The hallmark of an enduring entrepreneur is the ability to sniff opportunities and harness them for profit. An entrepreneur is a solution provider.
The cycle of life throws up problems in a given environment at a particular time which some people may see as obstacles and inconveniences while others may see them as opportunities.
That is how the business of trash started. While people in the neighborhood saw littering mounds of garbage as a nuisance, entrepreneurs sniffed an opportunity for monetary returns doing the clear-up.
It is the entrepreneur’s response to the challenges around him that turns problems to currency. Understandably too, he is a trail blazer who sees the prospect before others do.
A recent hospitalization and the accompanying challenges inspired this article. The extent of the power of those issues over my chances at a speedy and complete recovery unearthed a business area which cacheblog intends to share here with her avid readers who are in search of a new area of cache to explore.
Whilst still a student at the university of Benin in the 1980s, we had an imposing edifice we called the café. With monthly N30.00 tickets, you could eat the world. There was also a compassionate side to this food providing structure:
Each time we joined the queue for dinner, one had to find out if the line was for the ‘pepperless’ group or for the regular rest.
It was well understood that people with gastric disorders like peptic ulcer would not do well on peppery and spicy foods so, their meals were prepared and served on a separate file.
‘Pepperless’ thereafter became a coinage for people who were weak and the ‘aje butters’- the spoilt children who could not withstand stress. There were also water dispensers and you could choose whether you wanted your drink hot, warm, ordinary or cold. Did I hear you say “the good old days”?
Now when you do not have health issues, you may not appreciate the relevance of such provisions but, it is not a bad idea to deliberately re-cultivate the sensitivity in our erstwhile cultures.
With such provisions, people undergoing treatment for ulcer could stay in school because they could readily find what to eat.
Most eateries today are only prepared to serve regular meals and have nothing on their menus for people who may have special needs. You could walk into a joint and realize that they have only very cold drinks to serve; unaware that some people, on doctor’s advice, may not take their food with cold drinks.
Back to my matter, the doctor reeled out a list of don’t-eats and a well starched nurse stalked in to ask if I had eaten so I could start my regimen of injections and infusions.
But, from all that the doctor had just weeded off the regular menu, I suddenly found that I could not get anything to eat from any restaurant anywhere around and the hospital. As is the case with many private and sometimes public hospitals of today, food has to be outsourced as they do not run kitchens.
I wondered how many people could have found themselves in such circumstances before; I couldn’t have been the first. It got me thinking about the business philosophy behind our eateries and I wondered how many would be prepared to go into the business of running inclusive cuisines to bridge this gap.
On the special needs list would include people with chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
For such groups, doctors and nutritionists recommend foods with low-fat cooking and slow cooking rather than high-heat and high-fat cooking like frying; and to choose carbohydrates high in fibre.
They are also advised to limit saturated fat, trans-fat and hydrogenated fats/oils such as shortening and hard margarine used frequently in baked goods and frozen foods, to limit processed meats and to remove all visible fat and skin from animal meats.
Before you wonder if your restaurant should modify its menu just because of a few people, I would like to state that the modification would serve many more people than you know.
Most people who eat in restaurants are adults and according to America’s Centre for Disease Control, CDC, figures published in 2004, “Half of all adults in the US have at least one chronic condition such as diabetes, heart disease or obesity”.
While we may not have figures on prevalence rate in Nigeria, the figures may actually be higher here and our food routine might be worsening the situation.
A new concept in food business would be to serve an inclusive clientele- serving both the traditional dishes and the peperless menu for people who may already have or who wish to avoid health challenges.
This represents a huge market that cannot be ignored. Food vendors are missing out on a lot of business because some people avoid eating out just to stay away from ‘poison’.
Some take their own food to work and would be relieved to learn that the restaurant at their place of work is prepared to go the extra mile by catering to their needs. As a food vendor, you would also be pleased when you know that adults are not eating themselves to their early graves by patronizing your joint.
This is a good venture area for the discerning entrepreneur. It is socially responsive and will also yield goodwill.