Restaurant Business In Nigeria (Ultimate Guide!)

How to Start A Restaurant Business In Nigeria

Ever thought about how to start a restaurant business in Nigeria, or anywhere in the world? Here’s a detailed guide filled with practicable tips for success.

Food is one of the most basic human needs. Everyone, including the rich and poor, must eat to survive.

As more people (especially those living in cities) cannot find the time, convenience or skill to cook for themselves, eating at fast food and casual dining restaurants is on a rapid rise.

The demand for prepared foods in many Nigerian towns and cities is massive and no one restaurant or fast food chain may be able to satisfy the market.

I find so much interest in the restaurant business because it’s a sure moneymaker, anyone who wants to make quick money shouldn’t look elsewhere.

Small Scale Restaurant is very easy to start and low capital intensive. That’s why it is listed as one of the 50 small business ideas in Nigeria.

The sky is your limit in this business provided you take your restaurant business seriously and treat your customers well with good food.

Being one of the few businesses that are not affected by any economic meltdown – People must eat no matter how poor they are, no matter the situation they are, even if unemployed.

Anyone can eat even if it is with the last penny he or she can afford, that’s what makes the restaurant business very lucrative. I think serious investors should give it a serious look.

Restaurant, Canteen, Eatery, and Cafeteria

Restaurant business is an establishment that prepares and serves food along with placing an emphasis on service. It is one of the best business ideas for ladies.

profitability of restaurant businesses in Nigeria

Restaurants usually serve food and drinks for a monetary value and the food is consumed on the premises.

The restaurant can also offer take-out or delivery services. The meals are usually prepared as per order.

The term ‘restaurant’ has been derived from the French verb, ‘restaurer’, meaning “to restore”.

Professional cooks are known as chefs, with them being further classified under finer distinctions such as sous-chef, chef de partie, etc.

Fast food restaurants do not have chefs and they have a self-service layout, where the person has to stand in a line and get food from the counter, pay for the food and then find a place to sit.

High-end restaurants have waiters/waitresses, busboys and hosts that welcome the people into the restaurant and seat them.

The food is consumed first and paid for later. Seating in a restaurant can be inside as well as outside.


A cafeteria is also an eating establishment that may or may not offer a seating arrangement.  

A cafeteria also serves food and soft drinks for a monetary value and the food may or may not be consumed on the premises.

In a cafeteria, the food would be served on a counter where it would be set up in a buffet form, counters, or stalls.

The food is prepared in the back and placed in dishes on a heater in the stall.

The customer must grab a tray and go through the line of the foods placed, selecting whatever they want, and then pay the money towards the end.

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General seating arrangements are made where the customer can consume their food. There is no specific seating; it is a first-come basis.

A cafeteria can also be called a canteen and it requires a few employees and hence it is found in large organizations that have to cater to huge crowds such as museums, hospitals, schools, colleges, office buildings, military bases, prisons, department stores, malls, etc.

The term ‘cafeteria’ is adapted from American Spanish word ‘cafetería’ meaning “coffee house” and French ‘cafetière’ from ‘café’.

However, in English usage, the term cafeteria is reserved for these institutions, while ‘café’ is reserved for coffee houses

Differences Between a Restaurant And Cafeteria.

A restaurant is mostly considered as an establishment for fine dining or a place where people would serve the customers.

However, in a cafeteria people have to serve themselves from the selection of food that is already available.

A restaurant has a wider menu of food that is prepared specifically for the customer. A cafeteria has a pre-set menu of four or five different foods that the user has to pick from.

Restaurants also have a proper seating arrangement, where one person will be allotted his/her own table.

In a cafeteria, a bunch of tables is placed together and anyone can occupy any seat.

Difference between a restaurant and a canteen

This means two strangers can also be found sitting close together and eating.

In restaurants, the person will consume the food first and then pay for it later, while it is the opposite in a cafeteria.

Restaurants can also serve alcoholic beverages, which are not served in cafeterias.

Generally, the term restaurant, eatery, and canteen are used interwoven here in Nigeria.

The aim is where food can be served and will be paid for.

