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Moving your business in new directions? Do it properly

Feb 15, 2015 Sunday Nation

Nairobi is a madhouse. Getting around is a real pain these days. A simple trip can take a couple of hours out of your day. And if you look at the willingness and competence of the people in charge to solve the awful traffic problem, you have to conclude that it will be jam today, jam tomorrow.

Simple pleasures, like those of popping out in the sunshine for a quick coffee, or lunch in a favourite restaurant, are disappearing fast. Most busy people look at the lost hours and eat at their desks these days.

One man’s crisis – as someone said in Twin Peaks many years ago – is another man’s opportunity. Restaurants could sit back and do nothing as their customers stop braving the traffic or fighting for parking, and stay away. Or they could do something about it.

As seated business declines, delivery business grows. As people get busier, and traffic gets ever more impossible to tackle, the willingness to enjoy meals in your own home or office grows. It is thus in every major city; it will be thus in spades in gridlocked Nairobi.

Many people are quick off the blocks. Some food ventures, like some of our newly arrived American-origin pizza outlets, get the delivery business. They think it through, they gear up for it, they recruit for it, equip for it, keep the turnaround times tight. This is good to see, and even better to benefit from as a consumer.

Others, however, make you wonder. Our established restaurants are mostly making a hash of delivery. And they will lose out as a result. There is no point in rushing to offer the delivery option if you can’t actually deliver on your promise. And too many are set up to fail.

Here are a few things I hear often. Yes, we do deliver. No, we don’t have a website with an online menu. No, we don’t have a takeaway menu, maybe we can give you a photocopy of the main one. No, we don’t keep a database – give me your address details again. No, we don’t have any heat-retaining packaging. No, we can’t deliver today because we only have one piki-piki guy and he’s sick. Oh, you’ve been waiting for an hour? It’s because our guy can’t find your place. You said you’re where?

People, please. Don’t touch this thing unless you can do it properly. If you can’t deliver to most customers on most days in 45 minutes or less, either using your own delivery system or an outsourced one, don’t even bother. If you aren’t even willing to make the basic investments, stay away. Home delivery in Nairobi will soon be done from mobile apps which will allow you to select, order and pay with a thumbprint, and watch your order make its way to you on the map in the app. That’s not science fiction, it’s imminent. That’s what you’re up against.

So if you’re a restaurant owner waking up to the new realities, drink some of your own strongest-blend coffee and wake up properly.

The wider lesson? Even in difficult situations, opportunities abound. As some people lose, others win. If you’re an established business moving into new playing fields, or a startup exploiting a gap, remember this: whatever you do, you have to do it properly. Slapdash strategy and hapless execution don’t cut it anymore. Processes, business tools and others do.

You think you have loyal customers? Watch them drop you like a stone when you can’t help them in their lives anymore. You think customers will flock to your great new app? Only if you’ve thought it through and can give them a customer experience that trumps the old way.

Watching the delivery business evolve in Nairobi reveals this: it’s not enough to see the opportunity, or have great ideas. The details of how you do things every day matter just as much.

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