Fola and Nosa on #EatDrinkFestival 2018
EatDrinkLagos started as a small food blog by Nosa Oyegun and Folayemi Agusto in 2014 and has grown to attract thousands of monthly visitors. The blog extended its reach by hosting the annual #EatDrinkFestival, a food festival that aims to connect various businesses involved in the production and sale of food-related items to a cosmopolitan audience of food enthusiasts. The festival boasts almost 10,000 attendees and showcases some of the best vendors in Nigeria. In this interview, Nosa and Fola (aka Folly) discuss their beginnings and the forthcoming festival.
The Eat Drink Media company started as a blog in 2014. You have reviewed countless restaurants since then and gained the attention of food lovers in Lagos. What events led to the decision to start the company?
Nosa: There was nothing like it at the time. There were a few food review blogs that existed, but the updates were few and far between—a bit frustrating because I didn’t know where anything was in Lagos. So we decided we’d do it ourselves, basically going round Lagos documenting our experiences.
The 2018 #EatDrinkFestival is scheduled to hold from December 26 to 27. Please tell us what food enthusiasts can expect from this year’s edition and why you have chosen the cashless route?
Nosa: We’ve had a couple issues with payments at the festival, from not enough ATMs for withdrawals to POS downtimes. So this year, we decided to take matters in our hands. Over the summer, we did some research on how international festivals handle payments. The product of that research is this system we’re implementing. There’ll be nothing like “the POS is not working” or “we don’t have change.” There will be no transaction fees for the vendors, and transactions will be significantly faster.
What impact do events like yours have on the food industry and on vendors in particular?
Folly: A lot of our vendors don’t have physical locations. For some of them, it’s just a side gig. Events like ours help get these vendors out there. It’s a good way to build a pipeline of potential customers. The idea we had was to give these vendors a platform to meet their customers in person without having to own a storefront, because the cost of one is prohibitive for many of these small businesses. We have expanded this year’s edition to a two-day format to accommodate a wider selection of exhibitors.
There are often concerns about the quality of food being served at fairs and festivals. What are the selection criteria for vendors, and how are you able to ensure that the foods sold at the festival meet general health standards?
Nosa: From our second festival, we did away with the “first come, first serve” approach to things. We decided to implement a proper selection process for vendors.
Folly: All vendors have to apply for consideration and submit a three- to five-item menu as part of the application process. The menus are restricted, so vendors can focus on their strengths. This ensures that whatever you see on the day is the vendor’s best foot forward.
Nosa: Meeting health standards are a bit of a challenge, but we ensure that we provide all that is necessary so the vendors don’t have an excuse to slip.
Folly: We also take reports from our guests seriously, so if reports are made, a vendor may not be invited back to the event.
What challenges have you faced since establishing #EatDrinkFestival and how were you able to overcome them?
Nosa: We have to juggle it with our nine-to-fives, but we’ve leveraged technology a lot to help us operate at decent enough scale.
Folly: Automation of manual, repetitive tasks using technology is key, because otherwise we’d be at it all day.
What advice do you have for aspiring food entrepreneurs?
Nosa: You have to be passionate about it. That inherent curiosity is what breeds excellence.
Are there other upcoming projects you would like to share with us?
Nosa: We’re looking to take the festival to another Nigerian state and maybe another African country.
Folly: 2019 should be an interesting year; we’re looking forward to it.
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