However, there are some exotic restaurants that you can set up depending on your pocket. Meanwhile, in this article, the word restaurant will be used throughout.

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Running A Restaurant business

Running a fast food restaurant business means always having food and drinks ready to be served in exchange for money, as soon as your customers demand it.

The food would usually be served and eaten on the restaurant’s premises, but could also be packaged for a takeaway or home delivery service.

The business involves you cooking various and different types of meals or basically cooking one type of meal and serving to your customers to eat.

Choosing to serve your customers at the premises while they eat there means getting a space where you make comfortable for people to sit so that they can be relaxed when eating.

This is a business that can be started on a small scale as you can invest with a small amount of money in the beginning and gradually grow it into a bigger business over a period of time.

You can run a restaurant without necessarily being a cook. With little or no experience in cooking, you can still run the most successful fast-food restaurant business in your neighborhood.

Successfully running a restaurant business is more about having exceptional hospitality skills and requires a very large portion of your time.

It also requires you to hire experienced cooks that not just thrive on their ability to prepare tasty meals, but also pay extraordinary attention to detail in the health conditions in which the food is prepared.

Reasons Why Restaurant Business Should Be Considered

Here are just a few reasons why you should consider starting a restaurant business in Nigeria.

  • Regular patronage

Because there are varieties of food to choose from (although as will be discussed in this article as it progresses, you may choose to stick to a variety of food) there will always be customers at the doorstep of your restaurant.

You may wish to focus on cooking local dishes which are a lot to choose from. When starting the business you can decide to concentrate on “solids” meals.

In Nigeria we have such “solids” meals like Eba, Fufu, Amala, Pounded yam, Semo that you can start with.

Reasons to start a restaurant business

Also, there are other meals like Rice, Beans, Yam, and others that you can also cook depending on the line of your business, your worker’s strength, and capital.

  • A great source of income

Because there is a high demand for food everywhere people will always need to eat for survival reasons as well as hunger.

So, to fulfill these needs they go all out to look for a place to get a meal.

  • A chance to network with high profile individuals

Depending on your personality and the kind of right channel created to network, this may be the opportunity to meet with high profile individuals.

Once you satisfy one of them, probably at an event, you will begin to get referrals from his colleagues and other guests present that day.

  • Low startup cost depending on the type of restaurant

It doesn’t take up much to start a low scale restaurant, with the right idea and commitment; you can grow your business from there.

There are a lot of people who may be good at cooking but are so busy due to work and other activities they are involved.

They hardly have enough time to cook food for themselves and are therefore willing to patronize a restaurant.

Because of the demands on their time, people living in cities and towns are increasingly unlikely to cook their own meals.

They would prefer to have a decent meal without the hassle of going to the market to buy food stuff, cook or wash dishes.

Some people find it quite convenient to eat out as they probably cannot cook or find cooking a stressful activity to cope with despite having the time to do it.

Types of Restaurants And Food Service Business

You need to know more about types of restaurant and find the one that best suit you. There are various types of restaurant you can choose from.

Roadside Restaurants 

These are by far the most patronized and popular types of restaurants in Nigeria and many parts of Africa.

They are usually small sheds located in almost every street in Nigeria and are usually about one or two per street, owned by different individuals.

The middle class and lower level citizens patronize these restaurants a lot, largely because of the size of the meal and low pricing.

Fast Food Restaurants

These are the second most popular types of restaurants in Nigeria, but the most popular types of restaurants in the world.

Their speed, convenience, and fair prices make them a popular choice for so many people.

A fast food restaurant, sometimes known as a quick service restaurant, usually features a very limited menu.

The food is normally cooked in bulk and in advance and is kept warm (or hot) throughout the day.

In quick service restaurants, customers are very likely to give their orders at a counter where the food can be eaten within the restaurant or is packaged and taken away.

A modified version of the fast food restaurants are casual restaurants and mobile food centers.

Casual dining restaurants

Just a step above fast food restaurants are casual dining outlets where customers get to choose meals from a flexible menu and table service is provided.

The atmosphere here is much more relaxed as clients who patronize this type of restaurant expect to spend some time enjoying their food and are likely to eat their meals within the location rather than take it away.

