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How to Start a Food Delivery Business in Nigeria Without Knowing How to Cook

“Things work out best for those who make the best of how things work out.” –John Wooden

In every business blog post that I write, I try to go as low as possible to be able to start the business because I know the kind of people we are. We like to make excuses.  Honestly speaking, It’s not an insult. I like to put things the way they are. 

This delivery food business doesn’t require you to know how to cook any damn food. Yes and yes. In fact, the knowledge of boiling indomie isn’t necessary at all. So, you are wondering how I’m going to be selling and delivering food to people without knowing how to cook? You will find a fine canteen/restaurant in your area that prepares good meals at a reasonable price. That’s all. 

Let me burst your bubble: this business idea flashed into my mind while eating a plate of N350 meals in a good canteen.

So, let’s start talking about the business.

What will you sell: 

Meal prepared by a good restaurant of your choice. There are many good food canteens around your locality that prepare good meals but have not much access to customers that can pay more for their food. 

If you are a natural business person or you love to question things, you will discover that a lot of small businesses are located in a place where they are not supposed to be engaging in such business activity at all. Sometimes, it’s not the business owner’s fault. For instance, in Lagos, a landlord can wake up in the morning and decide to sell his property without notifying any tenant. And one of the thriving businesses in Lagos is real estate. If the property is situated in a choice area, buyers may show up within a week. People don’t really care that much. Almost everybody is in business, including some NGOs. And number one aim of any well-managed business is to make a profit. If the buyer is a property developer and really wants to raise up his intended structure as fast as he can because of the demand from his prospective clients, he may choose to send everybody out within 7 days. I’m talking from experience. Some developers are humane: they can offer to give every occupant enough money to rent the same kind of apartment in the locality or elsewhere. Yes. I’m talking from experience. 

The people that occupy shops are always the most affected. The ways we handle business in Nigeria leave no room for most small business owners to have some funds reserved for tackling any unforeseen occurrence that can truncate the business activity. I have watched friends going out of business because of this. 

As you are hurrying to get a new business place, you may not secure the right one for the kind of your business. You just end up renting one. And If care is not taken, you may start afresh — gathering customers. You just see that your customers disappear into thin air. Gaining customers and keeping them is a very tough job for some kinds of businesses. Small business owners in Nigeria hardly keep their customers’ data. 

Business is to spot problems or recognize an irregular pattern and try to fix and turn it to profit for good. 

Let’s put everything simply: you will be helping good food canteens to sell food to their unreachable and unknowable high-paying customers at a reasonable price. 

Who will buy your food?

Every business needs customers to stay in business. Any business with no paying customer is a hobby. Even, these days, people are turning their hobbies into thriving businesses. Most people make mistakes by creating a product first, then start looking for customers because they assume the customers will like their product of which things don’t go that way most of the time. If you create a product and nobody likes to exchange his/her money for it, you are on your own. 

You are starting a small business and the better way to approach it in order to minimize risks is to find customers for the product or service first, then look for ways to make the solution known to the prospective customer. Are they government workers? Are they friends and family? Are they private organizations employees? Are they people in your locality? Are they people in the informal sector of the economy? Are they retired? Are they property owners? Are they people who are too busy to cook food for themselves? Are they corporate people who think going to restaurants to eat is a time-wasting activity? These are the questions to ask yourself. After that, you will now be thinking of how to reach them. Are they your former colleagues or your coworkers? Do you have their phone number? Do you have their personal email address? Do you know where they live? Can somebody take you there and introduce your business to them? Can you get their information on the Internet? These are the ways to approach things in business. 

You will need to have pen and paper to put things down in the most understanding manner of your choice. After you have gotten customers, then you can move on to the next stage. You will notice that you have not spent money a dime doing this, so God forbid, if the business idea doesn’t fly, you lose nothing. 

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How will your food business help people?

This, in fact, is one of the most important questions to ask yourself before dipping your toe in the ocean of business. Your potential customers are not patsy and don’t ever assume they are. You must find means of making it glaring how your business will benefit them. Almost everybody is selfish.

First, people think about themselves before anyone else and it’s not their fault, it’s human nature. People must find your food reasonable to them before they can exchange their hard-earned money for it. Healthwise, people take whatever they ingest seriously. 

You may be lucky to find some shy customers who don’t like to be disturbed and for this reason, they may buy your food and give it to their junior colleague to eat, and if that one doesn’t give a good review about your food, he may likely never patronize you again. Yes. People don’t like to be taken advantage of. 

If I was the one doing this business, I will make it clear to my customer that: my hygienically-prepared food will nourish them without leaving their office desk at an affordable price. Simple. I will be delivering the food at their preferred time to their place of work. 

