Eric Idogun is the Chief Executive Officer of Pepperoni foods, a Quick Service Restaurant, QSR. He disregarded opportunities to work in oil companies few years ago to pursue his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He said he was inspired by a strong desire to succeed, be in total control of his life, attain financial freedom and, most importantly, impact the society.
Eventually, Pepperoni Foods Limited, the company he established nine years ago with less than N5 million to his credit, has gradually become a national brand. Six years into operations (December 2011) in Nairobi, Kenya Idogunâ€™s Pepperoni won the African Award for Entrepreneurship for its outstanding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). In this interview with JONAH NWOKPOKU, Idogun speaks on the opportunities in the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR), challenges and his success story.
There is a growing worry over the health condition of the food we eat at quick service restaurant today. Are the operators responding to this concern?
QSR all over the world now plays a major role in providing meals to a large portion of the populace, especially in the urban centres. In Nigeria, the industry sector is worth billions of naira. The impact food offered by various QSR operators on the health of the people cannot, therefore, be overlooked.
While there is a general concern over the health conditions of some food served from QSRs, there is conscious effort by operators to introduce healthier alternatives in their menu. These include white meat, vegetable, fruit salads and other glutton free meals.
At Pepperoni, for instance, we are mindful of these concerns and that is why our business model is primarily centred on incorporating healthy recipes for all the product offerings. We donâ€™t take the health of our customers for granted because they are the reasons we are in business.
We also provide nutritional information on various products served to help consumers make the right choice of combination. The goal is to assist them make the right decision so that they can achieve balanced diet.
Amid the surge of unhygienic foodstuffs, how can a restaurant take full control of its supply chain to achieve minimum safety standard?
Three critical factors are involved: sourcing of raw materials, storage and processing. QSRs should be able to manage these factors in a strategic manner to ensure that only inputs from credible sources are used for cooking. The preparation and dishing of finished products should be carried out in the highest hygienically-controlled environment. At Pepperoni Foods, every product and process is highly monitored and controlled to ensure that we meet the highest industry standards; we donâ€™t compromise any stage.
Nigerians expect to see restaurant chains with the capacity to control every stage of food production, meaning that such firms will own farms and capacity to process the ingredients they need for cooking. Is this expectation realistic?
While this is an ideal concept, practically, it is not feasible for all restaurant chains to own and operate raw material inputs like farms and processing facilities. To enable QSRs focus on their core business, it is imperative for government and financial institutions to encourage farmers to establish integrated farms and facilities to meet increasing demand of restaurant chains and hospitality industry.
QSRs, as part of their CSR, can also partner small farmers to produce healthy products like organic food crops and poultry. This will stimulate production of the needed raw materials and increase the quality of control in the supply chain.
What should be the role of government in standard-setting and monitoring? Do we need a distinct regulatory framework for QSRs?
I think government is doing what it should through the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Ministry of Health. The only challenge is that there appears to be no synergy between the various regulatory bodies. And given that the industry is expanding by the day, it is important the government looks into establishing a department that does not only understands the business but that is also equipped to fully support operators to effectively maintain required standards.
How does the challenge imposed by poor transportation system affect the operations of the industry?
Good road network and transportation system are very critical to managing supply chain and distribution network in the industry. This is necessary to maintain standards and consistency of products across the restaurant chains.
At the moment, the poor state of our road infrastructure and transport systems do not support maintaining centralised production facilities. At Pepperoni, we have to invest heavily in multiple production centres and vehicles to enable us maintain functional distribution system among our outlets. This significantly increases our cost of operations and tightens profit margins.