There are many things I have learnt while running a restaurant in this Nairobi. Some I’ll spill here today. Others will continue being stories for ‘my boys’.
The latest thing I’ve learnt is that a businessperson collecting payments through an M-Pesa till number can now Fuliza to complete their business transactions. Wow! Who would have imagined “Fuliza for Business” ever becoming a thing? But I’ll come to that later.
I have learnt that there are people who will take tea whether the city is freezing like the Antarctic or piping hot as if we were in the middle of a forest fire.
There is this one customer who just has to involve tea in any meal. And by tea I mean hot tea, with a maximum of two teaspoons of sugar drowned in it, and the milk-water ratio balanced just right. He always says he has never heard that Kenyan cows have gone on strike. Whether it is a humongous fish he has demolished with ugali or a chunk of meat with mukimo, or even when someone has bought him some natural juice, somehow tea finds a way to his table. I respect his love for tea.
Then there is the guy who always asks for ugali-matumbo, whether it is morning hours, afternoon or evening. I always pity the look on his face when he finds his favourite meal not ready or is over, but we always try to have some on standby. I suspect Mr Ugali-Matumbo is a bachelor. But you never know with these millennials.
The other thing I have learnt is that your restaurant is as good as the person cooking chapatis, especially during morning hours. Tell you what? There is a lady who I have had to put up with, even with her not-so-perfect conduct, because her chapatis are so damn good.
I won’t tell you how many times I have had to raise her pay to fend off those who want to poach her. Without good chapatis, my restaurant is a one-star establishment.
I would have said something about “Kagwe special” and some customers I know, but that might put someone in trouble. The lesser I write, the better.
However, that is not the biggest story of the moment. There is a new thing that we in the restaurant sector have been talking about whenever we have conversations — which are often on our WhatsApp group due to these coronavirus times. It is the way M-Pesa’s “buy goods” service has been reconfigured to enable us, business people, to have more control over the cash collected.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the back-end of M-Pesa’s till number service has recently been revamped. Money from customers that goes to that till is now closer to our reach. Now it is possible to pay salaries direct from the till, send payments to suppliers, send money to another pay bill number, withdraw at an M-Pesa agent, buy airtime and more.
Most of this is enabled by the “M-Pesa for Business” app that was released by Safaricom on June 17, and now, just about three weeks on, it has more than 10,000 downloads. I am among those who have downloaded it.
I find the new service very helpful. As I write this, payment of staff salaries is due and for the first time I’ll pay my “five-star” chapatti specialist and her colleagues through their M-Pesa numbers straight from the restaurant M-Pesa till.
Paying salaries is not the only new capability. I have also been using it to pay my suppliers. In these Covid-19 times, it is a good thing to know that I can collect payments from customers and use some of it to pay suppliers without having to ‘touch’ cash. Quite thoughtful of Safaricom, isn’t it?
The one feature that has caused additional excitement is the “Fuliza for Business”. This overdraft facility promises to be a game-changer during these times of strained resources. It came in handy the other day when I had to get supplies from a supermarket after the normal channel failed me. Just like Fuliza for regular customers, this is an opt-in service once a person dials *234#. This facility will help many, I am sure.
The other new capabilities include the ability to directly check the balance in the till, the possibility of depositing cash into the till at any M-Pesa agent (rather than go to the bank as was before) and to view transaction reports.
This new feature also now makes every business owner an airtime seller. Through my till number, I can sell airtime and get a commission off it. I cannot afford to say no to an extra coin, can I? No more sending a waiter and waitress to dash out to get airtime for a customer.
Well, I’m also learning that kids give hotels a very huge boost on weekends, way more than people on dates. Now that parents want their kids to stay at home as much as possible, the difference in sales is noticeable. Much respect to the youngsters out there.
O.E.M, who prefers to withhold his identity, has been a restaurateur in Nairobi for five years.
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