Jamaal, the man with passion for cooking

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Jamaal Murinzi. (Moses Opobo)

Barely a year in operation, the Al-Mannu Fast Food outlet in Biryogo, Nyamirambo has curved out a niche as “a restaurant with nice stuff for everyday people”. The brains behind the establishment, Jamaal Jasir Murinzi is a man with passion for cooking, and an honest day’s work, told Moses Opobo his story.

What’s your typical day?

As soon as I get in, I write down the day’s main agenda and then share it with all staff. I quickly look through the different departments like the kitchen and stores, and go through the previous day’s sales and expenditure. I then hold meetings with the wait staff to buzz them up, and attend to whatever business or situations that may arise in the course of the day. I would say I don’t have a set time-table on which I operate.

How would you describe the dining culture in Kigali?

I would say there is a lot of quantity –many restaurants and hotels, as opposed to quality, which is what matters at the end of the day. There is a restaurant everywhere you look in Kigali today, but you will be hard-pressed to find one that fulfills the basic standards.

What are these basic standards?

They are; variety, good customer service, purpose-built premises, and affordable prices. Most eating establishments in this country do not meet many these criteria.

But the future looks bright. There is good government regulation that involves inspection by local sector officials, Kigali City Council, the Police, and the Ministry of Health.

They then grade the restaurant according to its performance against the set standards. They are graded in four different categories, from A-D.

The best restaurants are graded “A”, and as Al-Mannu, we are happy to be among category “A” restaurants even before making a year in business.

Restaurants that are ranked “D” are considered to be sub standard and are usually closed in the interest of public safety.

On customer care:

Our customer care situation is more of a cultural challenge than human nature at play.
In Rwanda, people think that customer care means just being polite and quick. However, the concept of customer care is more than that.

In my view, customer care is more about attention to detail, which comes with much practice and a shift in cultural sentiments. It’s about coming back to the customer ten minutes after serving their meal, just to find out if all is well.

It’s about what kind of language a waiter should use before a client, the expression on their face, and the distance they keep from a customer.

It’s about saying “thank you”, and “bye-bye” to a client after they have finished having a meal or using your facility. It’s not enough to just greet and welcome the client on arrival. That is what it means to pay attention to detail.

Do you cook?

I love cooking! It’s actually one of my favorite hobbies. I have been cooking for myself for many years now, and that’s probably because I didn’t have a choice. In England where lived for many years, the arrangement is such that you do your own cooking.

I enjoy watching cookery programs on TV, and at home, I cook whenever my father has special guests.

Why Nyamirambo?

We could have gone anywhere else in central Kigali, but we chose here because it is home –where we were born and raised, so I guess it was that feeling of familiarity.

When we were setting up, most people thought that Nyamirambo (Biryogo) is not worth this kind of investment.

However, experience has shown that this is the best place to start a restaurant, because it is a predominantly Muslim settlement, where people generally don’t drink and go to bars and clubs.

All they want is decent food and some tea.