What to know when starting a street food business

Nigeria’s high unemployment and deepening poverty rate is making street food business an emerging opportunity to make quick money for survival, especially among young people.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, street foods are ready-to-eat foods and beverages prepared or sold by vendors, especially in streets and public places. Usually sold in the late hours of the day, it provides convenience for many people and a livelihood for millions of middle and low-income people.

The business does not require huge capital or equipment to kick-start. Street vendors interviewed by BusinessDay said that adequate training is required depending on the type of business because the market is quite competitive and could collapse if not managed effectively.

Zainab Ibrahim, a puff-puff seller on Araromi street, Ogudu road, who has been in the company for eight years, indicated that one can start the business with N50,000 or N60,000.

She also sells water yam, round fish, potatoes, Pomo, and sauce to meet the ever-increasing demand from clients, resulting in more than 100 daily customers.

“The amount I started my business then is higher now,” Ibrahim said. “So I would advise you to budget like 100,000. And also combine the business with other finger foods like fried yam, potatoes, and smoked fish,” she advised.
She also mentioned that choosing a suitable location is necessary before purchasing items such as small camping gas, frying pans, and a show glass for displaying the finger feasts to the public. Ibrahim concluded that the business has helped cover family expenses such as school fees and rent over the years.

Godwin Sunday, a shawarma business specialist, told BusinessDay that the first step in starting a business is to look for an environment with no competition, adding that competition will arrive with time, but you’ll have to work extra hard to keep your consumers.

“One year into the business, I began to have competitors who sold theirs for a cheaper price of N500 when I was selling for N700 to draw my customers but when they saw that my shawarma tasted better, they came back,” Sunday said.

He does yearly promotions to keep and grow his customer base, such as including free drinks with shawarma orders of N1000 or more. He also revealed that establishing a regular shawarma business will cost around N400, 000, with the following equipment required: toaster, deep fryer, deep freezer, show glass and fry pan.

Taking a trip down Ogudu lane, at Kosofe Area of Lagos state, BusineeDay encountered two young women Victoria and Mercy, both of whom sell cooked noodles to waiting customers that live around the blocks.

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According to Victoria, a pack of noodles is N3200, a crate of eggs is N2000, and a pack of plastic plates N1,500. She added that setting up that kind of business needs little capital N10, 000 plus cooking equipment, foodstuff and spices, and most importantly Carton of Noodles.

They mentioned that they remit to the business owner account N5, 000 daily as part of the agreement when starting the business. “We pay N5, 000 into the man’s account on a daily basis though we also sell Akara, fish, Pomo to join the noodles business. We open every day except Sundays.”

She also added that they sell those extra things to keep up with customers’ extra needs outside of the cravings for noodles.

When asked if the rising cost of foodstuff in the market had changed the price of a pack of cooked noodles, Mercy replied, “We still maintain the fixed price of products while selling to customers despite the high cost of things in the market. We sell one noodle with two eggs for N550 and we added N50 because of the new price of noodles.”

Our curiosity drew us to Mende, Maryland, though quiet, has a vibrant nightlife with a few street food vendors along the streets, the most popular of which is Suya Spot, which has been there since the 1980s.

“We paused to make some purchases after a failed attempt to speak with the suya sellers. We observed a woman roasting pieces of corn along the same street, a stone’s throw from the suya site, and we had some interesting conversations with Chidinma Ugbeje, the corn seller.

Chidinma, who took after his late mother in her corn business when asked the number of sales she makes stated that she sells more than 50 pieces of corn in a day selling at the rate of N100 and N200. Commenting on what attracted her to the business she mentioned that roasting maize is a seasonal trade that comes with the rain.

However, she disclosed that corn is very expensive as a bag of corn is sold for N600 and some N900. On starting up a corn business she said, “N30, 000 can start the business. You have to buy corn, coconut, charcoal, and wire. We sell corn for N200 and three for N500.

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