Nairobi hotel wins over clients with subsidised menu
Posted Monday, July 4 2011 at 00:00
As high food prices force Kenyans to drastically change their eating habits, a new restaurant in Nairobi is offering an inflation-beating menu.
Jagannath Restaurant serves most meals at below Sh100 while an “all you can eat” buffet — as long as the meal is not shared — costs Sh185.
The Hare Krishna-run restaurant on Kipande Road, in Ngara estate, is located near colleges, student hostels, and garages that provide a ready market. The management says Jagannath serves an average 600 patrons daily.
The hotel, however, is not the usual low-priced-high-volume business. The affordable menu is part of a community outreach initiative by adherents of the Hare Krishna faith that will soon see similar outlets opened in working areas like Industrial Area and a mobile food caravan introduced in the central business district.
Bindu Khetia, a priest who manages the restaurant, says in order to complement the free food offerings given at their main temple, they decided to open the restaurant since offering highly discounted food was their way of giving back to the community. “Majority of middle-class people cannot afford to spend a lot of money on a proper lunch daily. We have a duty to offer such people high quality food at the lowest possible prices,” Ms Khetia said.
The Business Daily’s lunch time visit to the African themed restaurant found that it charges at least Sh50 less than its compatriots in the CBD for a similar meal.
Ugali or rice served with a variety of options such as beans or green grams costs Sh65. Extra helpings cost between Sh15 and Sh40. Along Moi Avenue, a similar meal costs between Sh110 and Sh130. Meals containing meat are pricier.
“The restaurant’s selling point is its pricing and high quality food. Many clients regard it as a life saver,” said head chef Michael Mutua. The restaurant manages the low prices by keeping operations simple. It is a neatly arranged hall with a capacity to hold 230 people per sitting. It has plastic stools and ordinary tables that reminds one of a dining hall in a secondary school. The menu is, however, distinct for the absence of meat dishes, explained by the fact that Hare Krishna followers are vegetarians.
The 7-month old hotel is a non-profit making venture and is kept afloat by its main sponsor, Rajem Jani, who along with other well-wishers offset losses incurred on a monthly basis.
It is run by a trust, Jaganath Charitable Trust, whose objectives are relief from poverty and promotion of health, education, research and general welfare.
The trustees are well known personalities in the banking, accountancy, insurance and manufacturing sectors who requested not to be named.
“By the end of next year, we are looking at opening similar restaurants in Industrial Area, Westlands, and the city centre,” Ms Khetia said.
Presently, the hotel caters for clients off premises through boda boda taxis, which deliver orders for an extra fee of between Sh10 and Sh15.
The restaurant has bought a truck for outside catering which is expected to supply food to customers within the city centre from August.
It caters for a segment of the population that a recent Oxfam report found was embracing new eating habits as a way of beating escalating food prices.