As more and more Nigerians adopt a Western lifestyle, the country is losing the battle to promote healthy eating habits. In fact, according to the Global Burden of Disease study from the University of Washington, obesity is growing in Nigeria.
But restaurant entrepreneur Madey Adeboye has a goal to provide healthier eating options, and her efforts are catching on. Her Lagos-based Green Grill House cafe has a loyal and growing following.
Adeboye is a lawyer by trade, but entered the food business in 2012 when she started offering catered meals which she delivered to customers. That service then grew into a full-blown cafe, opened last year.
The cafe has attracted Lagos’ young professionals who are interested in healthy eating and fitness–and who don’t have much time to cook at home. What makes the food at Green Grill House unique is that it serves up healthy versions of traditional Nigerian favorites, along with other health food staples.
The menu offers more than the standard health food salads, though they do have them for sale. There is Moi moi (bean pudding), but it is made with less oil; yaji, which is chicken infused in a salad with spiced pepper; and a variety of yogurt.
It may seem odd to go from being a successful lawyer to entering the risky business of owning a restaurant, but for Adeboye it was the perfect move. Adeboye, who still practices law on the side, entered the Nigerian Bar in July 2003.
She was born in Kano in the Northern part of Nigeria to a father who was a college professor and a mother who was a civil servant. Adeboye attended Ahmadu Bello University, where she studied law.
She isn’t the only one in her family in the restaurant business. Her sister recently launched a continental restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya.
Adeboye told AFKInsider about her business goals and her mission to pass the benefits of healthy eating on to Nigerians.
By profession you are a lawyer. How did you get into the restaurant business?
I got into the restaurant business by chance. I had worked in a telecoms company for about six years but left because I wasn’t happy and satisfied. After I left my job I decided to use my network of old colleagues to make homemade meals and deliver to them at work, knowing how boring the office canteens were. So I started off with a Blackberry phone and a single broadcast.
Is healthy eating a major restaurant trend in Lagos?
It is fast becoming one now. When I started there was probably just one or two other healthy food restaurants in existence. But now there are quite a few.
How did you fund the restaurant startup?
My husband, parents, and money I had saved up from working from home.
What is the business atmosphere like in Nigeria for female entrepreneurs?
I haven’t had any issues and I know quite a few female entrepreneurs who are doing quite well. I believe there is no difference based on my experiences with the male folk.
What have been some challenges in running a restaurant?
Funding. This is a big issue because we don’t have friendly bank interest rates. So there is a limit to how big you can grow if you don’t have personal funding. Another issue is staffing. Getting good staff is a problem too because a lot are not trained. Also, the issue of high importation costs on products not available in Nigeria.
What have been some of the challenges you faced as a young female lawyer in Nigeria?
After law school, I did the compulsory national service (NYSC) year in a telecoms company who retained me after, and I spent about six years trying unsuccessfully to move to the legal department. The barriers I faced included the fact that I was a young married woman and somehow my raising a family would affect my job. So, in the long run I never got to practice.
What has been the most surprising thing about running a restaurant?
I actually love what I do now. I didn’t think I would love it this much.
What are the most popular meals you serve?
Our stir-fry couscous and chicken wings is a favorite. The suya- chicken salad sells out so fast it’s unbelievable. We now have a grill station which churns out straight from the oven chicken, prawns, roast plantain, corn, potatoes, and these are huge favorites. Our parfaits are very popular too.