are working as a dish washer, it’s a stepping stone to greater things ahead. Going further, Satellite Kitchen & Bar is expanding. Very soon, we are opening branches in Festac Town and Ikeja. This is part of our plans to ameliorate youth unemployment, as well as render unique services to Lagosians.