The hospitality industry is often considered by experts as a broad field within the service industry. For us in this part of the world, it includes lodging, food and drink services, event planning, theme parks and additional fields within the tourism industry.
However, in countries with more developed hospitality Industry, this definition covers a wider range of services including boat cruises and luxury dinning.
In Nigeria, the hospitality industry can be described as one still in its developing stage. From hotels to restaurants, much is yet to be achieved in terms of standardization.
But the average Nigerian is known for hard work and resilience. And so despite the many challenges faced by operators in the sector, some have gone a long way to distinguish themselves in their individual spaces.
Francis Wilkey, is CEO Cardinal Point, Amazing Plaza, Ogudu GRA, Lagos.
Anyone who is familiar with the Ogudu environment certainly recognizes the name ‘Cardinal Point’, or better still, ‘Amazing Grace Plaza.
I remember my first visit to this amazing place as it sure lives up to its name. On arrival at the entrance of the Plaza, one is greeted by the serene environment and welcoming ambiance giving the visitor an exciting feeling of leisure and relaxation.
As I walked through the gates, at first I wondered what to expect as I was attending a meeting with friends from my Alma Mata.
The cool music in the air, and the aroma of barbecue fish and chicken soon beckoned to my appetite as my senses absorbed the scenery of a business hub where you can get almost everything you want Irrespective of your mission to the plaza.
Whether you are there for a haircut at the barbing salon, or a new look for the ladies, you are sure to leave the environment with a feeling of satisfaction and relaxation.
Business 360 News had a chat with Wilkey during one of such visits about his concept of hospitality and the ‘Cardinal point’ dream. Below are highlights of the interview.
Business 360: Thank you for willing to speak with us. First, let’s get to know you.
Wilkey: My name is Francis Abiodun Wilkey, I am an Entrepreneur in the event Management and Hospitality Industry. I am a restaurateur, Farmer, Politician, a humanitarian services worker with the Association of Lions Club where I have held the position of deputy Cabinet Secretary of district 404 B2.
I am also the President of the Lagos State Chapter of my Alma Mata Command Secondary Jos Old Students Association. And I live in Ogudu.
Business 360: You are an Entrepreneur in the Hospitality Sector, what inspired you to go in this direction?
Wilkey: I have always been someone who is mindful of what I eat or drink. I am very particular about taste and quality of food. And when you pay for such services, you want to be sure you are given value for your money. Especially when it is something you can do by yourself at home, you want to be sure its worth the price in value and quality.
I remember one time, a cousin of mine came visiting from the states, and he felt like eating barbecued fish. And I was unable to make time out and prepare the fish for him myself, so I took him out to one of the nicest places around then or so I thought.
Well, when the table was set, he was very disappointed with the delivery. Both taste and quality of service was awful, and he started complaining. And he said to me, ‘Young man, this is what you are good at, why don’t you do this on a commercial basis’.
And I was like ‘no, I wasn’t ready to commercialize the skill. But he said to me ‘we just paid N4, 500 for something no way near what you can do. Don’t you think people would like to eat it if you are the one doing it? And I said ‘okay, I will think about it’.
At that time I was gainfully employed, and I had thought it wasn’t going to be easy managing an eatery alongside a full paid employment. However, it was only a matter of time, my eyes opened up to the prospects of the business idea, as I realized there was a space waiting to be filled.
I have been in Ogudu the better part of my life. And at that time, there was really no outfit that was providing the kind of services we offer today. I knew that people will always want to eat out, hangout or simply relax after work hours. It was then I realized there was a gap waiting to be filled.
Business 360: Given the fact that you have an accounting background, what steps did you take to actualize your goals.
Wilkey: I had worked with someone who was an authority in the Hospitality Industry, a lot of people know him as ‘Cakes by Tosan’. He is an accomplished confectionary Expert in Nigeria. I used to be his accountant and Admin officer when he first started.
I joined his company when the business was quite young, and he was just putting his structures together then. So that was a huge opportunity for me, as it gave me the opportunity to understudy him.
And he was that kind of a person who trained people on the job as well, and we were free to ask questions. And since I already knew where I was heading I made sure I asked the right questions at all times.
About a business plan, yes I did have a business plan, in fact, I had a standard business plan and it was in phases.
I was an Accountant and a Farmer going into the hospitality business, I had to create a business plan that could be reviewed against the backdrop of a constantly changing economy.
I had to review it regularly pending when I actually started out. More so, ours is a pacey economy when it comes to the question of prices. If you created a budget for something today at price ‘B’, and then you come back in less than a year’s time, the price changes. So for me, I kept all of these factors in mind.
I also knew what I wanted, my brand promise was simple; standard and quality service at all times’. And to achieve this, I had to understudy people who are in the business already.
Business 360: How did you come about the name ‘Cardinal Point’, what is the story behind it.
