When did you set up Cahoots Pub?
It was October 2017, almost three years ago. We were having lunch at Wow Tasty Foods (WTF) which is next door, having some tasty chicken. The usual crew, Jillo, Alfred, Momanyi, Mumo and myself. As we glanced around, we noted some empty space next to it, and wondered whether we could set it up as a bar.
At this point, we had a regular spot in the CBD that we patronized for over 20 years, the Tanager. We even had our permanent seats, we were almost part of the furniture. We might as well spend money that comes back into our pockets. We each contributed equal amounts to the capital needed.
Most of the time you will find that the patrons here are very closely knit. We tapped into our networks and the same has driven the success of the business.
What are the challenges of running a bar?
Our main challenge has always been parking, as you can see. However, it is not a guarantee for a successful business. Other places like Njuguna’s, Shebeen, Cedars all have minimal parking but have maintained loyal clientele. So whilst it was a challenge, we know that those loyal will still visit. We incentivize patronage by small but meaningful acts, like how we give our most loyal patrons a special beer mug for their use whilst here. Anyway, they should leave their cars and not drive after drinking.
Another challenge is days when we do not have clients. Mostly on weekdays, you will find that bar business is lower in terms of footfall. But with the weekends, you will find that the place is full. Cahoots has sold itself and we are in a good space with regular patronage. We are looking to move ahead and grow further.
Are you looking to expand?
We had thought of it while in our second year – but we decided to slow down. We even had other people asking to become directors, but we declined. We manage to run the place efficiently.
Given that you all have day jobs, how do you manage to run the bar
The staff are all assigned their various responsibilities, but where need be, another member can step in when necessary. This has fostered great camaraderie within our staff. When it comes to indiscipline, we don’t tolerate it at all.
You need to have management present – make the time. Initially we tried to have a schedule, but sometimes other things would make it difficult to be here. Sometimes I am caught up na ni siku yangu, what happens? So we let it be ad hoc, and instead we all commit to being here.
This is one of the popular spots that doesn’t take cash. Why did you choose that?
We took advice from our friends in similar and well established businesses, and they advised that the best way to control theft is to avoid cash. You can have theft from external sources – robbers who have no choice since there is no cash to be stolen, as well as internal controls to manage staff pilferage and theft.
Whilst we also have card payment options available, Lipa Na M-PESA is our most commonly used form of payment here – it is very convenient as most of our patrons have it. On the other hand, it allows the customer to have a level of accountability – with the transaction messages, they can track their spending.
So M-PESA eases your security concerns, and eases your work in reconciling the transactions made?
That is exactly it, more or less.
So these are my key tips:
- You need a good presence of the owner
- A good network of your friends
- Some level of trust with your workers
- Do not compromise on quality, especially on drinks: cheap and contraband drinks will be the end of your business. Customers know the right quality of their drinks and will just avoid your bar. And of course, the law will catch up with you.
- Do straight business – if it works, fine. If it does not, close it. It is a fickle business sometimes.
Stop by Cahoots Pub on Kindaruma road, Nairobi, and enjoy their service, and remember to pay through Lipa Na M-PESA.