Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, and now Abidjan. French grill restaurant chain Hippopotamus has opened its first West African outlet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Ivory Coast’s main city saw the opening of a Hippopotamus franchise barely a month after the end of fighting between factions loyal to the new and outgoing presidents.
“It’s really a big step for Africa; I’m not basing the business on a European or Lebanese clientele, but Ivorians,” Jihad Badreddine, head of the Ivorian franchise, told How we made it in Africa.
“Through market research we tried to find out how to serve the Ivorian base; so far 70% of our clients are Ivorian and the majority are already familiar with the brand,” he said.
The restaurant’s no-smoking policy isn’t popular with some expat communities, like the Lebanese, but Badreddine says it’s going down well with Ivorians.
The former French colony already has a relatively developed restaurant scene and a middle class built during the first few decades after independence in 1960.
“A new class of elite Ivorians are emerging”, said Badreddine, who also runs a patisserie restaurant in the middle class II Plateaux area of the city.
“For instance, with grilled meat, it’s not good to eat well-cooked because you lose a lot of the flavour and quality of the beef,” he said. “Ivorians are moving from ordering ‘well-cooked’ to ‘rare’, so already we’ve made huge progress and sooner we’ll get closer to ‘very rare’. High-quality, properly prepared steaks are finding an Ivorian connoisseur market,” he added.
Security remains a problem in Abidjan where looting during the last few months cost businesses an estimated $2 billion, according to stakeholders. But the new government, lead by former IMF deputy managing director, Alassane Ouattara, has promised to fight corruption, improve good governance and lower taxes.