In January 2021, after several months of hard work, and despite the pandemic, a group of young people launched “Restau Youth” at the YMCA Togo. Every day they cook, serve and deliver breakfasts, lunches and afternoon snacks. Their motto is “Eat clean, eat healthy”.
In Togo, it is very difficult for young people to find sustainable employment. Therefore, many decide to start their own business. This is the story of Arnold Atanhoueleto and Mathurin Aziakpor, both in their early thirties, and their friends. Arnold is the former financial accountant of YMCA Togo. Due to the YMCA staff cut-off two years ago, the in-house canteen was closed. Arnold produced a social entrepreneurship business plan with a simple idea: “The kitchen at the YMCA was fully equipped but was not in use. And we’ve had a lot of potential customers there, who need to eat and don’t want to go out to get their food, either because of COVID-19 or because of their workload. So I thought about bringing them food”.
In 2018, Arnold introduced the project to YMCA staff, members and supporters: “We needed one million West African francs (CFA) in stock to start the project, and we raised 1.6 million. Resto Youth was born in early 2021”.
Provide high quality dishes
Mathurin is in charge of the operation of the restaurant. He comes from the south of the country and joined the YMCA Togo in 2016 to learn more about social and civic engagement: “I studied law and journalism, but deep down I am passionate about supporting my community and providing services to people. Joining Restau Youth was a great opportunity to coordinate a project and learn how to manage a business that impacts our city ”.
Every morning, Mathurin and his colleague Jean-Paul visit companies and offices to hand in their menus and introduce themselves. Customers then call to place their orders. Nina is the cook. Supported by Biova, she prepares local and fast food dishes such as chicken djinkoume, pasta with adémé sauce, burgers and sandwiches. Jean-Paul is the delivery man and rushes between the kitchen and the customers, especially at lunchtime: “We deliver 100 meals a week”, Mathurin shares. “But people also come to the restaurant to eat on our terrace or to take their orders. We are very busy. Resto Youth also hosts events such as weddings, business meetings or birthdays. We hope to be able to have more staff and more kitchen equipment in the near future ”.
Growing your own vegetables and fruits
Despite the financial difficulties they have faced due to the crisis, the team of Restau Youth are encouraged by the growing number of customers. They are already thinking about the next step: “We believe that food is our first medicine. Right now we buy our ingredients from the market, but everything is very expensive. We would like to collaborate with the YMCA project of Avvetonou and CAFAP-Bagbé to grow our own vegetables and fruits in their gardens. Everything will be organic, and we will control the whole process, from the ground to the plate”.
What makes Restau Youth so successful? Mathurin explains : “We care about the quality of the food, as well as the way we welcome and treat our customers. Our reputation is spreading by word of mouth”.
As we mark International Youth Day 2021, we join with the United Nations in sharing stories related to the theme: “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Global Health”.