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Why Shawarma became the No.1 fast food item for suburban Nigeria

Written by Akinmade

Shawarma, a fast food item is proving to be a favourite of Nigerians in the suburban areas, thereby becoming a new business favourite among Nigerians

Solomon Unoke

 In every facet of a society like Nigeria, there is always that new thing that catches the attention of the audience. While music rules in terms of popularity, a man truly shall not live by bread alone, but by a little Shawarma on the side.

Yes, Shawarma. This fast food item seemed to have established itself as the new thing for suburban Nigerians who have taken to it and making it arguably the reason for the spike in the fast-food business in suburban Nigeria. This is apparent to anyone who simply looks around.

One might wonder what was behind such a sudden surge in the number of Shawarma joints in the suburbs across major cities in the country. Is it possible that Nigerians are only recently discovered that this food is tasty or just beginning to take a liking to it or could it be something else?

However, it is a money-spinning venture for those that know how to make it tastier and operate a joint.

So what does it take to do so?

There are some basic thongs you need to get right if you are going to make a success out of your Shawarma joint.

Chioma,  a 22-year-old entrepreneur, who is a student of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State is someone who has been able to make a success out of this business.

Chioma, who started her venture in 2020, has had to juggle studies demands with business, using hired help to help run the fast-food joint while she studies.

She highlighted basic things need to operate a Shawarma joint and why she started in the first place.

She told The Observers Life that the venture started from her desire to own her business and take control of her life and livelihood. She felt that a Shawarma joint is a good way to learn the valuable lessons that the future needs and a way to raise money for her dream business, which is women fashion.

Chioma didn’t forget to mention that she is a foodie, so maybe this is certainly the passion behind her Shawarma business, but it was started for strategic reasons.

Rachel, was an employee of a booming Shawarma joint before she decided to take the plunge to operate her Shawarma joint.

Jude on the other hand has more serious reasons for starting up his joint. Being a man in his 30’s, Jude has a dream to fulfil and responsibilities to handle.

He has been in the food business for a while, starting with running a bun-frying business with his brother. He used this to raise enough money to start up his Shawarma joint in a busy area of Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos.

Jude explained that the food business is something he understands and experienced in and his desire to expand beyond buns to something a little more tasteful and appealing to a wider audience led to his Shawarma venture.

Likewise, Tolu, who operates a Shawarma joint on the popular Quarry Road, read Catering and Hotel Management in school and has worked in a popular fast food restaurant chain before she started her joint. Anyway, she is a foodie like Chioma. Women and food!

So maybe Shawarma might be spreading around us in the city because it is a lot easier and cheaper to start up than a restaurant, especially in the suburbs, where there seems to be a growing population yearning for it.

How much does it cost to start a Shawarma business?

As the saying goes “follow the money”.  So there must be a profitable bottom-line for the Shawarma business judging from the large number of entrepreneurs that have gone into it in the past few years.

Nkem runs a Shawarma joint in Egbeda, another suburb of Lagos. He has something to say about starting up.

“The business does not require much to start depending on your location, and how big you intend to begin.”

He had a relatively small but efficient beginning starting with N200,000 capital and he has since enjoyed moderate success.

Emmanuel Okechukwu runs a similar Shawarma joint at the Idimu area of Alimoso, Lagos, and he said he was able to start up his joint with only N100,000, albeit without a shop. He said all he had was a small corner to set up his equipment and do business.

Our dear Chioma started up her spot with about N200,000 in Ekpoma, but was quick to add that it would have cost her less than that if she had not decided to add some personal touch of design to her spot, and;

Jude started with about N250,000. He said his start-up capital was a little high because he had to pay a large sum for his spot in the busy Ikorodu area, where his shop presently is.

in Rachel’s case, she started her own business in Abeokuta with about N300,000 because she bought some specialized equipment for making her Shawarma.

After talking to these individuals, it is obvious that your start-up capital for a Shawarma joint is largely dependent on your location and the type of equipment you are using. And maybe how large is the cash available to you for the new venture.

To start a Shawarma joint you will need the following:

A heating machine to warm up the finished product for customers. A locally made one or an imported second hand one cost between N40,000 and N60,000.

A gas cylinder to provide heat to the heating machine, #10,000 will do.

A display glass to showcase your fresh sliced up chicken and hot dogs.

Rent for your shop. Or your cubicle. But you might need a canopy to protect you and customers from the elements (if you have a cubicle or a small shop)

Finally, you will need the recipe. You can find those on YouTube, a quick-cooking tutorial will get you started.

Do people love Shawarma?

The numbers speak for themselves, if there was no love for the commodity, there won’t be this growing number of joints around us. And this is article wouldn’t be necessary.

Nkem noted that the majority of his customers are young couples who simply stroll over to him, sits for a few minutes while he gets their orders ready, after which they simply continue with their romance. He also stated that the aroma emanating from the tasty treat is one of the major attractions for passer-byes.

People love Shawarma enough for the business owners to make a decent profit out of it, not without a little stress anyway. Chioma noted that she makes a profit of about N4,000 from selling 15 pieces of her N800 Shawarma.

Jude makes approximately N6,000 profit daily from selling 15 pieces of his N1,000 Shawarma and on a good day he could sell 30 of them.

For Rachael, the profit from a Shawarma business comes from a good recipe, your location andconnection, ‘ which she said is your ability to attract more customers daily. She said a good business can attract an average of 20 customers a day, which will translate into a tidy profit to cover all the stress involved in the business.

Tolu explained that the sales of a Shawarma joint might be affected by competition ’round the corner.’ in her case, she tries to maximise profit by giving the customers some other variies. these include chicken and chips.

Definitely, there are lots of stress involved in running a Shawarma joint. From taking trips to the market for fresh materials, sometimes on daily basis.

Depending on your recipe, materials needed for making the Shawarma include cabbage, sweet corn, tomatoes, onion, ginger, black pepper and black pepper. and of course, your dough and the spices like sesame oil, ketchup and garlic. But you dare not forget the chicken or the meat fillings.

But on the whole people’s love for Shawarma is the major driving force for the surge in the number of Shawarma joints in the cities.

So you can catch on to this fad while it lasted.

Additional reports by Sunday Akintoye

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