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"Bad" Habits! Dining in Lagos

It is a widely held belief that the dining industry in Lagos is, while quite fast growing, still considered to be rather emerging. This fast growth causes a lot of excitement amongst customers as well as business owners - customers want to be at the next trending place and restaurants want to be that "IN" place that is packed day in, day out. But what are some of those habits forming that are putting both restaurants and customers in a negative light?

It is important on either side of the spectrum to do self checks from time to time to ensure we put ourselves in a good light. Bad habits form anywhere, but there are some things I have noticed are UNIQUE to Nigeria. This post is not intended to judge any particular person or establishments but rather to provide a critical look on specific patterns and check ourselves for proper behaviour.. Let's look at 2 issues for both the restaurant and the customer.



There are many restaurants that open without any concrete policies communicated to guests and in some of these, the thought hadn't even crossed the mind of the restaurant owners.. This paragraph is NOT intended for them. However, for those restaurants that do have standards and regulations clearly defined, it can be very disrespectful to show up at such establishments without following their rules.

Dress codes are there to guide us into fitting the restaurant environment (or theme) that the owner has envisioned.. For example, fine dining restaurants expect semi-formal attire because they provide formal dining services. Family restaurants cater to families with young children and therefore expect customers to respect this too with descent attire. Dress codes are all about the target customer. No one should be dressed inappropriately to make others feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately a lot of the time it seems that many customers here, just don't get it, or do not care to. There is a time and place for different styles, it is simply an unspoken rule we must learn.


We have an epidemic on our hands. Everyone wants to post the next trending video on Instagram or Tik Tok and it seems all restaurant decorum flies out the window. There are some amazing and professional content creators out there, like Bella Explores and Foodie in Lagos to mention a few, using their platform as a reputable space to show restaurants in our country. However, as is often the case with todays consumerist nature, bad news spreads faster than good. In our context, negative reviews carry more attention than positive ones. In these cases, we see people "exaggerate" their experiences to make it trend more. To call a dish "the worst pasta ever" or an establishment "sexist and rude" can really ruin reputations and affect livelihoods. When commenting, we must come with more empathy and compassion. If you have a negative experience or don't like a meal, it is far more beneficial to offer a solution to the issues we face. If you cannot offer a solution, perhaps think twice. Now if the restaurant is THAT BAD, we must be ready to back it with receipts. But we must remember one thing; The customer is not always right!

Now there is nothing wrong with customers finding a restaurant or space beautiful; and it is very normal to take pictures for the gram (I do it too!). But to sit down at a table for hours and only order a mocktail is behaviour that is unheard anywhere else. It is high time we think about it from other perspectives; namely, the business and other customers. For the business and restaurant owners, these tables are revenue. This is especially true if there are other potential paying customers on standby and it can be very cost-inefficient to keep a table for a non-paying guest over a paying guest. Furthermore, it puts businesses in an uncomfortable position to have to communicate to you that what you are doing is wrong. It is a lose-lose situation. For customers, it can be very unfair to take over their intimate space with your own personal photoshoot (especially when pictures are taken all over the restaurant and not at your seat). Guests are there to also enjoy their time, and many may not want to be in the background of pictures.



Imagine walking into a restaurant, looking around and seeing it at about 50% capacity. It is 7pm, you don't have a reservation but there is definitely space for you. You greet the front of house and ask for a table. They tell you they are fully booked. What would you do? I personally like to press on with this question, "Are all the tables booked for right now?". Guess what the answer will be... You will find out some tables are booked for 9pm, some for 6pm (Yes an hour has gone by!). Does this make sense to you? It is absolutely disastrous.

I know Nigerians don't do well with time, but surely it is a bigger opportunity cost to hold a table for hours, thus losing out on a whole new source of revenue as we mentioned in the previous point. Gourmet dining establishments need to set reservation rules. Either hold reservations for 20 mins, or take a deposit. And second, have a dining duration. Agree on whether a 2 hour or 90 minute seating works with your establishment. Simple. I for one always finish before the original booking arrives.


As I have mentioned in my previous posts, there is a high percentage of restaurant owners who do not have a care for the hospitality industry. Unfortunately this affects the overall customer service. I do understand owners are human and not every day is a good day, but I have come to a few spaces where I have seen the owner on a table in the corner, looking grumpy and not interacting with guests. What is worse is when you have a complaint and they don't wish to check in.

I absolutely love when I have an engaging and passionate owner who takes time to greet their guests. It makes customers feel comfortable, welcome and appreciated. It is a little thing, but the exact opposite can leave a very sour taste in one's mouth. I should emphasise that this is something I prefer (I'm passionate!) but might not necessarily apply to the next customer.


It is great to see this conversation being had. And when we talk, we reflect, accept and grow. Bad habits exist everywhere! But it is fair to say we are funnily a special breed. Most of our habits are laughable, and our uniqueness is our best and worst feature! I do hope one day though, we know when to pull it together in order to thrive, and it does take all stakeholders involved.

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