Founded in February 2017 by Hellen Gqoboka, Lele’s African Cuisine aims to make traditional African dishes more accessible for Johannesburg residents. The menu includes old-time favourites such as mogodu (tripe), mleqwa (hardbody chicken), manqina (pork trotters), samp, pap, skop (sheep’s head) and magwinya (fatcakes).

“Many South Africans were raised on these dishes, but, to some extent, they are seen as inferior and less glamorous – and they aren’t always easy to find,” says Gqoboka. I’m hoping that through Lele’s, these perceptions will be challenged and changed so African cuisine will be regarded as a viable alternative to Italian, American and French dishes.”

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Running a virtual restaurant

After obtaining a BCom in accounting from the University of Cape Town and an MBA from the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Gqoboka worked at multi-national businesses, including SAB and KFC.

She later identified a gap in the market for premium African cuisine. After doing extensive research, she found that there is a growing trend for restaurants to forego having a bricks-and-mortar business, but rather to serve food via on-demand delivery platforms. She decided that it was the best fit to take her business idea to market.

The business currently has sites in Pineslopes, Fourways, and Bryanston, where the food is prepared fresh and delivered straight to the doorsteps of customers. Orders can be placed through the UberEATS, Mr D, Zulzi and OrderIn apps and deliveries are made to Pineslopes, Fourways, Bryanston Randburg, Sunninghill, Douglasdale, Paulshof and parts of Morningside. Customers also have the option to collect their orders.

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“This virtual restaurant business model has worked well for us because it required relatively low capital requirements at pilot phase and it offers access to an existing consumer base via on-demand delivery platforms. It does, however, mean restrictions in terms of the delivery radius. Moving forward, we are planning to extend our reach in Johannesburg by establishing new locations and then expand nationwide,” concludes Gqoboka.

Gqoboka’s business advice:

  • Go into business for the right reasons, not just to get rich.
  • Be convicted by your vision and have faith. When rough seas approach, you will need a vision and faith to propel you forward.