history of Mr. Biggs Restaurant from 1986-2006

Mr Biggs a division of U.A.C Nigeria Plc which is regarded as one of Nigeria’s fastest growing Quick Service Restaurants. It was founded in 1986 and since then, has played pace setting role in Restaurants Services. This work tries to critically examines the Origin, Vision and Contributions of Mr Biggs to the economy of Nigeria and also Lagos state where most of its outlets are situated. Thus, this research would also shed more light on the growth and expansion rate of Mr Biggs and its influence in the fast food industry in Lagos.

Statements of Research Problem
The increase in population in Lagos and the need for Quick meals {fast food} has Mr Biggs been able to meet with the demands of its customers? Or being regarded as one of the pioneers of Quick Service Restaurants in Lagos. What has been the role of Mr Biggs? Hence with the need of expansion and recent experience of explosion. Has Mr Biggs been able to maintain its standards?

In addition, with the emergence of other Quick Service Restaurants in Lagos, how has Mr Biggs an already established brand survived and coped. Thus, as a brand of U.A.C, what is the targets, aim and has it measured up to standard.

Significance of Study
This work will reveal and examine, the origin, mission and will also lay emphasis on the critical analysis of the contribution and acceptance of Mr Bigg’s in Lagos and its environs i.e. Nigeria at large. It would serve as a manuscript for a wide range of audience particularly students, caterers, food technologist, investors, industrialist and the general public.

Scope of study
Invariably, this research work will cover the history of Mr Bigg’s from 1986-2006 a period of twenty years. And this would include examining the impact, role and challenges and also most importantly their contribution to Lagos and also the developmental process of Mr Biggs.

This work will make use of both primary and secondary sources that would enhance a comprehensive and explanatory history of Mr Biggs. It would involve personal interviews, books, journals and research works.

Proposal and literature review
Chapter 1
• Origin of the United African Company (UAC) and the evolution of Mr Bigg’s (1879-1986)
Chapter 2
• Growth and development of Mr Bigg’s in the past twenty years (1986-2006).
Chapter 3
• The Nigerian business environment and the Mr Bigg’s experience

Food business in Nigeria and every other country or nation is very important. Food is the survival (agriculture) of a nation. It is very important in the economic growth and development of a nation or a country. Agriculture which is the foundation of food business brings it i.e. food products closer to the people living in the urban or metropolitan area who cannot engage in farming, not only that food business makes it easier for people who leave their home early for work to get what to eat from a fast-food or an eatery. Though no work has been written on Mr. Biggs. And Mr. Biggs which is into food business has no existing books on it as said earlier but there are related books on food. Some of these books are reviewed:

F.A Paine, H.Y. Paine(ed) in the book titled, A Handbook of packaging. The author attempts to discuss how food should be packaged to improve packaging. Food packaging brings about durability. The book is written for food technologist wishing to understand more about the aspects of packaging technology that is relevant to the preserving, distribution and marketing of a particular food or product.
Food packaging has been described as a complex, dynamic, scientific and controversial segments of business. But is best described as a techno-economic function aimed at minimizing cost of delivery while maximizing sales (and hence profit). The need for packaging is necessary for every kind of food both fresh and processed. Containment, protection and preservation, communication, machinability and convenience and use are very important in food packaging.

David Foskett, Victor Caserani and Ronald Kinton in the book titled, The Theory of Catering. The book is designed to meet the needs of those training for involved in the catering industry. Catering is divided into various aspects namely Commercial catering, Public Sector catering. This book provides an insight on the various ways or aspect of catering which involved food business. Catering in Mr. Biggs is different from that of motels or hotels.

Betty .C.Hobbes, Diane Roberts in the book, Food Poisoning and Food Hygiene. The aim of the book is to bring facts about the causes of food poisoning and other food-borne disease to the attention of those concerned with food microbiology and food hygiene on order to improve preventive measures. It is aimed to interest those requiring. a more practical and general knowledge of the relevant organism in relation to food and its preparation. This book also gives example of food poisoning outbreak, and also include aspects of Epidemiology and microbiology specification a chapter on spoilage and preservation also in personal hygiene. Mr. Biggs has to take this in to consideration since they are dealing with the entire public as a whole and will not want anything that will tarnish their name and products and also affects the health of their customers.

