Jakes Bar and Kitchen

The setting at Jakes Bar and Kitchen place in Nyeri town.

| Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The business of food: Why you will never go wrong when you heed your customers’ call

What you need to know:

  • Businessman is a chef with 21 years’ experience and operated three restaurants in Nairobi before relocating to Nyeri.
  • Jakes Kitchen is located in King’ong’o at the outskirts of Nyeri town, but besides the restaurant, he also owns a cocktail bar.

For three years, James Wambua, a businessman based in Nairobi, used matatus plying the Nyeri-Nairobi highway to deliver food to his many customers in Nyeri County.

He would send food packages using 2NK matatus, a journey that would take about three hours to reach the clients.

“The only inconvenience was having to wait for the food, which would get to them cold, but we recommended heating it just a little bit to enjoy it,” he says.

A chef with 21 years’ experience, he operated three restaurants in Nairobi — Chris P Wings, Who’s Yo Daddy BBQ and Urban Tacos.

Realising that a majority of his clients were from Nyeri, he closed down the three restaurants in Nairobi and relocated to Nyeri, where he started Jakes Kitchen.

“I realised that operating from the two towns was difficult and was not commercially viable, that is why I moved to Nyeri permanently five months ago,” he explains.

Jakes Kitchen is located in King’ong’o at the outskirts of Nyeri town, but besides the restaurant, he also owns a cocktail bar.

Jakes Bar and Kitchen

The setting at Jakes Bar and Kitchen place in Nyeri town.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

“Posting raw footage of the cooking process and serving prompted people to identify with my work and salivate over our food, driving up the orders,” he says, adding that he is keen to do away with the misconception that Nyeri is a rural area where people only consume traditional foods or have no money to spend on dishes considered luxurious.

With this in mind, Wambua is capitalising on the high demand for fast food joints in the county to satisfy the needs of people who are forced to travel far from their base in search of a particular dish.

Offering uncommon dishes in this county, people troop the restaurant in droves for its chicken wings, barbecued burgers and tacos. Besides this, one can also get a serving of mutton, pork and beef choma.

He intends to introduce pizza in February.

On Tuesdays, the restaurant runs an offer dubbed Taco Tuesday, where clients get four tacos for the price for three, which costs about Sh750. In a day, he says, they sell over 100 tacos. Burgers go for Sh450 and above.

At the restaurant, besides the regular fries, he makes four other types of fries - Ranch Fries, Garlic Parmesan fries, BBQ fries and coconut curry fries.

“People want nice things in Nyeri. There are no good food joints here that you can have early morning breakfast or lunch, which is where we come in,” Wambua notes.

He has contracted motorcycle riders who deliver food anywhere within the county, including in offices – orders come via the phone and the restaurant’s social media pages.

Jakes Bar and Kitchen

Jakes Bar and Kitchen place in Nyeri town.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Running a restaurant is no mean feat. The biggest one is that he has to source some of the ingredients from Nairobi as they are not available in local markets. Skilled labour is also hard to come by. 

While starting out in Nyeri, he was forced to do most of the food preparation as well as the cooking since none of the staff knew how to prepare the dishes, especially the tacos.

“I have had to teach all of them how to cook all these dishes, now they are good at it and we are all set for business.”

Before opening his new restaurant, as is expected of new ventures, he had to acquire the necessary licenses, a strenuous and long process that took him more than three months.

“It is not expensive, but it is a long process given that I applied when the board is usually disbanded (after every three years), so I had to wait until a new board was constituted, which had me waiting for quite a while,” he explains.

Relocating and starting afresh in another county was not costly as he already owned all the utensils and equipment he required to start off the business.

He envisions a thriving business with staying power.

“The reception has been amazing, which I attribute to the fact that we serve a variety of food that people can pick from, we are also changing the narrative that good food cannot be found in Nyeri town.”

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