Toby Oladokun, founder of west African street food brand Plantain Kitchen, has said he wants to see the brand "in every part of London" ahead of opening his first bricks and mortar site this month.
Having operated pop-ups, markets, meal kits and Deliveroo since January 2020, Oladokun, who has both Ghanaian and Nigerian heritage, is opening his first permanent venue at the former Nandine site in Peckham Levels on 21 May.
"It's been an amazing journey so far and I'm super happy with the way everything's going and the current pace that we're on and to be able to be consistent from the first day we started until now. With consistency you're able to build a massive community of people that really buy into what you're doing and the story behind the brand," he told The Caterer.
Following experience as a waiter at the Hyatt Regency London - the Churchill and five years working in marketing, including as a marketing co-ordinator for the Chopstix Group, Oladokun decided to pursue building the food brand and address what he feels has been a lack of representation of west African cuisine.
Plantain Kitchen's menu includes jollof rice, waakye, slow-cooked oxtail, vegetable stew and suya prawns, all of which come with plantain, as well as doughnuts filled with Nutella and Biscoff. Oladokun said he hopes to attract a broader audience by not putting spice in any of his dishes and instead offering an optional branded PK chilli sauce.
The business currently has just four members of staff: Oladokun, his mum (who has worked as a chef in kitchens for hotel brand Novotel and charity St Mungo's and focuses on cooking and dish development) and two employees.
Although his usual market stall was closed over the last year during lockdowns, Oladokun had already launched the brand on Deliveroo from his home kitchen, which he described as a "blessing in disguise".
"I don't believe you can ever rely on just one stream of income and this just shows the importance of it, with the pandemic," he said.
He has built up a loyal following over the last year, including by writing positive personalised notes on his Deliveroo order bags, giving away chocolate eggs with every order on Easter Sunday and delivering his ‘PK bowls' to NHS workers in hospitals around London.
"For me, it was like, there is a light at the end of the tunnel because I'm able to bring joy to people who are ordering from us despite not being able to be at markets," he said.
For now, Oladokun has paused the meal kit service to focus on the Peckham Levels opening but hopes to relaunch it later in the year. He then plans to move the Deliveroo operation out of his own kitchen and into a local pub in Surrey Quays and by the end of the year wants to be looking at opening a second site in east London, with further expansion planned thereafter.
"I would love to branch out to Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, some of the main cities in the UK," he said. "I have an idea of the international expansion that I would like to go on to – I want to take Plantain Kitchen to Portugal, the Netherlands as well. Those two countries are on my hit list, but the main focus, of course, will be the UK."
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