Dennis Lillicrap, John Cousins and Robert Smith in the book Food and Beverage Service. The book is aimed to cover the basic knowledge necessary for those involved at a variety of levels of food and beverage system. Food and Beverages is not an end in itself but part of the business of hotel and catering operations. Its engagement in the hospitality industry is concerned with the provisions of food and drink ready for immediate consumption. Food and Beverages is concerned with the market served by the various sectors of the industry and consumers needs. This book did not talk about food production and a business i.e. fast-food but all it is concerned with is what is been sent to the market.
Barbara Burlingame in her article titled food processing and the fate of food components. In this article it shows the process that food undergoes in one way or the other affects the nutrients in either positive or negative way. Safety of food is affected by processing for better as is the case with reducing cyanogens in cassava and affects food for worse as in the case of iron and freeze-thaw cycles in fish. This work seeks greater insight into the fate of food components in our processed food supply and will not affect our health.

Shailesh Kumar, Bill Aalbersberg in the article, Nutrient Retention in Food after Earth-Oven Cooking compared to other forms of domestic cooking. This article deals with how nutrients are lost or retained in foods. Nutrient retention food is determined in the methods of cooking favorable best but that greater vitamins are more retained in microwave cooked foods. Also that nutrients can be retained in slightly low heated foods and also length of cooking determine nutrients in food. Since difference in the retention of vitamins in food is cooked by different methods is very distinctive, it provides a fair view of a more favorable cooking method. Here it shows that microwave cooking is more desirable than earth- oven cooking as it retains more nutrients and vitamins.
Alvardo Toledo, Barbara Burlingame in the article, Biodiversity and Nutrition: A common path towards global food security and sustainable development. Food composition provides an important link for biodiversity and nutrition. The aim is to promote sustainable use of biodiversity in programme contributing to food security and human nutrition .Biodiversity managements plays a significant role against malnutrition.

Heli Reinovvo, Heikki Pakkala in an article Food Composition On The World Wide Web:A User-centered perspective. The World Wide Web is widely used for presenting food composition data the web appears to be a suitable forum for presenting food composition information to the nutrients . It is also important that the site contain search terms that users feel natural ,including commonly used food names.

In final analysis ,these books and journals are of immense importance to these research work. The work includes or involve both secondary and primary sources. The authors though through their methodology and style have provided what is needed for this work. These work would show how food are been packaged so as to enhance marketing and sales and so also is catering for the kind of foods so as not to loose their nutrients and vitamins. Also is being aware and keeping from food poisoning and contamination which could endanger the health of the entire public(customer). With these books above, I will be able to write on food business which Mr. Biggs is involved.

The various arguments concerning the morality of colonialism has often been a basis for argument among both Eurocentric and Afro centric scholars. For instance Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa was simply concerned with “how Europe underdeveloped Africa”. “The only positive development in colonialism” Rodney writes “was when it ended.1 Such simple moral judgements clearly shows Rodney’s polemical purposes. African colonialism has been replaced by subtler though equally pervasive mechanism for exploitation, which are beyond the scope of Rodney’s study. The central question should henceforth not be on the justification of colonialism whether it was good or bad, but and understanding of the processes of change, that have occurred owing to European penetration.

Consequently, it is the aim of this work to advance an understanding of the process of change that led to the formation of Mr Biggs a leading confectionary in Nigeria which with it origin properly dated, it predates the Nigerian state itself. It explores the factors for growth and expansion and also the impact and challenges of the company considering the epileptic and unfriendly state of the Nigerian business environment. The history of Mr Biggs would not be properly understood if the history of United African Company of Nigeria – the mother company of Mr Biggs, is not exhaustively examined.

United African Company (UAC) of Nigeria Plc has a rich and varied history of successful enterprise that pre-dates the geographical entity called Nigeria. The rumps of the Company’s early days can be traced to the activities of European traders and commercial activities.

