Luv dat chicken! Nairobians fuel global race for fast-food billions

Kenya's love for tasty fried chicken and chips is fuelling a new global race in Nairobi for the fast-food billions. [iStockphoto]

If there is one thing Nairobians can’t get enough of, it is a piece of juicy chicken breast or wing.

And now their love for tasty fried chicken and chips is fuelling a new global race in Nairobi for the fast-food billions, an analysis by the Financial Standard shows.

Fast food giants from America, the Middle East, Southern Africa and Europe have armed themselves with huge war chests as the battle for dominance of the quick-service restaurants market hots up.

They include International brands such as American fast food chains Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Burger King and regional rivals like =

Others are Dubai-based halal fast-food chain ChicKing recently announced plans to open 30 fast-food outlets in Kenya over the next five years, starting with Mombasa.

ChicKing, which specialises in fried chicken, said it will open the quick-service restaurants in partnership with the newly formed local franchise M/s Crispy Ltd.

UK-based fast food chain Chicken Cottage has also announced plans to open 50 outlets at Hass Petroleum’s service stations in Kenya and the rest of East Africa this year.

Zimbabwe’s Simbisa Brands operates Chicken Inn restaurants in Kenya. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The company, which operates Britain’s largest halal fast-food chain, said it will open the outlets in a partnership deal with Express Kitchen, a subsidiary of AAH Ltd.

Sandwich chain Subway, ice cream seller Cold Stone Creamery, Japanese firm Toridoll and Domino’s Pizza recently opened more stores in Kenya.

These global players are turning to fast-growing markets such as Kenya for growth, attracted by rising disposable household incomes, fast economic growth, and a young population, according to a study by McKinsey & Co.

Nairobi’s position as a hub for multiple multinationals also acts as a magnet for global restaurant chains.

Last week, Simbisa Brands — which operates quick-service restaurants including Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn, Bakers Inn, and Creamy Inn — said it targets to open additional restaurants by the end of this year amid increased competition from big players in the fast-food industry. 

The company already operates 206 outlets in Kenya on a franchise model. They include 49 Chicken Inn, 59 Pizza Inn, 40 Creamy Inn, 23 Galitos, five Bakers Inn and 30 others.

“It’s a substantial investment pipeline with 48 net new counters set to open in the second half of the financial year 2023, and a further 103 sites identified for the financial year 2024 will drive growth and unlock shareholder value,” said the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange-listed food giant.

“The primary growth markets in the short to medium term will be Kenya and Zimbabwe,” it said.

Galitos Pizza fast food store in Gigiri, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Simbisa Kenya has been continuing its expansion drive, opening 34 new outlets in the 12 months between 31 December 2021 and 31 December last year.

“On the back of new store openings, customer counts increased 9.5 per cent year-on-year,” said the firm in a regulatory update.

“Real average spend increased 5.4 per cent, with menu price increments implemented to keep pace with inflation, resulting in a 15.4 per cent increase in revenue.”

Fast food is one of Nairobi’s fastest-growing segments. The growing segment comprises formats like fast-food chains, cafes and fine-dining restaurants.

The rise in disposable income and rapid globalisation of the food industry are the key factors driving market growth, analysts say.

Kenya’s increasing middle-class population coupled with the advent of online delivery apps and e-commerce websites is compelling companies to expand their reach by introducing new food varieties and flavours.

Simbisa Foods, for instance, last year took hold of its delivery platform to drive revenues.

“Effective October 1, 2022, a strategic decision was made to transition Pizza Inn to deliver exclusively on the in-house Dial-A Delivery platform in Kenya,” it said.

“The objective is to take control of the end-to-end customer experience and increase Pizza Inn delivery volumes. The initiative has been successful, with 90 per cent of orders previously done through third-party aggregators now directed through Simbisa’s in-house platforms.”

Urbanisation has also improved infrastructure in terms of the distribution and marketing of fast foods.

The fast-paced lifestyle of Kenyans in urban areas has drastically changed the dietary patterns of people.

Burger King fast food eatery in Lavington, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Rapid industrialisation coupled with work habits has changed Kenyan consumers’ preference for fast foods.

The Covid-19 pandemic, however, severely impacted the food and restaurant industry.

Decreased consumer spending and disruptions in the supply chain affected the industry to a large extent.

In addition, the increased awareness about the consumption of healthy foods affected the market growth during the pandemic.

However, the market is expected to regain demand post-pandemic owing to a rise in the number of fast-food franchises and increasing demand for online food deliveries.