Mobile Restaurant

This type of restaurant does not necessarily need a rented location, you can actually prepare the meals at home as per order.

Customers will send an order over for a particular dish he wants, it could be food or varieties of soups and will be given a particular time frame it will be ready and delivered.

To save yourself the stress of purchasing the ingredients at the market, cooking, and delivery, you can hire a few staff to help with some logistics like purchases and delivery.

An energetic young entrepreneur who chose to opt-in for this type of restaurant was interviewed and she has the following to say.

The journey:“It hasn’t been an easy one, it all started around January 2019 when I was still contemplating on what business to venture into that will require little or no capital, so many ideas came up but then I need to stick to one I believe and know I really want to do.

Then the food idea comes up, I realize cooking is one among other things I love doing. So I decided to give it a trial and started running the ‘AdunObe Kitchen’ as a mobile chef/food vendor.

The challenges:– “One and most important challenge I have is logistics, at first I didn’t get the right logistics to work with so I just keep on taking orders and using a delivery person to help with the deliveries.

Most times I do the cooking and delivery myself then I realize its more strenuous and time-consuming especially when I have to face high traffic of vehicles.

You can imagine giving your customer delivery time, then cooking and trying to meet up at the same time it really wasn’t an easy one.

Also the risk of moving from one location to another. But then gone are the days, things have changed for the better. I already have a logistics company that works with us to help make delivery as swift as possible.”

How she overcame the challenges?Oh well, I had to speak up and confide in family members and friends about the logistic issues so I got introduce to the one I use now, and so far so good there hasn’t been any regret working with them so far.”

She is a graduate of mechanical engineering and has since been running her own business with the prospect of expanding the business in various ways. Your success stories can be the same too.

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Food Truck Restaurants

Food truck restaurants serve quick snacks, drinks and meals from a truck.

The truck could be stationary or in motion but are largely used because of their low cost and low overhead, which makes it easy to quickly open a food truck restaurant business.

The ability for the food truck to go where ever the customers are, also gives it an edge over other types of restaurants.

Its staffing needs are also low, making it a perfect low-cost method to start up a restaurant in busy areas like markets, universities, and more.

Fine Dining Restaurants

These are the luxury type of restaurants where the tables are dressed in white clothing; a menu is presented upon settling in a table, a waiter is always available to tend to your needs, and your payment is only collected after your meal.

The atmosphere in this type of restaurant is always unique, the music is always perfect, and the service cost is always high.

The fine-dining restaurant business is always targeted to the upper-class citizens or elite of the country. They are full-service restaurants that offer the finest in food, service, and atmosphere.

They usually have specific and dedicated meal courses and the waiters and staff are absolutely professional and very well trained. With fine dining restaurants, a lot of attention must be given to detail.

The atmosphere of these restaurants usually features very elaborate and exquisite furniture, lighting, layouts and tableware.

Ethnic Restaurants

This type of restaurant serves food from specific cultures, countries, or regions. As more Nigerians develop foreign tastes and more foreigners visit Nigeria for business and leisure, the number and popularity of these restaurants are on the rise.

The most popular ones on the continent are: Chinese, Italian, Mexican, Thai, Caribbean, French, German, Indian, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.

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How to Start A Restaurant Business In Nigeria

To start your own restaurant business, there are certain things you need to consider and put in place.

Depending on your budget and location, there are a variety of opportunities to exploit in the growing restaurant market.

Before you start, there are a number of things you should consider as you take the huge step of converting this great idea into a brilliant business.

Choose A Unique Concept

This is the very first step in giving life to your restaurant idea. As noted earlier, there are different types of restaurants and food services.

Would you like a fast-food type of restaurant? You could start this type of food service with small capital. It could be a small corner booth down the road or you could operate it around your home.

If you would like to start a fine dining restaurant, you should know that it would cost you a lot to start up and you may have to invest some capital in hiring very professional and experienced staff.

A good way to decide on the type of restaurant to start is to examine your location and the kind of people you will be targeting.

Are they high-income or low-income earners? Are they working people, students, laborers, or older people?

