Hospitality: Commercial kitchens, laundry out of the box


Sheffield Africa founder and Chief Executive Suresh Kanotra at a prototype of a coffee container shop during the exhibition. FILE PHOTO | POOL

Sheffield Africa held an expo two weeks ago where it unveiled its innovative business models for commercial kitchens and laundry.

We sat down with Sheffield Africa founder Suresh Kanotra, who let us in on this new business strategy that the steel processing factory is embracing.

"The reason for this exhibition is to propel the ideas with established players in the market. Why should you always invest in a typical prototype restaurant? Why not create other models, which cost less, can be quickly erected and serve more people?" he posed.

Mr Suresh is a mechanical engineer with more than 40 years of experience in the steel processing industry.

"I founded Sheffield Africa in 2002 to come up with good, quality and durable kitchens for the hospitality industry. I noted that there wasn't much equipment for the food retail industry and most equipment was imported. I thought why not start customising the kitchen equipment?" he tells the Business Daily.

The business was progressing well until the pandemic struck and the hospitality industry came crumbling down.

"During Covid-19, I had to rethink my business. Our 95 percent market was the hospitality industry and its going down meant that we had to rethink how to stay afloat.

So I started creating hygienic solutions, including hand washing machines, air purifiers, sanitising machines, and touchless sanitising machines.

However, the market was not large enough to effectively sustain our operations," he says.

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Commercial kitchen and laundry boxes on display during the Sheffield Expo in Nairobi in May 2023. PHOTO | POOL

It is from here that the idea of the containers and boxes was birthed.

Mr Suresh tells the Business Daily that these are not ordinary containers but "we have designed everything about it; the look, the feel, the branding, the electrical and lighting services, the safety measures, the hand wash basins."

It is not just a beautiful box, but it also comes fully equipped with an operating unit that is durable and contains state-of-the-art equipment.

Additionally, one can operate the machines hygienically and appropriately.

The model allows both the rich and the poor to get equal service.

"We are working to disprove the notion that Sheffield only serves the wealthy. With a container, any person can start a moving kitchen and offer quality services to their clients regardless of their living standards."

Mr Suresh says the advantage is that the containers are much cheaper hence reducing operating costs.

"While you may pay for a restaurant rent of Sh300,000 a month, for a container you can end up paying Sh50,000 for the small space that it occupies," he says.

The company's first customers were Java as we created for them Java Express.

"In our kitchen boxes, there is refrigeration to take care of the storage, There are processors to process in a controlled manner. We also have warmers."

The containers cost between Sh1 million-Sh10 million.

"You can have one cloud kitchen supporting 10 boxes as it can allow you to cover 5km," says Mr Suresh.

The commercial laundries range between Sh3 million-Sh 7 million depending on the number of machines to be installed.


Sheffield Africa founder and Chief Executive Suresh Kanotra. FILE PHOTO | POOL

"I have chefs onboard who train our clients how to operate and what is required to have a modern, technically sound and efficient system," he says.

These are the solutions of the future. On these containers, you can have a laundry, a convenience store, a juice bar, an ice cream kiosk, a coffee kiosk, a butchery box, a bakery and a 'nyama choma grill'.

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