How to make food on the backstreets and still impress everyone

Photo credit: Sheffield Africa

By Millicent Mwololo

Imagine walking up to your favourite chicken and burger eatery in the backstreets of Nairobi, and it offers the same quality and level of hygiene as what you would find at an outlet in big mall.

Sheffield Africa, an end-to-end innovator in the kitchen, laundry, cold-room, and healthcare space, has seen the success of box kitchens in the Western world, and now asks: Why not in Kenya?

Street food is a culture in some parts of the Western world, where it is common for even the well-to-do to eat by the roadside, thanks to quality facilities.

“In Kenya, we have two sets of food retail solutions; one for the haves and another for the have-nots. This creates a gap, because as for the common Kenyan, there is hardly quality food being served on the streets,” says Sheffield Africa Managing Director, Suresh Kanotra.

Generally in Kenya, and probably in many other parts of the world, decent restaurants are conceived with the well-to-do in mind. You see this right from the themes to the cuisines and the prices. In Nairobi, for instance, such restaurants keep sprouting.

And the opposite applies to the common street eateries, which by design, do not seem to welcome the bourgeoisie who may wish to have a quick, simple, quality meal, and mingle.

Now with its new box kitchen solutions for street use and containerised kitchen facilities, Sheffield Africa is out to see Kenyans of different socio-economic backgrounds visit roadside kiosks for quick meals, drinks and snacks.

“Unless these street solutions are going to be world-class in appearance, and in operations – well equipped and guaranteeing hygiene and efficiencies of operation – they will not hit off. That is where Sheffield comes in,” Mr Kanotra says.

Cost less

A major advantage of the box kitchens is that they cost less in comparison to commercial spaces, without compromising quality.

In the malls and other established urban centres, a typical coffee shop would cost at least Ksh50 million to set up and be operational. But with box kitchen solutions offered by Sheffield Africa, they can take their brand and the quality they stand for, deep into ordinary streets, much more affordably, Mr Kanotra says.

Sheffield Africa is bringing the world-class solutions within the budget range of start-ups, and also for established operators who would like to have extra outlets across different socio-economic locations.

The facilities are largely mobile. They can either be assembled and dissembled on site, or driven in and out of location on wheels. They are also theme-based, and therefore can be customised for, say, Nyama Choma (roast meat), branded chicken, healthy take-away meals/snacks, or have a table set-up where a few customers can sit and eat or drink.

The designs cover a wide range of suitability. Whatever your interest, be it investing in a bakery, ice cream parlour, coffee shop, beer joint, or a butchery, and so on, you will get it.

All the solutions come fully fitted with electrical, plumbing, and draining capabilities, plus a water tank and all.

An investor only needs to identify a location and Sheffield Africa will assemble the facility. They even do prefabricated units that can be fitted on a truck and placed there, ready to open the next day.

Presently, the prices of these facilities range from about Ksh750,000 to Ksh7 million, depending on type. This means there is something for different levels of investment capabilities.

“Box kitchen solutions are very flexible. If a certain menu doesn’t work for you in a particular location, you can lift the box and take it to a different location without having to lose your investment, unlike if you were to rent space.”

In a pilot project, food retailers who have already established three street kitchens are happy about it. The box kitchens are also working as ‘cloud’ kitchens for distributing online orders. Sheffield is currently installing street kitchens for clients in Kisumu, and on Langata Road and Embakasi in Nairobi.

The facilities are also ideal for the residential estates, for instance, a butchery in a gated community set-up. Young hospitality graduates or youth and women groups would find them useful. 


They are largely made of stainless steel, which make them durable. They come with 12 months’ warranty, and Sheffield Africa guarantees the availability of service parts. The company’s team of engineers can go to site for maintenance to ensure clients have no downtimes.


Interested? From May 24, to May 27, Sheffield Africa will be hosting an exhibition titled, “How to create quality food in the streets of Kenya”. The company will host this within their premises, off Old Mombasa Road, opposite Hilton Garden Inn and near the SGR Syokimau terminus. This is an opportunity for you to see the products and the people behind the idea.

Sheffield Africa has created real-size models. “The designs will put out ideas where investors can discuss their own plans and how it can be customised. They are free to say, ‘I want a similar one but it should be doing this also’. And we can customise the design as for the need, and the budget,” says Mr Kanotra.

The initiative presents an opportunity for operators in the food industry, start-ups, non-governmental organisations, co-operatives, and other investors who would want to venture into the food space.

Sheffield will also be exhibiting a few other new technologies they recently launched or are about to. These include off-grid solar-based cold-rooms ideal for farmers and food distributors, and food driers that can be safely used to dry fruits and veggies for later consumption.

The firm has also launched steam-based cooking solutions for use by institutions such as schools, hospitals, and factories, that provide workers with food. “The solutions are much greener and efficient in the consumption of energy and time, and are more hygienic, as they are made mainly with stainless steel,” says Sheffield’s MD. They can be good replacement for cookers that use wood-fuel, which is not only a health hazard, but also a threat to the environment.

For more information about Sheffield Africa and the exhibition, go to