How to upscale and bounce back in the food business with (TY Best Spaghetti)

How to upscale and bounce back in the food business with (TY

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TY SPag - The Beginning

It's normal for you to face trying times in your business journey; it's just one of those ordeals that you can't control most of the time. For some businesses, it's theft, fire hazards, etc. For Tayo Obaja (TY best Spaghetti), it was losing his first restaurant space.

According to him, it was a very terrible experience. In his words,

"When it happened, the first thing in my mind was it's time to go back home—and start again".

Tayo Obaja of TY Best is a small restaurant owner around Akoka, Yaba. His food business happens to be one of the thriving and popular places to get great food around the Unilag area.  His business is doing so well now but that was not always the case. This is the recount of his most trying time as a business owner and how he bounced back bigger and better.

Tayo started out his business in 2017 by just selling Indomie and eggs and very soon added french fries to the menu. At that time, the palettes of young Unilag students somehow expanded and thanks to the likes of Korede Spaghetti, there was a demand for Stir Fry Spaghetti all over the campus. So TY Joined in!

“The TY best spaghetti is one of the many house specials we sell; it's the most demanded thing on our menu. Perfecting my cooking skills with my Spaghetti was my priority in the beginning, I wanted to be good at what I did—I wanted people to taste my food and come back again”.
TY Best Spaghetti

Segmentation as a business owner

Segmenting yourself in a place like Unilag is very important. Students love food but it’s important to catch them at the right place. For TY, that was a mini restaurant in Emerald, a private hostel around Unilag.

“Even though I didn't initially start working there as a chef, I worked my way up; the small restaurant sold pastries, ice cream, and pizza; I was initially in the ice cream section.
But I decided to take a chance and explore the kitchen when I saw that we weren't raking in as many sales as expected. So then I came up with the idea of my then signature spaghetti recipe; it got customers coming back more than before”

The big demolition

Being a business owner means everything can be going really well and out of nowhere, everything starts going really bad. Some people are prepared for this with things like inflation but for TY, that was not the case when his shop was demolished.

“The day of the demolition of the small restaurant was sometime mid-2017, alongside a bunch of others in the shopping complex; and the officials gave all of us an ultimatum of one hour to park our things out. I was stuck and frustrated, running back and forth to pack as much as I could in that allowed time. Finally, my customer came and saw the situation and called some of his friends to help. It was tough that day.

What helped him that day was the presence of a customer and customers just like that nudged him to continue till he started a few days later on the pavement of the hostel building.  The same customers were influential in getting his business from, 8 regulars to over 100 regulars and another 100 who just pop by to check out this stall.


Strategies to bounce back as a business owner

When faced with such a challenge, what do you do? Do you attack price or quality or do you find a secret selling point? Tayo did all three!


“I sold at the lowest price possible with the best quality; I sold a plate of Spaghetti for #600 compared to others that sold for almost X2. My goal then and even now was to think from the average student's perspective since they were my first set of buyers.”


“I offered an incentive; free delivery. I offered door-to-door deliveries to Emerald hostel residents and charged Unilag students #100 for delivery. I knew that the average charge for deliveries then was #300”

Secret Selling Point

“After several trial and error, I revamped my menu options— I changed my spaghetti recipe to fit what my customers liked and added newer food options with a twist of my own”.
“Because I ran Ty best from evenings to as late as midnight, I provided an alternative for students that wanted food at these hours. Because most of the other stores closed at around 8 and 9:00 pm. I took advantage of that situation and built a demand.”
TY Best Spaghetti

Business Challenges

For a business that revolves around a very specific demographic in this case, students, there are the peculiar challenges any business owner would face and in TY’s case, it’s the ASUU Strike.

“Believe me, even though I'm not a student anymore, I still feel their impact on my business. About 70% of my customers are students, so keeping them away from school is bad for my business. But it's not bad enough for me to close shop; I still have my 30%.

This business also relies heavily on people as it grows so the other big challenge is employee theft which TY has battled for 6 years!

“It was hard to leave a staff I couldn't trust to run my business, so I always had to be there; I couldn't take breaks; I worked Monday to Saturday, with no rest days”

For a business like this, what is growth?

“TY best has moved to a relatively better space in the emerald hostel car park: we have enough space to cook and sell to customers. But, unfortunately, we don't have a space for a seating area yet. But soon, maybe next year—we plan to move to a bigger space in Lekki, but the current space would still be running. But I dream for Ty best to be as big as The Place restaurants; I want to grow the TY best business into a big franchise on every road you turn across Nigeria.”

Scale With Kippa is a weekly series where we discuss the peculiarities of running and scaling businesses in Nigeria. This month’s episodes focus on the lives of small scale roadside vendors in different industries who are growing year on year using all available resources.

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Hafeedoh Balogun

Hafeedoh Balogun