Our lives and the way we do things have greatly changed, thanks to increasing use of new technologies (ICTs). From how we communicate to business operations and what or how we eat, are now largely dependent on ICTs. With platforms where one can order for food online, our favourite restaurants are 'coming' to us, and we can readily access food menus on our smartphones or on laptops in the comfort of our homes or offices. Those who have embraced these new technologies testify to have increased their market reach and sales.
In Kigali, Hellofood and Mr. Chips Restaurant, Soleluna Restaurant, Khana Khazana, Meze Fresh, White Horse Restaurant and Kabana Club are some of the food vendors that have employed ICTs in marketing and customer relations with surprising results. Paul Searby, the Mr. Chips Restaurant manager and owner, said online marketing has greatly enhanced the eatery's sales, thanks to Kigali's online community.
He said in the beginning (early this year), it was a little challenging to deliver all the orders in time, but now they have engaged a number of mototaxi riders to do quick deliveries, and ensure customers get their food hot and on time. He notes that with the new facility of food deliveries, the sales have increased from 2 per cent to 67 per cent because clients can now easily access the food. "So far, the World Cup period was the busiest time for the restaurant as a lot of people would order food to be delivered at their place so they enjoy the games without interruptions," he said.
Searby believes that platforms like Hellofood has much potential and that people, especially restaurants and others in the hospitality sector, are positioning to drive sales and expand their reach.Searby urges industry players who are still reluctant to embrace ICTs in operations to view it as another avenue to exploit and introduce their products to the huge community online. He notes that most Kigalians have taken the trend in a stride "they understand it and appreciate that facilities are user-friendly".
The customer can order anytime they want, Searby says. "The customer is able to customise their order the way they like it without errors in communication between the customer and the restaurant," he adds. With ICTs, the restaurant is able to take more orders with less staff. He says the restaurant does not need a waiter to be on the phone to take the order. "The order can go straight to the kitchen."
Jean Marie, who works with one of big corporate firms in Kigali, says since many people "spend a lot of their time on social media using mobile phones or laptops; it makes sense to use online marketing to build businesses".
Paul, another corporate, says the online marketing and deliveries made by Hellofood and Jumia Market, an online market, are meeting a need and serving an untapped market segment. "People are so busy with work nowadays that they don't have time to go eat at home or even go to the restaurant. So, food deliveries by some hotels are helping workers save time and money," he says.
Frank Mugisha, who uses the Hellofood online service, says the platform has changed his life. "I don't bother anymore going to restaurant at lunch time. I can even order dinner and don't have to cook at night when I get home," he says.