The Company has evolved through a series of mergers and acquisitions and restructurings as the various entrepreneurs sought to enthrone profitable and enduring enterprises.

One of the most significant developments in the company’s history was the setting up of the Royal Niger Company, which was chartered between 1672 and 1750 to administer the territory that would later become Nigeria.2

In 1879, the United African Company was found following the merger of four Companies trading up the River Niger: Alexander Miller Brother & Company, Central African Trading Company Limited; West African Company Limited and James Pinnock.3

Following the intense rivalry among the European nations in the 1880s, The National African Company Limited was floated to take over the assets of The United African Company. In 1886, The National African Company Limited was Chartered & Limited when the British Government issued it a Charter after the Berlin Conference. The logo of the Royal Niger Company was a device with three arms symbolizing
the main waterways of the territory; on each arm was a single short word: ‘ARS’, ‘JUS’, ‘PAX’4

PAX stood for “peace and order” which the Company evolved to stem the “anarchy and barbarism of the Niger Territories ” and safeguard the “numerous British and French trading interests in the Niger, which unity of action was an absolutely necessary antecedent to successful trade….”5

ARS refers to “the skill in trade and liberal arts”, which practical benefit European civilization brought to the millions in Central Africa. The subjective aspect is ingenuity – commercial and political – without which Unity and Equity would have failed.6

JUS is “the actual law and legal rights” established by public authority (the Royal Charter), without which peace would be unstable and the progress of commerce and arts hopeless. It represented just conduct and equity a pre-requisite for legitimacy.7

In 1889, the merger of eight firms that were operating in the Oil Rivers area incorporated The African Association. In 1892, The Royal Niger Company brought in Captain Lugard (later to be known as Lord Lugard) to help protect its interest in Nigeria. Lord Lugard would later become the first Governor-General of Nigeria. Following the revocation of the charter, Royal Niger Company changed its Company name to The Niger Company Limited in 1900.8

In 1919, Lever Brothers Limited bought The Niger Company Limited. That same year, The Miller Brothers Limited and the African Association united to form the African & Eastern Trade Corporation. On March 3, 1929, The United Africa Company was formed by the joint agreements of The African & Eastern Trade Corporation and the Niger Company (Owned by Lever Brothers Limited).9

UAC was first incorporated in Lagos, Nigeria under the name Nigerian Motors Ltd on April 22, 1931 as a wholly owned subsidiary of the United Africa Company Ltd. (a subsidiary of Unilever), which later became UAC International. The Company’s name was changed to United Africa Company (Nigeria) Ltd on 23rd July 1943. It became The United Africa Company of Nigeria Ltd on 1st February 1955 and started acquiring, over a period of five years, a large part of the business of UACI. In 1960 C.W.A. Holdings Ltd, England also a subsidiary of Unilever, acquired UACI’s interest in the company.10

The name was changed to UAC of Nigeria Limited on 1st March 1973.
In compliance with the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Act 1972, 40 percent of the company’s share capital was acquired in 1974 by Nigerian citizens and associations and in accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian Enterprises Promotion Act 1977, an additional 20 percent of the UAC’s share capital was publicly offered in 1977, increasing Nigerian equity participation to 60 percent.11

The name UAC of Nigeria Plc was adopted in 1991.In 1994, following the divestment of 40% interest in the Company by Unilever PLC; the Company became a wholly owned Nigerian Company. The transformation of UAC from a trading behemoth into a leading manufacturing concern, even though it took root in the 1980s, was given serious impetus in 1990s, following the exit of the company from its trading businesses.12

In early 2000, UAC further embarked on a series of business restructuring with a thorough portfolio review and switch of focus to value-adding operations. This has led to an era of focused growth on the foods, real estate, logistics and automobile sectors.13

UAC has an active foreign investor, Actis, which holds 20% of the Company’s equity. Today, UAC has become a Food–focused Conglomerate with leading brands such as Mr Bigg’s, Gala, Grand Oils, Supreme, SWAN Natural Spring Water and Gossy Spring Water. The Company’s brand portfolio also includes franchised international food brands such as Nando’s, Creamy Inn, Chicken Inn, Pizza Inn and Dial-A-Delivery.14

Mr. Bigg’s is Nigeria’s first chain of fast food restaurants. Owned by conglomerate United African Company of Nigeria PLC, there are currently around 170 locations in Nigeria, including the country’s first drive-through restaurant, with another four locations in Ghana.

