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The Chief Executive Officer of Wokcity Restaurant, Mrs Funmi Lewis in her chat with PLATFORMTIMES highlighted the different policies of establishing a catering business in Nigeria and Abroad. EXCERPTS
Briefly, who is Funmi Lewis?
My name is Mrs Funmi Lewis, I’m the CEO of Wokcity, a restaurant located at Oke-ilewo area of Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State.
The restaurant was established about two years ago and to the glory of God we have been doing fine.
I hold a B.sc degree in Accounting and Finance. I used to be an accountant but presently, I’m into food cooking and retailing, outdoor catering services as well as indoor restaurant.
I’m married and blessed with three grown up children in the United Kingdom.
Wok is not an English word, what is the meaning and how did you achieve establishing such restaurant in Abeokuta?
Actually, I named Wokcity after Abeokuta. Initially, I wanted to establish a Chinese restaurant but after speaking with our potential customers on the proposed menu, many of them were skeptical. Most of them noted that if it was a Chinese restaurant maybe they would only patronize us once in a month, but if it was a Yoruba restaurant they will patronize us on daily basis.
I thought of a name that could merge with a Chinese restaurant and also the English translation of Abeokuta, which is Rockcity.
I then look for Chinese cooking utensils that have a name close to ‘Rock’. The word ‘Wok’ sounds like ‘rock’.
Wok is a Chinese frying pan which is used to prepare Chinese fried rice. I thought about it and I decided to go by that name. That was how I came about Wokcity.
Being a new business then I did not want to take the risk, though we already registered the name Wokcity, all I did then was just to keep the name and change the food. Although, I still hope to go into Chinese foods because that is my first passion and mainly am an oriental chef.
You grew up in London and learnt catering services over there, how can you juxtapose catering services in London and in Nigeria?
I didn’t actually go to a formal catering school, cooking has been my hobby, even though I learnt catering business in the UK.
Establishing a catering business in Nigeria and in the UK is similar. The similarities are; you have the long hour, the dedication, passion and even you have to put more efforts into quality control.
In the UK we have strict health and safety regulation, the commission visits restaurant on a yearly basis to rate them and a sticker will be pasted at the door which signified that such restaurant have been verified by the commission.
Your business is determined by your compliance to the health and safety rules and regulation and that makes it very strict to run a catering business in the UK.
But in Nigeria, it is a pleasure to run a catering business, although we have the environmental sanitation officials that often come to check our surroundings but it is quite different from the practice in the UK.
Also the power supply in the UK is regular but here we spend a lot on the purchase of diesel every month. Consistency of supply is also another factor that differs catering in the UK and Nigeria.
Food is graded already in the UK, for instance if you need hot pepper, you order for it, in few time you will get it, but in Nigeria, if you order hot pepper the supplier might supply you milled pepper. Even butchers in Nigeria sell female beef despite that we demanded for male beef.
Another problem is that price of commodities fluctuate.
The AMALA DAY has been talk of the town, what is the special attention given to this day?
This is a day we have chosen to appreciate and celebrate our customers, we have planned to organize a party which will constitute some programmes such as dancing, competition among other interesting programmes.
People will be given the privilege to take any portion of amala for free and pay for just the beef or fish. I know amala is not the typical local food for Abeokuta but having sampling the opinion of our customers we detected that most of them prefer ‘Amala, Gbegiri and Ewedu.
As an entrepreneur in Ogun State, what is your advice to this new government?
Firstly, I will like to congratulate Prince Dapo Abiodun for his success in the 2019 Governorship election. My advice to this present government is to collaborate with Lagos State Government in moving the state forward because Ogun State is closer to Lagos state.I want the Governor to utilize this opportunity.
When it comes to entertainment, Ogun State is leading coupled with the fact that the State has hosted some entertainment and cultural programmes such as the Africa Drum Festival.
I will implore Governor Abiodun to continue some of these legacy programmes, especially in terms of entertainment in the public and private sectors.
Also the Government should encourage the Small Medium Enterprise (SMEs) so that it will be easier to set up a business in Ogun state. Presently, for any small establishment in this state you have about ten different taxes to pay, this is quite too much. If the tax can be centralize into one, it will be easier for a business person to plan well enough and of course there will be more businesses in the State.
You were among the awardees at the just concluded 1st Ogun Entrepreneurship Award organized by City People Media group, how best can you describe the award?
To the glory of God, Wokcity was awarded the outstanding restaurant of the year. I will describe this award as a blessing and recognition for the work we have been doing. We have been trying to run a community eatery. The way we relate with our customers has created a kind of community bond between us, because we know that our customers are kings.
On that award day, more than fifteen of our customers were at the event to celebrate with us. That shows the relationship we have built with them.
Do you have any new product?
Yes, we are planning to introduce pizza and premium ice cream to our customers. I went to Newcastle some weeks ago to study how to prepare pizza.
The one we have presently is the American pizza and our ice-cream is cream flavored with Italian recipes, we are doing all these to satisfy the interest of our customers.