In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship, the journey of Little Jinja, a charming restaurant located in Uganda, stands out as an inspiring tale of resilience and adaptability. Founded seven years ago, this venture initially embarked on an entirely different path, attempting various business endeavors, from supermarkets to salons. However, it was their pivot to the restaurant industry that ultimately propelled their success. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the story of Little Ninja and how their adoption of Loyverse, a modern point-of-sale system, transformed their operations. Join us as we explore the insights and experiences of the visionary owner behind this thriving restaurant.
Can you briefly describe your business?
Little Jinja is a restaurant. The restaurant was opened seven years ago. Before starting our restaurant, we tried to open different types of business. In 2016, we settled on what we really wanted to do with the place that we owned.
What inspired you to open your restaurant, and how did you initially envision its success?
When we started, we planned to have something other than a restaurant. Our first idea was to open a business in an area that we owned. Eventually, we decided to go with the restaurant because, among the businesses that we tried, the restaurant was the most profitable one. The other two businesses we tried, a supermarket and a salon, were less promising.
The name Little Jinja stands for the town where my parents grew up, which is called Jinja. This was an excellent way to reminisce about what it was like growing up, going into a nearby refreshing area, so we decided to bring that experience closer to home since we moved closer to Kampala city. This is the original story of our restaurant.
Did you or your parents have any experience in the restaurant industry before opening this restaurant?
No, none of us had any previous experience. We had to learn everything from scratch, which has been quite challenging. We tried to hire a manager several times, but it did not work. It all stands out to lack of visibility, lack of understanding of the sales figures, what the customer prefers, etc. Now that we have started to use Loyverse to track all operations, I cannot believe we could have run the operations in such a transparent way. Also, having real-time data has been quite impactful. I am a lot more optimistic now because we have a more precise understanding of what works, what doesn’t, what we have in inventory, who is coming in, who our customers are, how much we are spending, price changes, etc. There is so much we are seeing now in just 15 days, which is the crazy thing.
Many years ago, we had a laptop with an old and very mechanical system. It had very complicated features, which maybe a business owner must know, but for us, it was too much at that time, and nobody could keep us with this system. Because of the complexity, we all dropped the idea of a POS system and converted to paper. So, it has been quite a journey, and this is where we are now.
When did you first learn about Loyverse?
It has been about a year since we started actively looking for a POS system. I began making inquiries for local point of sales terminals because that was the subsequent significant development since we were going through improvements in our business, trying to put things right. So, I started to look for a POS app. My main questions were whether it was online or if I could see data through an application. Few of the systems I encountered were capable of providing that. Two months ago, I started contacting some suppliers from China because I was focused on finding the device that I had envisioned: it has to be a handheld device. But then, I was searching for the proper POS software to install on these devices. I looked at some of the local POS suppliers, but I did not like it. I had used that application before, and the user experience was not good. After these experiences, I just went online and really started to look. I signed up for several POS systems and started testing them. Then, Loyverse showed up. We decided to give it a try.
I liked that the application was available in the Play Store and had a Dashboard. The applications made sense. As I mentioned before, we did not get formal training in managing restaurants back, so we needed something that could obscure the business jag and make it super simple. Also, when we are hiring stewardesses, we have two; we don’t have to ask them if they are tech-savvy. It never comes up this question. That’s why the POS app needed to be as intuitive as WhatsApp is. Maybe I can give you a 10-minute intro, and you can immediately start using the app. This is what I have been able to achieve with Loyverse. I never receive calls anymore from my employees; they just fill in the data and understand what is not working. It has been a big win. The user-friendliness had been a challenge with all the other POS I tested, and Loyverse surpassed it amazingly.
The onboarding was also frictionless. We did a ten-commodity test, and by the end of the evening, we had figured it out. It was great because now we had ten commodities listed.
We were able to see sales information in the Back office. Three days in, we decided to do a full inventory count. We were used to doing inventory count physically, but then we realized how huge step this was. The application and the Back office were so intuitive that we wanted to put everything in there. By the third day, we increased the number of items from ten to sixty-three, and there was no looking back. This was exactly what we needed.
The training was also super simple. I spent five days consistently there, being around in case my employees would have any questions, but they learned it very fast.
Not yet. I want to get the kitchen onboard. It was just not enough time to get the kitchen onboard. I was focusing more on adding my items like drinks that are fast-moving, and we really want to make sure we are not making mistakes, or if we do, we catch the mistakes soon. This was our priority. But, naturally, it will come the right time to start using the KDS.
Is there a specific feature that has been particularly useful for your daily operations?
From a business owner’s perspective, I would say that the most helpful feature is the landing screen that gives the metrics. Just that summary of how we are doing in sales, the percentage showing the improvements or drops, is so helpful. Back office reports are, for me, like a business health dashboard. It is even better to go more in-depth with the other reports, like sales by item or category, but the Sales Summary is key for us with the data and graph representation. This comes also from comparing what it is like to have this report and not having this report, as we were operating before. Now, when we think we had a good night, we can see the number and evaluate if it was a good night based on the sales. We had never had such closure before; we had only doubts. We saw there were people around, but we weren’t sure if they were making orders or not.
Second to that, from the employee perspective, it is the user-friendliness of the system. I remember that initially, we started with light mode on, and at night, it would become very bright. Being able to have dark mode and continuing keying in data is helpful. It is good that such small things that make an impact have been through as well.
Have you created separate profiles for your employees with special access rights?
What feature do you think must be added in Loyverse to improve your workflow?
It may be too soon to tell. What I would like is to be able to perform a purchase order from the app in addition to issuing it from the Back office.
How do you advertise your business?
100% of advertising is done via WhatsApp. If we have special events happening, we notify our users on WhatsApp stories.
Is there any advice or words of wisdom you would like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
There is a quote that says, “You can’t improve what you can’t measure.” So, having the right tools to measure how your business is doing is the best advice I can give. Especially something real-time. You can’t respond at the correct time if you use a tool that doesn’t give you an instant feedback loop. My advice is to measure everything and have the right tools to measure things in real-time.