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Monday, March 4, 2024

Business in the fast lane

Fast food outlets or eateries have become a major feature of urban centres in the country. The development has considerably impacted the real estate sector and, of course, the environment.

In Lagos, the phenomenon has in the past decade been pronounced, signalling an increase in demand for apartment space and landed property, thereby pushing up rental and sale value. The operators seek vantage positions, such as petrol stations and a highly commercialised area, or where there is a back-up residential population that will impact on products’ demand.

While increasingly becoming a notable employer of labour, they now compete with banks in the demand for space in the desire to be located along major roads.

However, the business is contending with issues related to the outlets’ location, car parking, land use and waste disposal. The authorities are worried that the cluster or location of several outlets within an area as well as a disturbing tendency towards inadequate provision for parking is recipe for vehicular congestion. They also frown at the indiscriminate conversion of hitherto designated residential property for commercial use, along with the disposal of liquid and solid waste.

A government official in Lagos alleges that some of the operators develop and renovate properties illegally, adding that even when applying for approval, they (fast food operators) do not wait for the final verdict before commencement of work but build while approval is still in progress.

Also, they are supposed to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study meant to address some of the problems their location and activities are likely to constitute. But, in most cases, they do not do so, says the official.

The parking standard provides for a car slot for every 60 square-metre (m2) of eatery space, or a minimum of 20 car slots for an average size eatery. But a staff of a popular eatery claims that his firm provides even much more than that.

“We’ve been building on vacant land to solve some of the problems. When cost is high, we lease for about 30 years. We addressed the issue of waste disposal by having a central kitchen at Oregun, where everything is done. The products are then sent to the outlets. At Oregun, there is a proper waste disposal, and water treatment process, among others. That is why we have smaller outlets,” he discloses.

A consultant to one of the eateries insists that the eateries should be given physical planning permit, prior to ensuring that each eatery submits its EIA report. It is on the basis of this EIA that the ministry will decide if the place is good for eatery business or not, he adds.

He stresses: “The permit will have to come with conditions. A lot of these joints have problems of parking and others. These conditions on how such problems will be tackled must be attached to the permit, which is renewable annually.

“If the eatery does not comply with the condition, then the permit should be withdrawn the following year in order to ensure that the company will not operate there again. The permit should not be issued without an EIA report.”

The Lagos State Government several years ago put a halt to change of use on plots, apparently to ensure that developments conform to the existing master plan provision. But cities are dynamic and changes in their structure are bound to occur. The realisation of this fact was somehow reflected in the recent emergence of some Model City Plans in the state, which seem to reflect current realities.

The Model City Plans are planned as a foundation to development of a functional city of Lagos. Plans are being prepared for areas like Lekki, Alimoso, Ikeja, Victoria Island, Apapa, Ikorodu, Badagry and Mainland Central.

Apart from the utilising of petrol stations, eateries are now adopting the drive-through (or drive-thru) service, which allows customers to purchase products without leaving their cars. The format was pioneered in the United States in the 1930s but has since spread to other countries including Nigeria. The cars create a line and move in one direction in drive-throughs, and do not park. A popular American fast-food chain is popularising this concept in Lagos.

Government is providing for free a service whereby an aspiring investor or developer can obtain information on a landed property’s so as to make the most reasonable decisions as regards the development of the property. This is can be helpful to fast food chain operators seeking to remain profitable and environment-friendly.

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