Dial up your meal

Ayo is a young engineer who works at an ICT firm on Lagos Island and is a single man. He seats at his desk hard at work until the loud grumble in his tummy interrupts his train of thought. Minimize current browser window, open new window, click, click, click he browses through delectable lunch options, places an order and has it delivered to him by a dispatch rider.

Jumai works in a bank and hardly ever sees the sunset by the time she is heading home. Today, she grabs her bags and dashes out of the office and happens to make it home at about 7pm. ‘No power to cook’ she says. Punch, punch, punch “Hello? Can I place an order for delivery?” She strolls into her room, changes her clothes, washes her make-up off her face and lands on the couch with her remote in hand. Her doorbell rings, her food has arrived.

Mrs. Johnson who is Jumai’s colleague has her family’s dinner delivered to the office and arrives home with a huge bag of food options, everyone digs in and she has spare time to assist her children with their homework.

These are examples of a few of our realities residing in busy cities like Lagos and Abuja at the moment. Today the phone and Internet are indeed changing the way we eat. The trend has shifted from patronizing the office help to assist with food delivery to ordering food items via phone or online. This trend is growing at a rapid rate and there is a possibility of the success of the model to spill into other major cities in Nigeria if it has not already began doing so.

With the rapid increase of the middle class, there are more employment opportunities in the economy, which leads to more vehicles on the road per family and late working hours. This automatically eliminates the luxury of cooking during the week to re-stock fresh food options for the home. Perhaps it may completely eliminate the process of home cooking, as there are home-cooked meal options in the food delivery eco-system. While this is a possibility, I do not think it would happen anytime soon but rather, people may work around trying to optimize their cooking options and balance it with their delivery options.

The industry of food delivery services will continue to grow and expand in parallel with the growth of out of home restaurants.  After all we are all social animals so experiencing food out of home in the company of friends and family will remain an attraction. It is estimated that there are over 200 formalized online and offline food delivery services operations in Nigeria.

There are two distinct models identified in the food delivery services operation, the first is basically a courier service where a middleman service provider coordinates the logistics of food delivery and connects the restaurant to the consumer enabling a seamless process on both ends. The second option involves the restaurant owner taking charge of his or her own delivery by including the delivery option as a new service offering.

Could there be a positive spiral effect in the future on other business sectors as the food delivery segment expands?

  • Is there an opportunity to provide special seasonings and spices for restaurant operators?
  • Can offices that do not want to keep canteen overhead sign contracts with such delivery operators?
  • Can there be specialized meal segment in this business?

Huge business opportunities exist in the ready-to-eat food delivery industry and technology will be instrumental to driving the growth now and in the future.

What other roles will a mobile phone and the Internet play in our eating and cooking habits in Nigeria?

Time will tell.

Author: Iquo Ukoh