It is rush hour in Kisumu on a Wednesday morning as residents hurry to their places of employment.
And on Oginga Odinga Street, a small queue is building outside Ukwala Supermarket. These are mostly workers looking for something hot for their breakfast. Boiled arrowroots, mahamri and doughnuts are among the commodities in high demand.
The group represents a growing crop of middle-class workers who are increasingly ditching conventional eateries and home-cooked meals for ready-to-eat food served in supermarkets.
The last six months have seen several supermarkets introduce delicatessens, popularly known as delis, to serve the growing clientele.
Tumaini supermarket started the trend when it opened its second branch in August last year. In October, Ukwala opened a deli to cash in on growing demand.
Naivas, which opened in November along the Jomo Kenyatta Highway has a spacious café for custoemers who have time to sit and enjoy their meal.
Uchumi, also located on the highway, plans to open a deli this month.
An official said a new section at the branch housed at the West End shopping mall will offer fresh juices, salads and meat, among other food. They are also building a café to attract eat-in customers.
As supermarkets compete for clients, delis are becoming a must-have feature. Residents said quick service, convenience and hygiene prompt them to buy deli food.
Mr Onesmus Malombe said he was drawn by the affordable prices and the open-plan kitchens that allows him to see the food being prepared.
“I spend Sh100 on a basic breakfast package, which costs Sh250 or more in a hotel,” he said.
For Job Maragia, a contractor, the ability to have a meal without the hassles of cooking made the deli sections a godsend.
“There are days when I am so held up at work that the last thing I want to do is cook. Those are the days when you will find me buying food on my way home. What’s more, the food is usually fresh and well cooked,” he said.
Mr Alex Achebi, Ukwala’s Oginga Odinga Street branch supervisor, said the future looked promising for delis because shoppers were warming up to them.
“People who work in various offices in town say they like the service because of its convenience. There are those who come for a serving and return to their offices to continue working,” he said.
Mr Achebi said the best-selling food at the chain was boiled arrowroots and indigenous chicken.
“We keep selling more nduma (arrow roots) every morning. Demand is also growing for millet ugali, among other traditional servings.
“But that is not to say the other food categories are frowned upon. When you come during lunch hour, as much as there is a variety, we sell more of indigenous chicken. Women also love french fries,” he said.
He said that aside from restaurants, Ukwala was the only other outlet selling food on that street.
“During peak hours, we usually face difficulties trying to satisfy our clients especially in the bakery department. Some types of bread are usually in high demand and we are often at a loss trying to meet it.”