The restaurant is styled after McDonald’s, and is known for its red and yellow colour scheme and meat pies. Mr. Bigg’s history begins with the coffee shops inside Kingsway Department Stores in the 1960s. In 1973, these shops were rebranded as Kingsway Rendezvous, which became Mr. Bigg’s in 1986. The chain saw rapid expansion after becoming one of the first Nigerian companies to sell franchises to investors.15

Mr. Bigg’s specialty is the meat pie. A common lunch might also include scotch eggs, a sugared donut, chicken, and a soft drink. While western fare such as hamburgers are served, Nigerian delicacies such as jollof rice and moin moin are more popular. Birthday cakes are also a popular product, and Mr. Bigg’s bakery offers cakes and pastries.

In an interview with Chris Adedipe, a pioneer team member who recalls the early days of Mr Bigg’s highlights, that the whole process started in 1984 and the man that led the team at the time was Mr. Peter Tilbey, a Briton, who was the marketing Manager of {an Electric, which later became Pera Beam.16

A professional caterer, Tilbey looked at fast foods operations around the world. He looked particularly at companies like McDonalds, some of the Unilever companies such as A & W of Canada, Nordsee and Hamburger Farm in Germany. Having done market research to find out what Nigerians wanted and then blending it with what he had seen around the world, he was able to come up wit a unique concept which was revolutionary – certainly at that time. It was revolutionary, in terms of the design, equipment and even the calibre of the staff that were used at the time.

Tilbey, as described by most that had the opportunity of working with him “as a man of very great vision”. As was said earlier, he was a professional caterer. He had worked as a pursar (food and beverage manager in a hotel) so he was a pursar on the P & O shipping line and operator of luxury cruisers. And most importantly he was a strong marketing person. Like Chris Adedipe would describe him “ as probably one of the best mangers he had had the privilege to work with”. Tilbey according to him was a “man of very great vision, very meticulous. He was so far-sighted, he was an inspirational leader and when you are working with him you have to be very fast on your feet.17

The pioneer team members of Mr Bigg’s included Peter Tilbey, Fast Foods Manager Kingsway stores Division; Mr J. B. Ifezue, Operations Manager; Janet Imoalame, Marketing Depot Manager; Mr Ayo Ajayi, Merchandise Manager; Mrs Grace Kpolu, Brand Manager; Mrs Sunbo Oyekan; Chris Adedipe, Retail Manager and Peter Anyanwu – Fast Food Accountant.18

In retrospect, the name Mr Bigg’s evolved as with most marketing efforts after a rigorous and gruelling name test. The key task was to get a name that would be unique, impactful and memorable, and in some way linked to UAC, which was the largest conglomerate in the country. After so many eliminations, Mr Bigg’s was picked from the pack. The pioneers who gave it such a name were rather not gender sensitive or rather the societal norm – that men are always at the apex of family structure must have beclouded their judgement. But then women were part of the pioneers who adopted the name, why then Mr Bigg’s. Mrs Sunbo Oyekan reiterated her experience that the marketing headache did not stop at the adoption of the name. The next consideration was how would women react to the name? Another round of test ensued. The result was that, there was no negative perception from the women folks.19

The predecessor of Mr Bigg’s, the Kingsway Rendezvous was considered a basic concept in fast foods operations. Besides its on-site cooking, Mr Biggs was a reaction to the growing demand for greater variety in fast food offerings for freshly baked, hot snacks and meals. Unknown to the consumers, the Kingsway Rendezvous’ experiment with burgers and the reaction of the consumers – which was as described by Chuks Anyangbo as “unbelievable”, convinced the managers that the market was ready for the birth of a new brand.20