Understanding your market will help you determine the type of restaurant you should start. Although capital and proper planning are important, it would be disastrous to start a food business nobody’s interested in.

Picking the right restaurant niche also depends on your personality. Are you a person who loves hanging around people? Do you prefer to be in the kitchen? What drives you naturally?

If you’re a people-person, starting up a restaurant business that gives you the opportunity to meet and connect with a lot of people is a great bet for you.

If on the other hand, you’re not comfortable interacting with a lot of people, starting up mobile restaurant or fast food could work out right for you, since you’d largely be concerned with the management of the business, instead of its direct service.

At this stage, you should also decide if varieties will be served or just a type of food.

Create Your Menu

Before you open your restaurant, you will want to establish some basic food items that your menu will feature.

Your menu is one of the key items that will set you apart from your competitors.

For instance, KFC is known for its crispy chickens, McDonald’s is known for its burgers, Dominos is known for their pizza, and the list goes on.

Deciding what will be on your menu is important when figuring out the equipment you need, the staff you will hire, and the crowd you hope to draw.

At this point, your menu does not need to be completely designed nor do your recipes need to be completely fleshed out, unless your whole concept singles out the certain item(s), like a pizza place.

However, you should have a solid idea of the fare you will serve at your eatery.

Later in the process of opening your restaurant, you should engineer your menu to increase profits and continually update your menu as you gain information about which food items sell well and which does not.

The look, taste, and feel of the meals on your menu must be exceptional and entirely different from whatever similar products are out there.

The sense of taste and smell is a very powerful factor in positioning the brand of any restaurant business.

It brings back memories and drives uncontrollable cravings. When your meals standout, people will remember you.

Get a Good Location

After picking a great niche for your restaurant business, the next thing to do is to choose a great location to set up your first branch.

Yes, I said your first branch because the restaurant business can grow rapidly that you will need to target other locations with good traffic.

Your location is an important aspect of the business as it can be the difference between the business being successful or being a failure.

When choosing and looking for a shop or space where to site the business, ensure it is a place where a lot of activities are taking place having a lot of people in the area.

Although it is also possible to locate your business in a residential or quiet area depending on the type of restaurant you want to run, but you should ensure there is no or little competition available in the area.

The following should be considered while choosing the location:

  • Will your restaurant be in a place that is easily accessible and be easily visible?
  • Does it have sufficient parking space?
  • Is it large enough to accommodate the volume of customers you are planning for?
  • Is the location visible or tucked away in a hard to reach part of town?

Design A Restaurant Layout

When starting a restaurant, you’ll want to put careful thought into how you can organize your entire layout to meet the goals set forth in your menu and theme.

Your primary goal should be to create a systematic flow from front-of-house to back, from the receiving hostess all the way back to the kitchen. Once your basic layout is established, you can design and decorate your dining room.

Furnish Your Restaurant

When it comes to restaurant, look is everything to me and I think it apply to most people out there too.

I can hardly eat in a place that doesn’t look nice; make sure your restaurant is well furnished to taste.

The quality of your food and the type of cook you are can be perceived through your restaurant furniture.

Set up good furniture you can afford even if it means starting with plastic chairs and tables. You can always upgrade as time goes on.

Utensils, Equipment and Accessories

A constant, reliable source of equipment and ingredients at reasonable prices must be established and maintained to ensure restaurant success.

Do not buy something childish like plastic plates. Many people will reject the food no matter how good it looks if you serve it on plastic plates and spoon.

Apart from the fact that they look cheap and childish, the tendency of dirt hiding somewhere and the plate being discolored is high.

Ceramic and Breakables are the preferred type you should go for and they are not very expensive.

Feeding is a very sensitive thing and a lot of people don’t take what goes into their stomach lightly, it’s not just about filling the stomach, it’s about satisfaction, health, and enjoyment.

While you make effort to prepare good foods for your customers, make sure you don’t ridicule your effort with cheap plates because the food looks and tastes better when served on a better plate.

Hire the Right Staff

One major step of opening a restaurant is hiring staffs to carry out the operation of your restaurant every day.

Consider all roles that need to be filled at your particular restaurant before hiring staff.

