Chop, Chat and Chill with Chuku‘s
When did you found the business, what was your inspiration behind launching Chuku’s London and why was the timing right?
Chuku’s is the world’s first Nigerian tapas restaurant. From a young age, we’d been discussing the idea of popularising Nigerian food in the UK. We knew that just opening another Nigerian restaurant wasn’t the solution though. We wanted to do something different. Something which could be accessible to all cultures and makes everyone feel at home. It wasn’t until 2015 that we struck upon the right idea –authentic Nigerian flavours in small, shareable plates. This is Nigerian tapas.
With the ethnic restaurant market growing rapidly and now set to be worth £6.8billion by 2021, it felt like the right time. And with Africa a hot topic in business and music, we wanted to lead this same trend in food. Most importantly though, in the summer of 2015, we were finally both back home together in London for the first time in a decade. So we seized the opportunity to get going.
Whats your USP and how do you stand out from the crowd?
We differ from other West African restaurants because of our truly unique culinary fusion – we are the only restaurant in the world offering Nigerian tapas. We also have a memorable slogan – chop, chat, chill which describes what we are about.
Chop – This is Nigerian slang for ‘eat’ and shows Nigerian food [Link to blog post will be live by end of today] is at the heart of what we do. All our tapas dishes are centred on authentic Nigerian flavours. However, our menu is a combination of both traditional and innovative recipes with a special Chuku’s twist. For example, we are the first restaurant to offer jollof quinoa, putting a healthy spin on the popular Nigerian dish jollof rice.
Chat – Food is at the heart of every Nigerian social gathering, so with our tapas plates made for socialising we celebrate this cultural tradition, whilst tapping into the growing trend towards smaller, sharing plates.
Chill – This is for our Nigerian chill-out beats and Nigerian-inspired décor, as we go beyond the food to offer a cultural introduction to Nigeria, taking our guests to Lagos without having to even leave London.
Who is your inspiration? Business role model?
Our parents are our biggest inspiration and biggest supporters of what we do. Our Mum has always wanted us to be best friends as well as siblings and she wanted us to start our own businesses too, so she’s got exactly what she wanted! Our Dad runs his own small business, so we’ve grown up seeing how hard he has to work on it but how passionate about what he does. Their words of wisdom shared throughout the years are continually ringing our ears.
We also love the brother-sister duo behind Coffee Republic – Bobby and Sahar Hashemi. We’ve read their book, “Anyone Can Do It”, cover-to-cover multiple times. And it’s our first port of call whenever we have any business challenges. We’ve learnt so much about entrepreneurship from this one book. We’re hoping we get the opportunity to share our brother-sister experience with them one day.
What advice would you give other young entrepreneurs embarking on a startup?
1. Read “Anyone Can Do It”
2. Feed the passion. Do whatever you can to get your product out there in the simplest way. Once it’s in the hands of real people it becomes real and the passion inside will grow exponentially
3. Dream big!
You mention that SUK helped you map out your long term goals – are you able to expand a bit on what this is and any specifics that SUK has helped you put in place? Also did you get any valuable connections via the SUK?
Our mentoring session with SUK was hugely valuable in helping us map out the steps to our long-term goals and ensuring that, whilst we still dream big, we focus on climbing the ladder one rung at a time and not looking too far up. Having a high-level roadmap then allowed us to structure our business plans and add the detail for the most immediate goals.
One of the mentors also put us in touch with a seasoned restaurateur who has built a successful restaurant brand sharing the cuisine of his own heritage as we plan to do. When we presented our idea to him, he loved it. His enthusiasm, especially given his knowledge of the industry, just gave us that added confidence that we are on the right track. Having experience like that in your network is simply invaluable, especially for individuals like us who were coming from outside the restaurant industry.