What will you charge your customers?

Business = Profit,  and Profit = Revenue – Expenses. To run a profitable business, the total cost of doing the business — the business expenses must be lesser than the revenue generated. For instance: if it costs you N5 to produce a product, N1 to brand it, N1 to store it, N2 to transport it to your customer — making the total cost N9 only— it’ll be bad for business to charge N10 or N11 for the product. Just make sure the price is reasonable to your customers. Once your customers can afford to pay for your product, you don’t need to worry. 

In the local canteen where you will be sourcing cooked meal from (have it in mind that you must have already had a trade agreement with food canteen, not necessarily paper agreement, it can be a verbal one: I will be coming to buy so and so the food at the so and so amount in so and so time), you will get the plate of food lower than the price you can sell to your customers. For instance: you can get a  plate of food, let’s say a plate of eba with vegetable soup and beef for N300 only; you sell and deliver it to your customer for N500; that’s N200 profit on a plate. Period. If you’re a good negotiator, you can tell the food cooker to reduce very small quantity from the food and since you will be buying let’s say 100 plates from him every working-day, 500 plates a week, s/he should be giving you a plate at the rate of N200 per one, so, that the extra N100 can now be going into things like branding and marketing for your business. That’s it. 

If you can get a plate of food for N200 from a good canteen, you’ll be packaging it in disposable food plastic, you get a white nylon bag to deliver it. If I were you, I would be using white branded paper envelopes to deliver the food. You go against the norm in the food market. You deliver the meal with Nestle table water or Cway table water and 2 pieces of a serviette. 

As the business is growing, you will be thinking of how to add other things to it like selling 100% natural fruit juice made from freshly-squeezed fruits. 

There are many things you can add to grow your business and turn it into a cash dispensing machine for life. 

How will you get paid?

It’s important to know how you will be getting paid by your customer and which methods of payment you will need to use. 

It’s very important to make it easy for customers to pay for your product and service. Don’t do business like some Nigerians that collect cash only. Let your customers decide the means of payment that is convenient for them. If they want to pay cash, accept it. If some want to do mobile transfer, don’t discourage them. Even, if they want to pay with bitcoin, collect it. 

Let’s go a bit further. Some of your customers may want to be paying you at the end of the month after they earn their salary — that is postpaid, don’t reject the offer; it’s a good one. Some customers will choose to pay you for a whole month before the service — this is an opportunity to get funds to grow your business. 

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As you’re getting paid, do well with your fund. Don’t mismanage it. Don’t spend on anything that won’t contribute to your business growth now. 

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How else will you make money from your food business?

Successful businesses are the ones that have multiple streams of income. As the company is growing, they create new products and services to increase their revenue. In today’s fast-paced world, to stay in business, you must be innovative with every business activity. 

You can do the same by adding other things to the food you are selling. You can start selling natural fruit juice to your existing customers.  

Also, most of your customers will be busy people and they will need a home meal plan. You can tell them that you can be bringing their dinner to them at their office before they close for work for the day. They can just warm it when they get home. And definitely, a whole lot of Lagosians have microwaves in their various homes. 

Furthermore, what about weekend meal plans? The rate may be a little lower and more affordable than the one for working days. 

You can still do more by getting a private and reliable dispatch rider that will be handling the logistics for you. To date, logistics is a mess in Nigeria because of trust issues, but as a passionate business owner, you can always work your way around it. 

As your customer base is growing, business is booming, you have gained a special place in your customer’s heart because you always deliver — beyond expectations. Your customers will have an owambe or small birthday party, and they’ll need to eat and drink some things. Your business is to find means of providing them with the things they want. 

Busy working-class people spend money to buy pots of their desired soup, pots of cooked delicacy. If you know how to prepare a certain delicacy that customers want or you can hire a caterer to make it for you, business is done. You just deliver it on request and get paid. 

I can go on and on to tell you how to make more money for your business. The ability to think is what makes us human. You too can think more deeply and add some new things and to make your customers’ lives become better. 

How will customers learn about your business?

This is the marketing aspect of your business and it starts on the first day that you begin the business. 

In the beginning, I was discussing getting working-class people for your business. Telling more working-class people and explaining how you can make their favourite meal available to them in the comfort of their office without lifting a finger can make people want to learn about your business. 

You can do SMS marketing too. Try and get the phone number of your targeted working-class people, send text messages to introduce your business to them. 

If you have a fine budget, you can make fliers and distribute them in your targeted area. You can go to where office workers parked their car and meet them at their closing time to give them the flier. If you are the shy type, you can fold the flier and put it on their car. 

