By Charles Etukuri
Vincent Twesigomu always wanted to be self-employed. In a desperate attempt to achieve his dream, he ventured into business twice without planning adequately.
Twice, his restaurant businesses did not survive the infancy stage, until he laid down a proper business plan. The business is now worth sh20m
We were ushered in by the savoury aroma of fried meat. But then even as we waited for our orders to be taken, we would never have guessed that the man who had welcomed us at the entrance and taken our orders was Vincent Twesigomu, the proprietor of Vicent No Chef.
When one of us asked for the owner of the restaurant, one of the staff pointed to the young man who had just taken our orders.
Twesigomu’s story of resilience reads like fiction. He started out by running a roadside takeaway, where he was employed by his brother. All they owned at the time was a charcoal stove, a saucepan and a few plates. Today, he runs a successful restaurant in Luzira and also does outside catering.
Twesigomu gets involved in the running of his business
So how did he start? “I developed the idea of setting up my own business in 1999. In 2000, I set off from the village to join my brother, who had a small evening takeaway business in Nakawa Market,” he says.
“While I worked there, I decided to enrol for a catering course at the Makerere University Business School. I had big ambitions and that is why I wanted to study catering. I did not want to work for other people.
“After working with my brother for some time, I decided to start my own takeaway so that I could make money just like my brother. I opened a food joint in 2004,” Twesigomu says.
The decision to start his own takeaway did not go down well with his brother. “He felt that I had betrayed him and interfered in his business since we now shared almost the same customers,” he says.
The brothers became enemies and only reconciled recently.
“But then I had not planned adequately before starting the business, so I struggled to make it work. When the business failed to pick up, I decided to temporarily close it down and went in search of casual jobs. I wanted to raise enough capital and start off again in a big way,” Twesigomu adds.
Just like other businesses that close in their infancy, Twesigomu thinks he rushed into opening his food joint.
“Just because we were making money with my brother, I thought I would just walk in there and start minting money,” he says.
Twesigomu would later do a number of casual jobs, from working in a water company, painting and working as a porter.
In 2007, he decided to try again. He went back to Nakawa Market and started a restaurant.
But then, the pace at which his business was picking up was not so encouraging, a fact he attributes to not being aggressive enough.
“Besides, the service I was offering at the time was not the best because of the little capital I was operating on. So I was forced to shut down my business for the second time,” Twesigomu says. “A friend of mine who was working with Metro Cash and Carry Supermarket encouraged me to join him in their kitchen. In April 2007, Metro Cash and Carry closed shop and we all lost our jobs,” he says.
Twesigomu then went back to the streets. He worked briefly for Alam Group of Companies as a chef before he was offered a job in a supermarket takeaway section.
“But even with all these jobs, I still did not find the satisfaction I wanted. My dream of becoming self-employed remained alive,” he says.
While on duty, Twesigomu would take time off to attend to a number of entrepreneurship courses organised by Enterprise Uganda.
After saving some money, he started looking for a convenient place to open up a restaurant.
“It was difficult to get a place because most of the places were too expensive for me,” he says. But as luck would have it, a friend offered to give him part of his supermarket which he had partitioned.
Twesigomu says one of the biggest secrets of starting up a good restaurant is a strategic place, good food and good ambience.
“Location is key to a successful restaurant. Be near the kind of customers you would like to serve, so that they can conveniently visit you,” he advises.
Twesigomu also says a restaurant is a people business and managing the relationship one has with his clients is the toughest and most crucial part of the business.
“If you would like to run your business more professionally, it is important to hire good people. People with the right attitude and skills will make all the difference in the experience your guests have at your restaurant. Market yourself well and you could make some good money and even a name for yourself,” he says.
Twesigomu also says while starting a restaurant, you must plan your work and then work your plan. “Put down all your ideas and try implementing them,” he adds.
He says there is need for anyone interested in the restaurant business to calculate well their start-up costs and monthly expenditure.
“Be prepared that until people get to know and like your restaurant, you may not make enough money to cover all your expenses, so put aside some extra cash for that,” he says.
“Make sure that you know who your competition is and why customers should choose your restaurant over another,” he advises.
After closing shop twice, what could have kept Twesigomu in business?.
“I always put myself in my customer’s shoes when deciding on food and service. Most importantly, I put into consideration what I will charge and how much food will be offered in each dish,” he says.
His biggest challenge today remains the fluctuating market prices. “Food prices keep on changing and sometimes, we are forced to pass on this to our clients. Some people do not understand this and it eats into our profits,” he says.
Twesigomu has also ventured into outside catering.
“I hope to expand soon and run a chain of restaurants around town,” he says. So far, he has ploughed back most of the profits he has been making and his restaurant is estimated to be over sh20m.