Wilkey: The name ‘Amazing Grace’ plaza is the complex that houses the hospitality business ‘ Cardinal Point’. Both names have their individual stories.
Once upon a time, ‘Amazing Grace’ Plaza was simply a Mechanic village. The Land was handed down to me by my Mother. The occupants had refused to leave, and for three years, the case was in court.
I was working then and the case took the better part of my income, so much that when the verdict came in my favor, it was like a dream. It was such an amazing outcome that I ended up calling the place ‘Amazing Grace’ plaza.
As for Cardinal point, most of my friends are priests in the Catholic Church where I worship.
On a good day, I probably would have ended up as one. But while they went to the Seminary, I went to a Military school. And very fact that I was always in their mist, they jokingly call me ‘cardinal’.
And again, if you look at where the property stands on google map, you discover we are right in the middle of Ojota, Ketu, Alapere and Maryland. And realizing it was a central point for us, more like a cardinal point, we decided to run with that name.
Business 360: As a Start-up Entrepreneur, did you get funding support from the Bank?
Wilkey: It takes a lot for an Entrepreneur to start a business in Nigeria, especially something as financially demanding as this. And the truth is most organizations would rather fund an already existing business than a start –up whose business lifespan is filled so many uncertainty as they would say.
So, I did not consider that option.
Rather, I got the support of family and friends who believe in my goals and vision. Also, I did not expect the business to grow overnight. I knew every business had its own lifespan, as such, I was ready to grow gradually.
Business 360: Given your experience in the sector in the last couple of years, how would you describe the Hospitality Industry in Nigeria?
Wilkey: There is a huge gap between what we see in more developed countries compared to what we see here. The need for standardization cannot be over emphasized. You don’t buy a drink for N300 (Three Hundred Naira) in Ogudu GRA and then buy the same drink for N1, 000.00 (One Thousand Naira) in Victoria Island, simply because one is one the mainland and the other on the Island.
What are the prerequisites for such price difference? Is it based on service quality, ambience or just location? Also, you hardly see a B & B (Bed and Breakfast) hotel in Nigeria. You pay N25, 000.00 (Twenty-five Thousand Naira) for a room in Nigeria, and you wake up the next morning only to be asked to pay for breakfast.
I do not think that is good enough. And then you are now expected to check out by 12 Noon the same day. The policies in the Hospitality sector can be better. It should not be just about revenue, it should go beyond the income they bring to the economy.
Also, regarding regulations for restuaranting businesses, there should be some form of standardization. How can you tell a five star restaurant from a two star restaurant? Do we even have them in existence here? It will certainly go a long way for the hospitality industry if all of this is put into consideration.
Wilkey and Wife
Business 360: How have you managed with the challenges of infrastructure and power supply.
Wilkey: Businesses in the hospitality industry suffer a great deal when it comes to the question of power and water supply. Earlier at the start of our business, we had serious challenges with electricity.
We had to buy generators over and over again. And the cost of diesel was quite unstable, so much that you couldn’t plan a proper budget based on existing costs.
Also, depending on the business location, power supply is better in some places compared to others. Some people celebrate if they are lucky enough to get power supply for up to four hours every day.
In Ogudu for instance we can conveniently say we enjoy light for up to 15 hours per day. So we make sure all our drinks are chilled every time electricity is available.
On the question of water supply, most businesses out there actually generate their own water same way we do here. These challenges weigh heavily on our cash flow.Business: What is your Brand promise to your customers?
Wilkey: I have been in Ogudu the better part of my life, and considering what I saw while growing up here, I realized we needed to redefine entertainment in the city.
In those days, people would drive all the way from Ogudu to Victoria Ilsand and Lekki, just because they seek places that give them a certain kind of feel and ambience. Today, all of that is changing, Cardinal Point is on the Entertainment map in Nigeria today.
We have what we call customer appreciation night, and that is when we go all out to give our customers the best of entertainment in the city. We have had the opportunity to host the likes of Sound Sultan, Vector, and some very prominent life Bands in Lagos here.
Business 360: What about the question of Security?
Wilkey: At Cardinal Point, security is key here, we leave no stone unturned, and we make no room or excuses for surprises. We don’t want our customers coming in here and feeling unsafe or insecure, so we go the extra mile to ensure our promise is kept to that effect.
Business 360: Without divulging trade secrets, where do we hope to see Cardinal Point five years ahead from now?
Wilkey: For now, we consider ourselves as young and still upcoming, we will continue to provide quality services in outdoor and indoor catering to our numerous customers within and outside Ogudu. However, looking ahead, we have dreams of our own. We are looking at other chains of services that come with hospitality such as Nightclub, a Hotel and much more.
Business 360 also spoke with Abiodun on his experiences as a Farmer and a young Entrepreneur venturing into Politics. We will continue with the interview subsequently.