Buying or selling a restaurant or bar?

Charles Mwakio

Charles Mwakio (left) and Edwin Mghanga run Mkahawa Solutions. The online platform allows buying and selling of wares and services by cafes, hotels, bars and restaurants.

Photo credit: Pool

The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for some of the most significant innovations causing ripples not just in the country, but beyond.

While studying at the University of Eldoret, Edwin Mghanga decided to invest in a side hustle which involved selling the popular mshikaki – bits of meat and vegetables threaded in skewers. He set up grill stations in three different locations in Eldoret town and got down to business.

The venture gave him lots of insight into the food business as he, later on, grew the business and began to offer catering services in Uasin Gishu County.

As for Charles Mwakio, he grew his business acumen working in a family-run bar and restaurant based in Mombasa. The two, who are cousins, would end up setting a company together.

During the height of the pandemic, most hospitality outlets had long since been forced to shut down and were looking for ways to offload stock, furniture, utensils and others. Also, when the government eased restrictions, businesses re-opened and those that had invested in the hospitality industry needed help with complying with the new norm.

 These included regulations, branding, rebranding, renovation, hiring and navigating the digital world as more consumers opted for online shopping and delivery services. Having been in the hospitality industry, the two decided to combine their experience and knowledge to register a platform known as Mkahawa Solutions, an online business offering various solutions to operators of cafes, hotels, bars and restaurants.

 “When we receive an inquiry from a new client, we take them through a series of steps, the first being conducting a needs analysis over a call, chat or email where we capture the client’s desires and requests. We then review the needs analysis and brainstorm on the best approach to support them,” explains Mwakio.

The third step involves presenting the client with a proposal that captures how long the project or task will take, a quotation, and the requirements that the client will be expected to meet. The client then looks over the proposal and makes a financial commitment, which is then sealed with a contract.

“The project could either involve helping them set up a new outlet, restructure one or help them look for a buyer in case they are looking to exit,” he adds.

On completion of the project, the client is presented with a sign-off form but continues to enjoy support services either virtually or on-premise.

“We help the operators manage one-off or recurring tasks and projects such as buying, setting up or selling of food and beverage outlets, digital branding and marketing, business planning, research, social media management, and venue promotion,” says Mghanga.

“We had to have a good understanding of matters to do with compliance, technology, management marketing, branding, staffing, operations, and most importantly, conducting in-depth research on regulatory requirements in the hospitality sector as this gave us the confidence in guiding our clients,” adds Mwakio.

The platform offers a variety of packages, facilitation services and tailored solutions to first-time owners, start-ups, existing businesses, and those who want to exit.

“The customers range from one-off to project-based clients, whereby for the one–off, we can serve an average of 15 to 40 businesses a month - we are currently managing three outlets as projects,” he adds.

Mghanga notes that what makes their business stand out is the knowledge, experience and ability to offer a one-stop shop for all hospitality needs. Through embracing technology, their clients get to access their services from wherever they are.

“We serve and support our clients either on site or virtually using various digital communication platforms and channels” adds Mghanga.

Their first client was a bar and restaurant based in Mombasa that was undergoing renovation back in July 2020, where they offered site supervision and management services. When they were done with the project, they posted the work on their various digital media platforms, leading to enquiries and referrals.

Most of their projects are in Nairobi City where they are currently located. Some of the challenges associated with this kind of business, they point out, include a lack of access to working capital when handling project-based work.

There is also a lack of appreciation from some business owners on the need and importance of compliance, setting up business systems and structures.