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Food & Drinks

Burgers Selling Africa Flavours

Mama Rocks
As more families dine out especially on weekends, Mama Rocks in Nairobi's Kilimani sells about 600 burgers every Sunday at its two branches. 

Three years ago, Samantha and Natalie, the owners of Mama Rocks decided to invest Sh4 million in a burger business.

Lovers of burgers noticed the restaurant that started as a food truck and as appetite for their Africa-inspired burgers grew, they opened a sit-down spot in Nairobi's Kilimani.

As more Nairobi families dine out especially on weekends, Mama Rocks sells about 600 burgers every Sunday at its two branches.

“Our Kilimani branch which is just a little over one year old is doing well bringing double the business that the Westlands branch does,” said Natalie who used to work in creative agencies as a human resources adviser in UK before she quit to come back to Kenya to start a business with her sister.

Living in the UK, the gourmet burger food trend caught the sisters’ interest and this sparked the idea of making burgers with African flavours.

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After trying and testing different recipes with family and friends, they came up with burgers with African flavours.

One of their greatest challenges was getting a chef to make the burgers they wanted.

“Most of the chefs we talked to were of the conventional idea of adding spices found in the international markets, which is not what we wanted,” said Natalie, adding that they wanted a restaurant that celebrated Africa.

Now, she said, their best-selling flavour is the Mango Masai Mama.

“It is popular because it is inspired by Kenya. Each of our burgers is inspired by different regions of Africa.

It includes a 180 grammes beef patty, cheddar cheese, chilli-mango sauce, lettuce, gherkins {a type of cucumber} and roasted red pepper. We get our patties from Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is beef from grass-fed cows,” she adds.

Mama Rocks burger

The best selling burger is the Mango Masai Mama.

Fresh suppliers

Another challenge that they faced was finding suppliers of fresh, local produce.

Difficulty in knowing the required certifications when opening a food truck was also a challenge as this information is not readily available.

“All the suppliers we got were recommended by friends as we could not get any on the Internet.

"It took us an entire year before we got a full supplier list of people whose products merged with the flavours we wanted to offer,” she said.

The two sisters grew up in London in a mixed Kenyan and Nigerian family.

During their travels, they noticed that there were no restaurants that were of African descent reflective of the urban and youth culture.

“We only saw influences from different parts of the world. But we wanted to replicate the food truck industry we had seen in the UK and other parts of the world.

"This was however difficult at the time because Kenya did not allow food trucks that can be parked on the streets. We, therefore, had to settle in a private space for the business to work,” Samantha said.

The duo plans to expand their menu to include other foods besides burgers.

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