If you were raised in the normal family like me, then you must have had millions of family fun days. I recall how we used to visit parks, restaurants and shows as a family and made special memories as I grew up. This is just why I came to love all things travel, adventure and good eateries.
So if this sparked your dream of actually owning a restaurant or even learning about the hotel industry from a restaurant owner and manager, then you’re home!
I had an interview with the restaurant owner and manager of Jukwaa Lounge, Mr. Aol Paul and he shares with us more about Jukwaa Lounge. As a hotelier, or an aspiring hotelier, you’ll definitely be inspired.
- Who is Mr. Aol Paul?
Aol is a lawyer by profession and also the manager of Jukwaa Lounge.
- Why the name Jukwaa? And the tagline Deliciously Kenyan?
Jukwaa is a Swahili word for ‘platform. ‘
Hence, the name Jukwaa was inspired by Uhuru park as a platform that has witnessed a lot in the Kenyan history. Right from the time when Wangari Maathai refused that Uhuru Park cannot be converted to anything else but a park, to the swearing in of Kibaki as the president of the Republic of Kenya in 2002 and the swearing in of Raila in 2017 too.
Jukwaa is basically the stage where things have happened and things will happen.
- Would you please share with us a brief history of Jukwaa Lounge?
Jukwaa Lounge was actually built in the 1960s such that the generation that was there in the 1960s,1970s and 1980s knew of the place as Park Inn. But for almost 17 years, the lounge was abandoned until we decided to refurbish it in 2017. After doing our renovations, we re-launched it officially in April, 2018.
- Why did you consider launching at Uhuru Park, apart from the fact that it was initially Park Inn?
First of all, business is about you being able to identify a need. You’ll realize that if you are in Uhuru Park and you want to eat food, it’s either you go back to Nairobi town or move up to Community which isn’t very convenient.
Thus, we wanted to serve all those who came to Uhuru Park to enjoy the great facilities there like the boat riding , horseback riding and much more fun activities with great delicacies.
We were trying to ensure that somebody who had brought the children to have fun at Uhuru Park also had a place to grab a bite. At the same time, someone who had a meeting in town but had come along with the children could comfortably walk in Jukwaa lounge, use one of our lounges for their meeting as the children played in our ground.
As well, we were looking to host someone looking for a venue for their event like a graduation party, baby shower or any other sort of forum of up to 50 people specifically around Nairobi town. I believe that this is missing around the Nairobi CBD since if you want a great place to enjoy a cool breeze while hosting your event, you’d have to move out of Nairobi town.
Thus, we are happy to serve all these groups who would have a little effort getting into the CBD since even with a 10 minutes’ walk, you can be at Jukwaa Lounge for a meal or back in town after one great one!
- What sort of food is offered at Jukwaa Lounge?
Basically, Jukwaa Lounge offers a wide range of local Kenyan delicacies right from matumbo, madondo, ugali, chicken meals, fish dishes prepared using fish that is caught right from the Lake Victoria, pilau and other rice dishes too.
Good enough, at Jukwaa, you can eat in such a serene environment.
- Would you please tell us more about the partnership between Jukwaa Lounge with Yum and Uber Eats?
Our African cuisine is natural and authentic at an affordable cost, making people who have had what we call the ‘Jukwaa experience’ want more of it from wherever they are if they are unable to visit the restaurant in person.
Yum and Uber Eats have given us a platform to deliver our African cuisine delicacy to these committed customers in every corner of Nairobi and we deliver at the moment about 20 orders in a day.
The support given by Yum and Uber Eats has enabled us to expand our horizons as they also help with Marketing.
- What are some of the experiences worth appreciating as the manager of Jukwaa?
It’s always very satisfying to hear that our clients and customers appreciate our experience at Jukwaa.
Jukwaa Lounge is also a place where most visitors who come in are not necessarily the locals. At times, we have even tourists visiting Kenya for the first time so we take delight in giving them a great Kenyan experience by offering them our delicacies. They get to know what is ugali.
I had a satisfied client who had chapattis packed for him as he travelled all the way to the UK! And he said that he wanted us to even send to him the recipe on how to actually cook chapattis! Tell me if that isn’t worth appreciating?
(It sure is)
- I absolutely love the furniture at Jukwaa Lounge. What was the inspiration behind it?
Nobel Laurette Wangari Maathai fought so hard for Uhuru Park as a city park including how to keep the park environmentally appreciable.
Hence, even with our décor, we tried as much as possible to use furniture and decorations that would be keep the ideological consistency to keep Uhuru Park the way it is. Good enough, we got a good designer who kept this in mind and heart.
- As a restaurant manager, how important is it to have actual experience in the business as you actually have?
To be honest, this is the first time I’m managing a Bar and a Restaurant and I can tell you that my experience has been exciting with lots of lessons learnt – from what works and what doesn’t work.
There is nothing more exciting and inspiring in this business than getting thumbs up from satisfied clients – as a person, good reviews keep me going more than the money I make out of a venture.
- Months down the line ever since the re-launch of Jukwaa Lounge, would you please tell us some of the challenges you have experienced as a restaurant owner and manager?
I have experienced many challenges for the 6 months I have been managing Jukwaa.
The first is that I have to balance my time delicately in that I’m also a Lawyer and as such, I have to juggle and deliver on both.
The second challenge which we are grappling with is marketing . We are in a good location which is easily accessible with adequate parking which if well marketed can raise us good revenues. Unfortunately, those we have made contact with are quoting prices that are way off that if we take such amounts from the business, we will basically collapse the business.
The third challenge we are dealing with is somehow historical since most people in ‘error’ believe that Uhuru park is unsafe or not for people of a certain class which somehow denying us the numbers. We have to consistently assure those we are reaching out to that no one has been robbed in Uhuru Park for more than 2 years as there are at least 10 police officers on duty at any given time in the park.
- Any last words to welcoming everyone to come and have an absolute Kenyan experience at Jukwaa lounge?
Most people might not actually know that our products are within the ‘bei ya mwananchi’ range ; with most of our delicacies going for 300 shillings to 400 shillings.
That is indeed very affordable!
As well, at Jukwaa Lounge, we can comfortably host up to 400 people since we have our place is very spacious. Good enough, we also have a large parking spot that can fit upto 100 vehicles and we do not charge for parking.
For those who want a quiet spot for them to work, soul search or meditate, you’re also welcome at Jukwaa Lounge.
Indeed, Jukwaa Lounge is the place to be!
For more on how our interview went down, please enjoy the video!
VISIT JUKWAA LOUNGE:
Location– Uhuru Park, Nairobi
JUKWAA LOUNGE ONLINE
So what do you think about the interview with Mr.Aol Paul?
Would you appreciate being a restaurant manager and owner too?
Please speak to us in the comments section below…