At its opening of business to the general public, Mr Bigg’s shocked even it promoters with its possibilities. The customers count easily hit 4000, thus making Mr Biggs on of the top ten fast foods restaurants in the world in terms of customer counts. The pioneer restaurant had 12 cash points with seats for 108 customers at the same time.21

The origin of Mr Bigg’s and the success it has made in the Nigerian business environment is a testimony to the abundance of opportunities in the environment if an entrepreneur can only be determined after being fully aware of the unfriendly nature of the Nigerian business environment. The magnificent feat achieved by Mr Bigg’s must be evident in her growth and development and this is why this work would be examining factors that influenced her growth and development.

1. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (Abuja: Panaf Publishers, 1973) pp. 60-65.

2. F. K. Buah, West Africa Since AD 1000, (London: Macmillan Press, 1978). pp. 230-235.

3. T.B. Webster, A. A. Boahen and M. Tidy, Revolutionary Years: West Africa Since 1800, (London: Longman Group, 1980). pp.166-177.

4. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.5.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid, pp. 6.

8. W. E. F. Ward, A History of Africa, (London: George Allen & Unwind Ltd, 1966). pp. 235-260.

9. A. E. Alagoa, The Merchant Prince of the Niger Delta, (Enugu: Celphonic Press, 2000). pp. 20-26.

10. S. P. Schatz, Nigerian Capitalism, (London: Princeton Press, 1980). pp. 95-100.

11. A. O. Alake, The Indigenization Policy in Nigeria, (Lagos: Longman Group, 1990). pp. 12-22.

12. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.12.

13. UACN, “UAC Presents Facts Behind the Figure”, Link, Vol. 3. No. 1. (2002). pp. 8-11.

14. UACN, “Ajayi Speaks on Mr Bigg’s” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 5-7.

15. Ibid.

16. Interview with Mr Chris Adedipe, Company Executive, 45 years, at Company Premises, 15 July 2009.

17. Ibid.

18. UACN, “Ajayi Speaks on Mr Bigg’s” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 10-12.

19. Interview with Mr Ayo Ajayi, Ex-Company Chairman, 56 Years, after Share Holders Meeting, 17 July 2009.

20. Interview with Mr Chuks Anyangbo, Resident of Marina Lagos, 62 Years, July 17, 2009.

21. Interview with Mr Ayo Ajayi, Ex-Company Chairman, 56 Years, after Share Holders Meeting, 17 July 2009.

Today, few people would remember that the brand (Mr Bigg’s) was once a concept, which took on form, toddled as it were in the nation’s business terrain before being transformed – within 20 years into a Nigerian business pearl. Mr Bigg’s is a household name when it comes to QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) and this must have been achieved through ceaseless strategy and share administrative prowess of its administrators. This chapter explores the pattern of development and expansion of Mr Bigg’s from just one restaurant in Marina Lagos, to over 177 in 2006.

The Kingsway Rendezvous emerged out of the Kingsway Coffee Shops but because it was not properly managed the business had to pack up. Lessons were learnt from this and then when the concept of Quick Service Restaurant came up it was unique. Mr Bigg’s was different; it was the first time people would be able to see the food they were going to eat being prepared. This was embraced by everybody and that was the beginning. The acceptance of Mr Bigg’s by the public was magnificent as the first Christmas that was operated, in December 1986. On Christmas Eve, the restaurant was so packed that you could literarily throw a meat pie in the air and it won’t fall to the ground.1

Mr Bigg’s current profile leaves no doubt about what the brand is all about. It states: “Mr Bigg’s major focus is on creating unforgettable eating experience for families, children and young adults. Its core values are enmeshed in offering esteemed customers convenience through the provision of quality snacks, meals, ice cream and drinks served promptly, by friendly, courteous and enthusiastic personnel in a clean, hygienic and refreshing environment.2

