‘I have always loved grilling’ – Frank Legunsen talks about life as a roadside food vendor

Lagos is home to many restaurants and fast food spots scattered across the city and residents and visitors are spoiled for choice either for a quick meal on the go or fine dining. However, there’s also an array of roadside food vendors usually found on busy commercial streets and low income neighborhoods.

Roadside food vendors are part of the fabric of life in Lagos. From Jollof rice, to boiled beans served with pepper stew and fried fish, even noodles; you can get any meal you want at a relatively cheap price from a roadside vendor.

What is not a common sight however, is a roadside grill in the morning on a non-commercial street.

Right on Otunba Jobi Fele Way, Agidingbi, Ikeja, is Frank Temitope Legunsen on a quiet Sunday morning; grilling away; his SUV parked nearby and his grill and frying pan set up on a wooden table right there on the street.

His menu is simple; Grilled Chicken/Turkey, Sweet Potato fries, and peppered stew. He sells soft drinks and water  from an ice cooler in his car too.

“I have always loved grilling. I decided to commercialize my passion for grilling in September 2017 because I thought I could do more than domestic grilling’ he says.

According to Bloomberg Data, the unemployment rate in Nigeria rose to 33.3% in March 2021 and Nigeria’s jobless rate has more than quadrupled over the last five years as the economy went through two recessions. This is usually the reason why several Nigerians find alternatives means to earn a living by setting up small enterprises like roadside food stalls or e-commerce.

But Frank is not unemployed.

In fact, he is employed by the Lagos State Ministry of Tourism where he has a full time Job as a tourism officer.

“I am dedicated and committed 100% to my job and not in any way has grilling affected my career. Although friends and colleagues who know what I do sometimes request from me to make some grills for them.” he explained.

He isn’t bothered about public perceptions or comments either.  “I really don’t feel bad about any comment.” He stated. According to him “It depends on how you perceive such comments, sometimes I consider criticism as feed back which could help me grow or adjust.” Frank has big dreams though. “My vision is to become bigger than this but it’s a process and I know I will get there in time” he says.

His decision to set up his grill on the street according to him, is a commercial strategy as well as part of a much larger plan. Right across the street from his grill stand, are two Pentecostal churches and a hotel behind him; making his grill stand the prime spot for Sunday church goers.

“My grilling is only on Sundays and my target is the churches and others around the area. Choosing to stay on the road side was to test the acceptability of what I do and also to develop customer management skills.” he explained.

Frank’s customer management skills are quite evident as he freely mingles with customers; personally serving everyone even while manning the grill himself and supervising his two young assistants.

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