Jenifer Shines In Hotel Business Tapping From Uganda Pentecostal University Customer Base.

Jenifer Shines In Hotel Business Tapping From Uganda Pentecostal University Customer Base.

In the life of every University student, finding a place or a restaurant where he or she can get food on a daily basis is always on his mind.

This is because food is so paramount in a student’s life that he has to make friendships with those running restaurants so they can even give him or her food on credit whenever financial limitations come his way.

One place that has played that role in the lives of many of the students at Uganda Pentecostal University is Viva Restaurant also known as Abwoli Restaurant.

Found just a few meters from Uganda Pentecostal University in Maguru trading center, almost no student will go a day without visiting this restaurant for either breakfast, lunch and even supper.

The restaurant is owned by Kabahenda Jenifer commonly known as Abwoli among the students.

Abwoli, whose largest customer base are the Uganda Pentecostal University students started off with a shop and tea room six years ago before she embarked on a restaurant business a year later.

This was shortly after resigning from her previous job as a loan’s officer at Kyarusozi Micro Finance in Kyenjojo district in 2014.

When her husband decided to shift from the district and come to Fort Portal, Abwoli says she tagged along where she immediately set up a shop and a tea room.

“After resigning from my job as a loan’s officer, my husband decided to relocate from Kyenjojo district to Fort Portal, I came with him and started a shop and a tea room.” She revealed.

According to her, students would come in to buy from her shop and also take tea from her tea room where she would even give them cassava to accompany it with the tea.

By then, the mother of five says business was booming since students would come in and out on a regular basis for her services.

Abwoli standing in her shop.

BUSINESS COLLAPSES

In 2016, the university which by then had two branches with the main branch found in Kahungabunyonyi while the other was in Mucwa, shifted the Mucwa campus to Kahungabunyonyi.

This is where things turned for the worst for her since students at Mucwa campus were her main customer base, she says she failed to get customers and her shop and tea businesses eventually collapsed.

To revive her business, Jenifer said she planned of following the students to Kahungabunyonyi but failed to get a house where she would operate from.

She explains that things turned for the worst on her side since she no longer had anything bringing income for her.

ABWOLI GETS BACK INTO BUSINESS

In 2017, her prayers were answered when the university again shifted from Kahungabunyonyi to Mucwa, with now all the courses being taught from this branch.

This is where she got the idea to start up a restaurant since her long gone customer base was now back.

Jenifer says she approached a friend who borrowed her with One Hundred Thousand shillings as startup capital. She started by preparing only Katogo for breakfast, Lunch and Supper.

The existence of only one restaurant in the area despite a huge customer base from the university according to her inspired her to begin a restaurant since she had the support of friendship she had made with the students.

Students were also complaining of the poor services at the only restaurant in Maguru at a time which she decided to drive on.

Abwoli serving food to Uganda Pentecostal University students at her restaurant.
Students enjoying their Lunch at Abwoli’s restaurant

WHAT SHE HAS ACHIEVED FROM HER RESTUARANT BUSINESS

Since then, the former Loan’s officer has never been the same, her restaurant business has expanded and she now prepares Matooke, Rice, Millet, Chicken, Meat and the rest from the Katogo that she started off with.

She has even started outside catering with people hiring her to provide catering services at their different functions like weddings and meetings.

Her restaurant business has helped her buy a plot of land, built a house and has paid school fees for her five children. To this day, Abwoli insists her restaurant business would not thrive if the UPU was not in place.

“Without UPU, my business would be off and I would be doing something else from another area probably, I will even close if the university again shifts from here.’’Abwoli said

Abwoli receiving Matooke from her suppliers that she later prepares for her customers at the restaurant.

HOW TO THRIVE IN THE RESTAURANT BUSINESS

To thrive in the restaurant business especially in an area like Maguru, she advices whoever wishes to start up the same business to be friendly to the students since they have the main customer base in the area.

This, she says has helped her to maintain her business because she is always assured of market for the food she prepares.