The brand Mr Bigg’s has effectively communicated its core values and brand benefits. This has positioned the brand in the minds of customers as fun, family, convenience, value, hygiene and quality. A closer relationship with the children and families is being fostered through well-designed theme and scheme activities during yuletide seasons such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Children’s Day, Back-to-School, Christmas, Sallah etc. This way, the events remain unforgettable and memorable in the minds of our customers. ‘Big Melodies for Nigeria’ is a yearly event targeted at children and used as a pivot to rediscover and communicate the benefits of patriotism and a united Nigeria through songs.3

After having struggled with the Nigerian business environment and also after having professionalized their art, through a 14-year period, they were able to boost of 17 restaurants nationwide. But the revolution came at year 2000, owing largely to internal restructuring and visionary leadership. Mr Ayo Ajayi, who on taking over the leadership of UACN on 1st January 2000 seized the opportunity to realize the huge potentials in the fast foods business, facilitated the exponential growth of Mr Bigg’s. First Mr Ajayi carved out Mr Bigg’s from UAC FOODS and appointed Mr Larry Ettah as its pioneer Divisional Managing Director. By the time Mr Ettah was reassigned from Mr Biggs, the outlet count had raced to over 90 restaurants with a successful marketing campaign for the brand known as “Mr series”, “Mr Nigeria”, “Mr Value”, “Mr Family”, “Mr convenience” etc. the intensity of the expansion programme has continued to be sustained so much that in 2005, Mr Bigg’s built 42 outlet.4

As the helmsman of Mr Bigg’s, it became Mr Adedipe’s challenge to pilot Mr Bigg’s into continued greatness. This is a challenge he relished. But then in a bit of history spices the story of the early days of this grand corporate endeavour. Mr Biggs’s has proven that it is possible to run a profitable fast foods business in Nigeria. When Kingsway closed down many eminent people said that “how can one make money selling meat pie”? But today Mr Bigg’s as proved such assertions wrong, as the brand only by 2006, has 177 restaurants in Nigeria and Ghana, 29 Central Kitchens, 190 Generators (40 KVA), over 900 Toilets, 3,500 Employees, 45 Franchises, Largest single consumer of agricultural produce in Nigeria, operates in 48 cities in Nigeria and two cities in Ghana.5

Mr Chris Adedipe, one of the pioneer team members of Mr Bigg’s who until recently, was the Managing Director of the Division, recalls with unmarked nostalgia: “ I don’t think any of us in our wildest dreams would have thought that 20 years later, we would have over 177 restaurants. We know we have got a winner but we never imagined that we would get to the level that we are now”. Mr Adedipe also reiterates on what makes Mr Bigg’s fascinating to customers; “a typical Mr Bigg’s restaurant must be in a good location. It must provide hot, tasty food, cold refreshing drinks, friendly and courteous staff, who provides fast and friendly service.6

As part of her effort to lead the market, a new restaurant on Bode Thomas Road in Surulere, Lagos, came up with an innovation – a multi-counter offering inside Mr Bigg’s. The new additions were Creamy Inn – and wait a while – Village Kitchen. Located on the upper floor of the restaurant, Village Kitchen made its debut in year 2000 with the slogan “you can’t ignore me – meals in your mother tongue”. Mr Ettah, the Special Guest of Honour at the occasion of the formal opening of the restaurants, left no one in doubt about what the Village Kitchen was all about: “We all know that Africans are highly cultural and uncompromising on matters of taste. In spite of Western influences and urbanisation, we, as Africans, sooner propelled to seek out our roots – often through our cuisines as our foods, beyond our language, is a critical component of our culture, which is an anchor in these times of continual societal flux, pressure and change.”7

