While we are keeping our fingers crossed for the future manifestations of Sugar Cane Restaurant, as the CEO Yanate Banigo hints that it will be a big surprise, we are yet to recover from the excitement and serenity that came with having a meal at the restaurant. We were there to unravel the beautiful mystery of how the restaurant came to be, the pros of its existence, and the challenges of running such an elite restaurant in Lagos. The atmosphere had, as it will always be, a beautiful aura hovering over it. The food is great as experienced first-hand, the staff are professional and accommodating, and the CEO expressed delight and humility as she let us into her world.
Like few significant entrepreneurs, Yanate who learned her trade abroad saw the need to fill a void. She became passionate about it; hence it has been a tale of relevant growth, productivity, and popularity. We had a couple of questions for her to answer. Her responses were precise and insightful. Catch the interview below.
What inspired you to become a restaurant owner?
My love for food, I think it’s just that. I have always been a foodie which transformed into a love for baking and then into a love for cooking. Moving back home I still felt that there was a void in terms of restaurants. I believe that a city like Lagos deserves to have endless options when it comes to places to eat.
At what point did you realize you wanted to do this?
I would say during culinary school. I think at some point I contemplated staying abroad and working but at the end of the day, home is where the heart lies.
What are the 3 tips for running a successful restaurant?
It’s so hard to give specific advice because I do feel like I am still learning every day. So I can only let you know what I tried. I first found a hole in the market which I believed was breakfast. I love breakfast and I did not feel like we had enough options when it came to that. I am the type of person who can eat pancakes for dinner so I decided to make our breakfast menu all day. So first tip find a void and try to fill it. Invest your time. The restaurant business or any really is one that you must be present for. Invest your time, watch your baby grow. You must invest the time to be able to tweak and fix things you would not have originally seen as an issue. Be patient, growth takes time. Do not expect things to happen overnight. But if you are persistent and pay attention to giving the same service and same food, so the same experience every time to customers, growth will be inevitable.
What were the major challenges you faced as a young entrepreneur managing such a huge restaurant?
The search for passion; people like to tell you that no one is going to love your business as much as you do but I do believe that you can find people who closely follow or mimic that love. I have found a few staff members who go above and beyond for the sugarcane brand and I’m hoping to fill my restaurant with them.
What are the key lessons so far?
There is a willingness to learn. You will get some staff members who want to learn but were never given the chance to. Don’t be afraid to invest the time teaching/ training your staff. If they leave at least see it as having helped enhanced someone’s life, don’t see it as a loss.
What is your style of food?
Comfort food; food that gives you nostalgia.
What’s your secret to keeping customers coming in? What have been some of your most successful promotions, and where did they originate?
I really don’t know our secret. We just try to give good service and good food to everyone that walks through the door.
Most served foods in the restaurant?
The most popular dishes at the restaurant are the cajun jambalaya and red velvet pancakes.
We’re curious why sugarcane?
Sorry guys. Wish I had a great story to tell. The name came from hours of brainstorming and my mother came up with the name.
Top 5 favourite food pick for the weekend?
Chicken avocado burger.
The hot dog bar at the patio, have it with onion strings.
Penne pesto with breaded chicken.
Seafood rice, have it with anything. You’re welcome.
What are the categories of food served? And are there other side attractions?
Our cinnamon sugar popcorn is our complimentary item and is quite popular with the guests.
What would you like to say to people who haven’t tried your food yet?
Food is finicky, everyone has different taste buds. Come try it for yourself. No one knows what you like more than you, you will thank me later.
We tried it and we were completely blown away, you should too.