The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the global food industry as many governments close down restaurants and bars to curb the spread of the virus. Across the world, restaurant’s daily traffic dropped significantly, compared to the same period the previous year. Closure of restaurants affected related industries such as food production, liquor production, food and beverage shipping, fishing and farming.

The issues were particularly disruptive in urban areas where large proportions of entire categories of food are typically sold using real-time logistics, like ordering and delivery.

As the world tried to adjust to the new normal early last year, Joe Gichanga’s restaurant, The MunchDen Grill, in Dagoretti corner suffered a big blow. I sat across him and his wife Njeri in his restaurant, masks on and a considerable amount of space between us.

The dining atmosphere, so squeeky clean, the warm reception and the food wooden platters created a laid back ambience. The inside area looked warm and inviting whereas the outside had enough space for parking and two warm chefs that grilled the chicken and pork.

Joe reminisces time before the pandemic. He tells me how his restaurant was always packed, with regular customers trickling in daily. However, upon the onset of COVID-19, Joe tells me that it was a period of uncertainty and fear. He adds that customers coming in to eat in the restaurant greatly reduced, and he was forced to close down for a short while when the government completely banned operations in eateries.

It is then that he knew he needed an alternative strategy. He started doing deliveries. He began by selling the stock he had; raw chicken. With time, clients ordered for other meat products like beef and pork, which he delivered. Slowly but surely the delivery business picked up. He also began utilizing digital platforms such as Twitter and Instagram to promote his business and reach more customers.

“The business has steadily picked up before the new measures were announced. We have revamped our operations to meet the changing demands of our clients besides improving our employees’ welfare. We have grown our social media presence and we constantly engage with our customers to get feedback and improve on their needs,” said Joe.

According to Joe, the third wave and the lockdown thereafter, tested the resilience of the eating joint to the limit amid a drastic slump in the number of clients and rising operating expenditure. The laid down protocols of limited operating hours and sitting capacity has consequently scaled-down dining operations countrywide.

As I entered the restaurant, I noticed the handwashing booths at the entrance, spaced out seats inside the restaurant, and diners inside had masks on when they were not eating. This, Joe tells me, is in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19 in his establishment.

I got to taste one of the best-sellers, the sautéed chicken and chips masala, and yes, the food is nothing short of glorious. The order also arrived at the stipulated time unlike in other establishments whereby an order can arrive hours late. The staff at the establishment were also very courteous and ready to serve.

The MunchDen Grill is reasonably priced with a raw full chicken going for Ksh. 450 and a kilogram of pork goes for Ksh. 600. The price changes for cooked food, and delivery fee is also separate, depending on the location.

Joe and his wife, Njeri, are targeting to open more branches in different areas to offer convenience and to share their delicious meals with Kenyans. Their menu offers accompaniments like ugali, fries, and soft drinks as well.

So if you are ever around Dagoretti Corner and don’t know where to have a meal, check out The Munch Den and I can assure you that you will not leave disappointed. The MunchDen Grill is on Instagram @TheMunchDenGrill, and on Twitter as @MunchDen. You can also call for deliveries via 0711 968 496.

The establishment encourages MPESA as a payment option. According to Joe, M-PESA is a safe and convenient method of payment in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.