The Village Kitchen which plans to offer African, Caribbean and Asian cuisines, took off with the presentation of popular local menus in Nigeria. In her presentation at the opening of the Village Kitchen, Miss Oluyomi Owoeye, noted that the restaurant has been positioned as a trendsetter in the Home Meal Replacement (HMR) industry in Nigeria. On offer at every Village Kitchen counter will be a range of home replacement meals, which are categorised as thus:
• Starters – pepper soup to be served with cow tail, fish or isi-ewu (goat head)
• Farinas – pounded yam, semovita, amala, eba, ofada, white rice and moin moin.
• Accompaniments – soups/stews such as okro, edikang-ikong, egusi, eforiro, ewedu, ogbono, to be served with assorted meats, bush meat, snail, fresh fish, goat meat and stockfish.
• Dessert – fruit salad and ice cream.8
Furthermore, to compliment are development efforts owing to growing competition in that area of the market where the likes of Tantalizers, Tetrazini, Tasty Fried Chicken, Sweet Sensation etc have posed a major threat to the income and market dominance of Mr Bigg’s. The company in 2006 acquired the Master Franchise of a number of leading international food brands including Nando’s, Luv-Dat-Chicken, Pizza Inn, and Creamy Inn. So far, these brands have been successful in delivering superior food, ice cream and meals. UACN’s initiatives in the food sector have also served to set new standards and define the Quick Service Restaurant industry in the country.9

The Nigerian business environment abounds with possibilities as the environment is crude it needs ideas to refine it. Such was the ideas of Tilbey in 1986, which has grown to become the leading confectionary in Nigeria. Also efforts are being made to internationalize the brand, which would make Mr Biggs, a Nigerian brand with global reach. On the whole the growth of Mr Bigg’s can be described as epochal. Finally, nothing good comes easy, on the road to stardom there are always thorns, so what where the challenges faced by the management of Mr Biggs before they could get to where they are today.

1. UACN, “Mr Bigg’s 20 Years After” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 13-15.

2. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.12.
3. Ibid.

4. UACN, “Mr Bigg’s 20 Years After” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 13-15.

5. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.13.

6. Interview with Mr Chris Adedipe, Company Executive, 45 years, at Company Premises, 15 July, 2009.

7. UACN, “Meals … In Mother Tongue”, Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 16.

8. Ibid.

9. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.13.

The business environment is a complex, interactive element or forces that are external, but potentially of significant consequence to the performance of business enterprises. Arguably, Nigeria is a potentially rich country where several opportunities abound for business enterprises. However with these potentials available in the country, it is expected that Nigeria should ordinarily be a safe haven for entrepreneurs, taking into cognisance the country’s over 100 million population, which makes it the biggest and largest in Africa. However, things have not worked as expected. The numerous local challenges that abound have been compounded by Nigeria’s membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which exposes it to global competition.1 The option therefore is for the country to either improve the local conditions with a view to encourage the activities of business organisation or allow it to remain docile as it is.

The business environment in Nigeria has been described as aggressive and unfriendly.2 Invariably, it is this hostile environment that has fashioned the essential characteristics of its businesses. Although, the number of businesses in Nigeria are numerous, but at the same time are mostly small scaled. However, Mr Biggs has withered the storm and nurtured a brand from just a restaurant at Kingsway building in Marina to over 177 in Nigeria and Ghana. It must have been a Herculean task for the members of staff, hence what was there challenges in the face of an unfriendly and harsh business environment.3

The first possible challenge is that of the poor state of infrastructure in the country. Social amenities like good roads, water supply, and power are readily not available. The company is forced to source her own electricity, spending so much on the purchase of diesel for generators. Also, the company has to dredge her own borehole and sometimes the company had to repair roads to make it motor able for staffs and customers. The issue of power has been considered as a major challenge facing the company as Mr Biggs operates in 48 cities and in most of these cities power supply is completely not just available.4

Peace and security are synonymous with development.5 The persisting insecurity in Nigeria has endangered business parastatals. The constant threats of armed robbers have forced the company to close some restaurants and in some cases security operatives are employed and paid huge sums of money so has to ensure security of lives and property. Some restaurants have to close shop before it gets too dark so as to avoid the activities of this night marauders. This however is having a bad effect on the turnover of the company.6

The lack of macro-economic variables in terms of inflationary control as well as variable interest and exchange rates has jeopardized the operations of Mr Bigg’s. As a matter of fact, Nigerian economy suffer from distortions, high interest and exchange rates and economic instability leading to cost escalation. It is on record that inflation and interest rate in the country at times rises above 15-22 % respectively.7

