For small and mid-sized restaurants in Nigeria and most of Africa, food procurement can be a complex process to manage. The system is such that a business can easily run out of money or have considerable savings. Most restaurants don’t have access to deal directly with farms to get better deals because they lack the staffing to chase them. Besides, they also don’t have the aggregation pull as single entities to directly get good value from the farms.
Nigerian startup Vendease solves this problem by building a marketplace that allows restaurants to buy directly from farms and food manufacturers.
The company was founded by Tunde Kara, Olumide Fayankin, Gatumi Aliyu, and Wale Oyepeju. The idea for Vendease came when founders who have been friends for more than five years noticed their favorite restaurants in cities like Lagos and Accra shutting down. Inquisitive, they asked the owners who were acquaintances why, and the problems boiled down to the unreliable and expensive nature of food procurement in the cities.
Some months later they saw a hotel manager openly complain to a vendor about the unsteady supply of produce the hotel was getting. It sparked an idea in the founders’ minds.
The established processes involved staff or a contract employee going to the market or using third-party vendors. The founders saw that these processes were often unreliable from the two unrelated events, and restaurants lost a lot of money from price inflation and bad produce.
“We thought to ourselves that if restaurant owners and hotel managers have these problems, let us actually do some research and find out if it is a problem we can solve the problem at scale and make money while doing it,” Kara said to TechCrunch.
At the time, Kara, the CEO, and Fayankin, the COO, held the respective positions at a Pan-African media consulting company called RED Media. Aliyu, the chief product officer (CPO), also held a similar role at another Lagos and San Francisco-based, YC-backed startup, 54gene. Oyepeju, the CTO, was working on a couple of technology projects for corporates.
Before Vendease, they had founded an adtech startup for ride-hailing companies, which didn’t survive for long. So this was another shot at another entrepreneurial journey, and after two and half months of iteration, the founders decided to launch the company in January 2020. They also closed an undisclosed pre-seed round to kickstart operations.
On its website, it is described as “a procurement platform that provides a transparent process for hotels and restaurants to get the best quality products at the best possible price.” But Kara has a more fanciful description: The Amazon Prime for restaurants in Africa.
Customers can order anything ranging from bread to grains and meat to vegetables on the website. The order notification goes to the farms or food manufacturers, gets processed, and delivery is done within 24 hours.
“Why we call ourselves that is because we are deliberate about fulfilling our orders to restaurants and hotels in less than 24 hours. As most of us know, this is similar to how Amazon Prime prioritizes delivery,” he commented.
The speed and timely manner in which Vendease carries out its operations are such that it currently completes 80% of on-time and one-time deliveries across all orders.