She also says discipline and speaking to the customers in a good way will help one to grow his or business in Maguru since students never want anyone that treats them badly whenever they come for his services.

“Be friendly to the students, talk to them very well, that’s why most of them come for my food because am their friend and I speak to them in a nice way.” She said.

Abwoli prepares to work on the order for her customer.

However, the hotelier turned mother to the students says that friendship with your customer alone is not enough, Jenifer, says observing cleanliness especially for business people dealing in food is paramount.

According to her, customers easily ignore restaurants that do not consider cleanliness as their first priority.

In fact, according to the report released by KRC Uganda on public eating places, markets and abbaitores in Kabarole district and fort portal city last year revealed that only 3 out of the 70 accounting for 4% of the inspected eating places were in grade “A” reflecting that they were safe to provide food for people.

On a contrary, majority of the public eating places like restaurants which were 37 out of the 70 accounting for 53% of the public eating places were graded at level C” indicating that they were unsafe to provide food for human consumption.

Overall there was observable poor waste management and poor food storage mechanisms in most of the public eating places.

Caroline Aural, a nutritionist at KRC Uganda says that most restaurants in Fort portal do not put much attention on how they handle food for their customers starting from the preparation stage to serving it.

This according to him has in the end chased a number of customers from certain restaurants that have failed on the concept of observing cleanliness.

Caroline Aural below speaks on the findings of the report.

Dr. Anthony Criniti IV, the author of The Necessity of Finance, a customer must be treated right if the restaurant business is to thrive. He goes ahead and summarizes this point in another book he authored, “The Most Important Lessons in Economics and Finance book.”

According to him, Businesses must keep the customer happy at every encounter and when they met with unusual amount of stress that you might be experiencing, it ends up not being the right long-term approach to making money in the restaurant business as it will lead to depletion of your customer base.

Just like Abwoli, Caroline says no customer would wish to eat food from the place that is un tidy since most of them fear getting diseases associated with uncleanliness.

WHAT STUDENTS SAY ABOUT ABWOLI

The students in their testimonies say she has been like a mother to them as they pursue their studies at Uganda Pentecostal University.

One of the students that never misses her food on a daily basis is James Natwijuka, a second year Law student at UPU.

 “Abwoli is like a mother to me, I have been getting food from her restaurant from the day I arrived in Fort Portal, even when I have no money she gives me food and I pay back on credit.” James said.

Kirungyi Annitah, also a second year Law student describes Abwoli as a good person to all the students and lectures who always gives them food and is always clean.

Annitah who juggles between working and taking on studies at the university says most of the time when she reaches home when she is already too tired to cook, the solution to this is that she normally goes to Abwoli’s restaurant.

https://youtu.be/sIrSvUn3M1E

“When I do not have money and I want food, she gives it to me and writes in a credit book, also other students who have no money at a certain point are given food and pay when they get money later.” Annitah said.

Even the former students who have since completed studies and moved on still praise Abwoli because of how she treated them.

Suzan Linda, who was at UPU between 2014 and 2017, at a time when Abwoli was just starting up her business says she used to give them everything they wanted on credit. Like other students, Suzan says Abwoli was like a mother to them.

Suzan Linda below talks about how she was treated by Abwoli.

CHALLENGES SHE HAS FACED IN HER RESTUARANT BUSINESS.

However, not has always been roses for Jenifer in her restaurant business, shortly after starting the restaurant, her competitors started branding her a witch who attracted students to her business by bewitching them.

She reveals that they even went ahead and told her landlord to chase her from the house where she is operating from.

“Because students love me very much, they always come to my restaurant, this forced my competitors to start saying that am a witch.” She said.

The increase in food prices has also become a thorn in Abwoli’s fresh because this has also forced her to increase the rates of her food. This has in the end forced many of her customers to seek for alternatives from other restaurants that are relatively cheap compared to hers.

Rent has also become her daily threat to her business, according to her, the rent fees she used to pay initially has increased gradually becoming expensive and taking more from her business.

Four years ago, she used to pay One hundred shillings per month and this has increased to Two Hundred Thousand shillings per month.

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