The Nigerian fiscal management regime has been described as anti business, this is due to the lack of a unified tax system in the country. The three arms of government in Nigeria constantly harass businesses with all kinds of tax claims ranging from personal income tax, value added tax, warehouse permit, radio/television licence, mobile advertisement tax water borehole tax, capital gain tax, withholding tax, environmental protection tax etc.8 in some cases, the percentage of these taxes collected is considered to be one of the highest in the world. Furthermore, these taxes added to the already high cost of doing business in Nigeria further becomes a disincentive.9

Furthermore, there was the issue of logistics, people and quality everywhere. It was a great challenge managing all these issues and made sure that standard was maintained, so as to ensure that the eminent position is maintained.10

Also, the salient issue of marketing the brand has posed strong challenge to the company. Over the years however, the brand has responded to the vagaries of the Nigerian economy. The challenge is doing more of scheme activities, particularly activities that revolve around restaurants; centred on collection or clusters of restaurants; that is what is called “In-Store Marketing or Local Area Marketing.”11

Fast foods watchers would readily attest to the fact that the sector, which is one of the fastest growing frontiers of the economy, has witnessed some of the stiffest competition in the country. A lot of people seeing the success of Mr Bigg’s were encouraged to come to the market. Hence, the competition in the market is stiff but at least it is healthy and Mr Bigg’s has managed this competition, so as to maintain the front row in the market.

On the efforts to internationalise the brand, some factors have posed problems. Delving into Ghanaian market there are cultural factors, taste, and attitude of her people, which are entirely different from where they are coming from, hence there is a lot of learning to do.12

This work has been done not for its aesthetic value but to inform the reading public that in the mucky terrain of the Nigerian business environment, companies can thrive and that the Nigerian market can produce global market leaders when given the right conditions to operate. The history of Mr Bigg’s is that which should encourage potential entrepreneurs to invest in the Nigerian market and with visionary leaders who are loyal to the dream of such an ideas, the sky is just the beginning as the Nigerian economy has the quantitative ability to sustain such business. What should not be lacking in a business that is willing to thrive in Nigeria are ideas, as the Nigerian market is dynamic; visionary and efficient leadership as well as a marketable brand. Therefore, entrepreneurs should stop hiding under the guise of the harsh business environment and learn from the Mr Bigg’s experience.

1. M. Ogbeidi, Fundamentals of Business History, (Lagos: Reenok Publishers, 2006) pp. 15-25.

2. F. Amatori, Business History Around the World, (London: Macmillan Press, 1980). pp. 10-12.

3. Tom Forest, The Advance of African Capital, (New York, Princeton Press, 1985). pp. 23-30.

4. UACN, “Mr Bigg’s 20 Years After” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 13-15.

5. Interview with Mr Peter Anyanwu, Company Employee, 42 Years, at the office, July 20, 2009.

6. N. S. B. Graff, Business and Capitalism: An Introduction To Business History, (London: Longman Group, 1963). pp. 13-15.

7. UACN, “Ajayi Speaks on Mr Bigg’s” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 10-12.

8. M. Ogbeidi, Fundamentals of Business History, pp. 20.

9. UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts. pp.16.

10. Interview with Mr Peter Anyanwu, Company Employee, 42 Years, at the office, July 20, 2009.

11. Interview with Mr Chris Adedipe, Company Executive, 45 years, at Company Premises, 15 July, 2009.

12. Ibid.

13. UACN, “Mr Bigg’s 20 Years After” Link, Vol. 27. No. 1. (2006). pp. 13-15.



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• Interview with Mr Ayo Ajayi. Ex-Company Chairman, 56 Years, after Share Holders Meeting, 17 July, 2009.

• Interview with Mr Chris Adedipe. Company Executive, 45 years, at Company Premises, 15 July, 2009.

• Interview with Mr Chuks Anyangbo. Resident of Marina Lagos, 62 Years, July 17, 2009.

• Interview with Mr Peter Anyanwu. Company Employee, 42 Years, at the office, July 20, 2009.

• UAC of Nigeria Plc, 2007 Annual Report and Accounts.