Also, in your religious centre, especially, if you are a worker in the church, you can tell your pastor to help you to reach some busy working-class people in the church that you don’t have access to and you meet the ones you can one-on-one. 

There are many things you can do to make prospective clients know about your business. 

Business is booming and in today’s Internet age, having an online presence is crucial to your growth. Create a free Google My Business account for more people to be able to find you on the Internet. Do not be surprised about the kind of things people google search these days on the Internet. I mean, Google is a go-to place for people to search for anything. Imagine if somebody searches for “meal to my office in Ikeja” and your Google My Business profile shows up in the result, that is a plus for your business for free. 

Creating a Facebook page is something you can do in seconds. There are millions of people waiting there to learn about your business. 

As you are gaining more customers, you can consider having a functional website for your business. Your existing customers and your business will benefit greatly from this innovation because they will be able to place orders easily on it. Your website will have a blog section where you will be discussing healthy eating habits, the health benefits of certain food ingredients, and so on. Make sure you create good content and stay consistent in writing good blog posts. If you don’t like to write, you can employ the service of a freelance writer to craft compelling copies for you on a regular basis at an agreed amount of money per article. 

Adding a forum section to your existing website is also a welcome development — through this — your customers will be able to create topics and discuss with fellow customers. The complaints section will also be there. Your business will never be 100% perfect — this means there will always be complaints from customers. Customers stay loyal to businesses that address problems or any inconvenience they have with their product or service. 

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How can you encourage referrals? 

In business, I have come to the realization that, if your product or service meets people’s needs, they will always recommend it to anyone who needs the same thing. The most important thing is that your food must be really good and it must arrive when they want to eat it. People do say that hunger and anger go the same way — a hungry man is an angry man. Your customers already have many things to bother themselves about, so don’t let your foodservice become another problem and reason to bring anger into the only life they have.

 I have seen high profile people discussing a particular pounded-yam with vegetable soup and bush meat they always eat anytime they are having a particular meeting. 

You can also tell your customers about how you are rewarding customers for referring new people to do business with you. The reward may not necessarily be something big, but little things go a long way. It can be a bottle of fruit juice; it can be additional pieces of meat; it can be a plate of meal; it can be a thank you message; it can be a loaf of freshly baked bread. 

If you look very well, there are numerous ways to encourage referral. Ensure that your customers like what you are offering as a gift. 

The food business will be successful when it achieves these metrics: 

From the beginning, you need to have a certain number of customers in mind to reach for business. And as the business is booming you will be increasing the number. 

You can say that: my food business will be successful when I have 1000 paying customers that eat my food daily in their various offices. You can also have it in mind that when you generate thirty million naira profit per annum consistently for five years, your business can be tagged successful. 

In life and business, there is no standard for measuring success — because success is subjective. What one person calls success may be a failure to another. 

You just have to set your own metrics. 

Obstacles, challenges, open questions: 

You need to consider the obstacles you will likely face in engaging in business activities. In business, some obstacles don’t show themselves in the beginning until when you start the business and the best way to go about it is to write down any problem you think of and look for ways to work around the obstacles and don’t let it deter you from going about the business. 

Any question that comes to your mind should be written down too. 

Like, what if the food canteen owner doesn’t want to do business with me? 

There are numerous good canteens in your locality that are ready for business. All you need is to walk and talk more. 

What if working-class people don’t want my food? 

There are millions of working-class people within your reach and more so, you’re not cooking or buying any food before getting customers, so you lose nothing by meeting rejection from some of your potential customers. You can consider talking to more people. 

In business, you will surely meet rejections and people will sometimes doubt your ability to deliver as expected. You just don’t give up. There is never a good time to start any business. Manage whatever you have to begin what you want to do. 

Key Takeaways: 

Start as little as possible by sourcing prepared meals from a good canteen.

Get some busy working-class people who need your food delivery service.

Package the food very well and deliver it at the appropriate time.

Get more customers.

Reinvest your profits into the business.

Hire people to do some tasks for you.

Continue growing your business. 

I would love to hear from you as you have made up your mind to take the first bold step to start your business. 

Let me leave you with this: Jumia and Gokada are into this business, so why can’t you start your own business on a small scale?

“Make it happen now, not tomorrow. Tomorrow is a loser’s excuse.”  – Farrah Gray 

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Usman Atanda
My name is Usman Atanda - the man behind I'm a serial hustler from Lagos, Nigeria. Here at, I cover topics such as Business Ideas, Side Hustle Tips, Business Tips, Side Hustle Ideas and much more. My ultimate goal is to make the building legitimate and lucrative small businesses and side hustle to be achievable.

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