Using catering services for your meals doesn’t need to be an expensive venture —Grace Saanu
Most people believe eating out is always more expensive than cooking food at home, but Grace Saanu, founder of The Gracias Cuisine, says she has established a catering start-up that defeats this notion. She explains in this interview by PAUL OMOROGBE that customers can spend less and still have tasty meals delivered to them at their convenience.
Tell us about your business?
The Gracias Cuisine is a food based business that deals with catering for the needs of busy people but who love good homemade Nigerian soups. Basically, we sell and deliver soups to people whose schedule gives little or no time for cooking. These include aged parents, new morns, bachelors, spinsters – virtually everyone who craves for homemade Nigerian delicacies.
Why did you go into this kind of business?
I didn’t start cooking just like that. I have a passion for cooking which was ignited by my then boss, Femi Kounty of Kounty Kitchen at the University of Ibadan. Meeting him, it was like he set my mind ablaze on all I have ever thought was/is food.
As an undergraduate then, I heard friends make statements like, ‘if I had soup in my room, my meals for the week are sorted and I will spend less on buying food at the cafeteria.’ I realised that preparing that soup would save them money since spending less was a big deal for them. I saw the need. Then, I had friends who knew I love cooking, they would drop money with me to help with market errands and prepare soup for them, they picked it up after their class for the day.
This I did till I graduated, but I didn’t monetise it. Cooking was and still is a joy for me. Watching people eat my food is bliss. Well I didn’t start that year because I was scared of what my dad would say, and I didn’t know what and how to start with.
However, 2016/2017 was a major year for me. That was when I did my National Youth Service Corps. So I experimented with the food I cooked for people in my lodge. I used that opportunity to hone my skill. So it was a major year for me.
‘Cooking is stressful,’ I hear this a lot, but it is a burning passion for me! So I can say the passion I have for it, drove me into this business.
Along the line, students’ need for my services brought it to limelight. When I came in to the University of Ibadan (UI) for my second degree, I saw the need was still there, so I decided to meet the need and also monetise it this time around. I thought I was only going to meet the needs in UI, not until I started having orders outside of UI. I saw there was a greater need for it outside UI.
When did you begin and how much?
I started November, 2018 and the first soup delivery I made cost me N1300.
What makes your start-up different from those who are in the same business?
God made all the difference. He gave different ideas and that has made me different from others. Since I started with students, then it has to be very affordable. So, at The Gracias Cuisine, you can get a bowl of soup for as low as N1500, the goal is to ensure that no one is deprived of a good homemade soup regardless of their schedule. It cuts across all levels of income earners: the low, middle and high, hence we have ranging from one, two and four litres. It is not so common to see one litre of soup, it is usually from two litres. But since we deal with all income earners be it low or high, one litre is made available and at an affordable price.
All we cook here at the Gracias Cuisine is fresh, you place your orders we get them from the market fresh and your soup is based on your specification. We cook according to your taste bud.
What challenges have you faced in the business?
Juggling cooking with academics has been challenging but surmountable. Also, this business is about content. There are times I have to spend personal funds to cook just to put content on Whatsapp status, Facebook, Instagram. You just have to create content for people to see and it quite challenging for us. In addition, convincing a new customer can be challenging as you have to be able to convince them that you can be trusted with their stomach and food. Most of all, 24 hours is never enough!
How long do you intend to remain in this business?
This is a business I don’t think I will give up on anytime soon. As long as there is always a need to be met in this food sector, we will be here to meet the needs and also create the need for our services.
As much as I will say, funds are integral to any business. For now, we still cook and deliver from home. But like any other business, I will say we need more people to patronise us.