This may include human resources management and supervisors, food, and beverage purchasing, receiving and storing products, food preparation, food service, food cleaning, and dishwashing, marketing and sales, public relations, accounting, and auditing.

Finding skilled individuals to join your restaurant team sometimes can be a real pain.

It is usually difficult to get great hands, especially people who are naturally welcoming, skilled in their crafts, and are ready to do anything to see your business succeed.

People will fall in love with your food if they are well cooked and taste great. You can either be the cook or hire someone.

Make sure either you or the Cook you intend to employ knows how to cook different types of the meal very well.  I wouldn’t waste my money twice in a bad restaurant.

The restaurant I mentioned earlier that served only rice have up to four branches and the food served in the four branches are cooked from a source, the owner himself.

That makes his restaurant unique because irrespective of the branch you visit, the food will have the same taste.  

If you want to do the cooking yourself, don’t just do it because you want to work hard and minimize expenses, do it because you can cook very well.

Promote Your Restaurant

After starting your food canteen business in Nigeria, the most important thing is promotion.

Although you will definitely have more customers if your food is good, it is also very important to invest in promoting your business. Business promotion helps brands to grow faster.

Just as you would advertise your dog breeding business, rabbit farming business, or tutorial business center, Advertising is critical for various reasons.

First and foremost, prospective customers should be able to find basic information about your restaurant.

Secondly, they should feel enthused to try out your new eatery. Below are some tips to create excitement around your restaurant:

  1. Use social media. Create Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts to share news, photos, and tidbits about your restaurant. The photos and descriptions should communicate your brand. Consider including images of food or behind-the-scene processes to draw in potential guests. Make sure to use high-quality photos.
  2. Put an ad in the local paper. This will help create awareness about your new restaurant. You could even try and get a featured story or mention in an article.
  3. Use a mobile loyalty program. You can sign your restaurant up for a mobile app loyalty program that will appeal to the growing number of consumers who use smartphones. Through this app, you can engage guests by rewarding them for continued business.
  4. Create an email list. When sending out creative emails that communicate your brand, it’s essential to use relevant content for each group of customers. For example, sending dine-in specials to reservation customers or sending delivery coupons to online ordering customers are both great ideas.
  5. Offer promotions to new guests. Give first-time guests a free drink or a small dessert. Customers will remember your exceptional hospitality, and they will be more likely to recommend your restaurant and to return themselves.
  6. Consider hosting a grand opening and other events. You can host other events to create continued buzz around your restaurant, such as wine tastings, live music, cooking classes, or themed fixed menus. This “test run” strategy allows you to hone in on specific meal times to see where your staff could be more efficient. From private parties for friends and family to sneak peeks open to the public, there are several soft launch strategies

Have a Business Plan

Writing a thorough restaurant business plan (if you need to source for a fund) is essential for reaching to investors and applying for restaurant loans to start your restaurant.

It will also help you develop your strategy and flesh out the feasibility of your restaurant’s details.

No doubt, there’ll be challenges when starting and running your restaurant business. Major ones include:

  • Unstable menu pricing
  • Poor inventory management
  • Deciding on a less crowded restaurant niche
  • Hiring and training qualified staff
  • Startup Capital: depending on the type of restaurant
  • Consistency
  • Close competition
  • Keeping up with the market trends
  • Poor attention to detail
  • Lack of dedication and time commitment

Conclusion on how to Start a Restaurant Business In Nigeria

Figuring out how to start a restaurant business in Nigeria or anywhere else around the world may not be as hard you think, but running it successfully is where the hard work comes in.

If you plan to start and run a restaurant business

you need to understand its pros and cons thoroughly, so you can put in the right amount of effort and dedication to make it a success.

Opportunities exists if you are good at cooking. If you have good cooking skills and you can make some nice tasty meals, then you could start a business that will be rewarding and profitable.

You can start a restaurant business where you will be preparing and serving food to people to eat and you will get paid for the services you render.

The restaurant business is one business that has been creating millionaires in Nigeria for decades. There will always be the need for places to eat out.

You can take advantage of this opportunity and start your own restaurant business in Nigeria today.

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