I remember, with fondness now, a time when I would – on impulse – get in my 1997 Nissan Maxima and drive to a far or nearby town in search of food. It was a pleasure ride, for sure, because I lived in Southern Illinois where – like most parts of the United States, food could be ordered directly on the internet. A few minutes and a little tip later, the food was in one’s hands, delivered by a person who has gone through the hassle (of weather and traffic) to get the food down to the house.
Choosing to, by myself, drive out was therefore good only for the fun of leaving the house, discovering new places, and of course hanging out with real people out of the house. For a small town, downtown Edwardsville boasted of a variety of tasty diners, for every meal of the day. Peels (I think that is what it was called), a restaurant near the campus, had the best pizza, different from what Papa Johns and other name pizzerias made. There was a Chinese buffet that cost just $10 and had a variety that at that time impressed and delighted. A few miles from downtown was a small 18th century cottage that housed a winery. It didn’t serve food, but wine could be tasted (as many bottles as one wanted) before a purchase is made. It was a good place to spend warm fall evenings.
Lagos has occasionally surprised, the biggest being the absence of a major breakfast diner. None – at least as far as I know – on the Island, and the one I have been told on the mainland doesn’t have such wide variety. There is a Mexican restaurant in the building right beside Cool FM open, as I’ve experienced it, till 11pm, with great (though not altogether convincing) Mexican food. There is also a Chinese restaurant somewhere close to Law School, with a beautiful menu. The last eating out I enjoyed was at Orchid Bistro in Ikeja. The service was great. The ambiance was even better. And who could forget the good hot homemade meals that Terra Kulture serves every day of the week. Beside the absence of (and affordable) breakfast diners in Lagos, one other thing about it is a perception (I had until experiencing it first hand) that restaurants are only for rich people. We don’t typically eat out in Nigeria.
A couple of months ago, through their involvement in the launch of LifeBank at the CCHub, I came across HelloFoods, a service in Lagos that seeks to connect the consumer to the source of food. The business model made sense to me then as it does now – a food delivery service that – without owning a restaurant themselves – allow folks to sit in their houses or offices and order food from any restaurant in the state (even those without a website of their own). I haven’t used them yet (because I still prefer to drive around the Island looking for new outlets), but the website presents an easily navigable way to compare prices, and get different types of food anywhere in the state, with the click of the mouse. It is a smart business model for sure, and one that fits into the patterns of behaviour by people in the city. For those interested in discovering new places to eat, it also provides an online database of names.
All that’s left to ask is this: beside cost, why are we not an overwhelmingly outgoing people when it comes to food?