With the economy in the loo, Kenyans continue to feel the heat, even as prices of basic commodities, especially food, skyrocket.
As big businesses such as regional retailer Nakumatt Holdings embark on accelerated restructuring programs — like closing non-performing outlets — aimed at cutting operational costs, small kiosks seem to be taking the cue.
Keen to cushion themselves and ensure they meet recurrent expenditure, food kiosks in Kisumu County have taken drastic measures and strategies like doing away with ‘ugali saucer’ (additional slices), ‘chai choma’ and other incentives they have traditionally been using to lure customers.
The move has, however, been met with sharp criticism and protests from customers, especially regular patrons such as taxi drivers, boda boda riders, and construction workers among others.
“Things are terrible here. The ugali saucer we are used to here is no more. When you ask for it, waiters tell you off, with the rider, ‘hakuna hio siku hizi, hujui unga ilipanda bei?’” said Okello Jakakimba, a bodaboda rider plying Nyamasaria route from Kisumu town.
Thomas Oduor, yet another boda boda rider, can’t wrap his mind around the fact that even the traditional few tots of hot tea used to warm cold tea that he is used to are no more.
“Hapa tumezoea chai choma. But sasa mahoteli zimeanza kutoa hiyo offer,” said Oduor, calling upon the government to help hotels and kiosks, where builders of the nation eat daily, by lowering the price of basic commodities, especially maize flour, milk and sugar.
“Some of us are accustomed to additions of ugali, vegetables, chai choma and free stew. But with hotels being this mean, I don’t know how we will survive,” complained Okello, joking that from the look of things, he is afraid hotels will soon start selling tea in tots like whisky!
“We love our customers, but the only thing we can do to them is pray that the food prices reduce, so that we can return the offers,” said Geoffrey Omondi of Mamboleo Café, a lowly eatery in Kisumu city.
Some of the hoteliers who spoke to Crazy Monday attributed their austerity measures to the high cost of basic food stuffs like milk, sugar and maize flour. It is, however, not small food kiosks that are experiencing the vagaries of high food prices.
Top drawer hotels, too, are feeling the heat. Some have reduced or taken away beverages, pastries and sauces which are prepared with milk from their menus or ingredient lists. This, they argue, is better for their customers than adjusting prices upwards.
Kisumu Hotel Managers Group chairman Anyal Robinson added his voice to the soaring food prices debate, saying: “Milk prices have gone up by more than 50 per cent in the last three months, affecting hotel food costs,” he said, adding that some milk-related products like ghee, yogurt and cheese were in short supply and sometimes out of market.