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Uganda’s Sowani.com, a restaurant discovery & reservation site in final touches to get restaurants & bars online

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 By Eric Mutawe

With Africas internet penetration currently around 36% and at approximately 40% (19,000,000 people) in Uganda, it has created a need for businesses now more than ever to tap into the internet in order to reach more clients. This increased penetration of internet has led to the rise of Ugandan internet solutions such as Wena hardware an online store for hardware, Sparewo an online store for spare parts, Bringofresh an online grocery store, Sowani a restaurant discovery and table reservation platform among others. 

            The challenges facing restaurants (and other hospitality businesses) in Uganda to utilize this internet penetration opportunity are many; high costs to develop a website, high costs to do SEO to drive traffic to their websites, high costs to hire full-time online marketing people and  know-how for online marketing (online marketing is more than just Facebook). However amazing your services, food, venue or drinks are, without marketing people will not know about your business. So marketing is a necessity for any business to survive and grow. Question is, how do we make it affordable for businesses in Uganda?

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            Let’s first break down the costs that would be normally be required for a restaurant/bar to get a strong online presence and later present a solution that will help

  1. Social media.

Many managers or venue owners believe they can handle their own social media pages. If you don’t understand the meaning of the following terms or metrics; reach, impressions, A/B testing, CPC, insight among others or you create social media content using low-quality videos/photos then you are underutilizing your social media pages and need help. In Uganda, the cost of a social media manager/ agency to help a business manage these social media pages is at least UGX 300,000 to +UGX1M per month, the cost of good videographer/photographer/blogger to create content for your restaurant/bar is UGX100,000 to UGX400,000 per session/per video/per article.

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  • Website and SEO

Website development in Uganda ranges from UGX400,000 to +UGX2M depending on the features required. First of all if you develop a website for your business and don’t do SEO for that website, it’s the same as winking at a girl in the dark i.e. your website won’t be discovered online. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the reason certain websites appear first before others every time you search for anything on Google, it’s not random selection. If you don’t understand keywords and how to use them to affect better SEO performance you need help.

  • Table reservation feature in website

Many clients have birthdays, graduation parties, baby showers, bridal showers, brunch, and business meetings among other gatherings. They need to effectively access menus and make table reservations to the venues of their choice with convenience. Currently, to make a table reservation or RSVP you need to call a telephone number (its usually off, its busy) or go physically there to book a table.

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If you already had a website adding this feature would be costly .

                Uganda has approximately 19M people on the internet, of these just 2.8M, are on Facebook. This means for any business in Uganda to fully maximize the potential of internet (tap into most of the 19M internet users) you need a presence that goes beyond social media that is SEO, Content Marketing, PPC, etc. Expensive overhead costs for a business

So what’s the alternative solution?

Sowani, a winner from the MTN startup challenge 2019 has developed a restaurant discovery and table reservation platform for SME restaurant, bar and hotel businesses in Uganda to solve those challenges.

With its platform restaurants, bars, cafes or hotels anywhere in Uganda can add their business onto the platform and through the monthly subscription packages get listed online (upload menus, venue photos, and business information) UGX 25,000/month , get a table reservation system to manage bookings for birthdays, theme nights, meetings, baby showers, conferences, etc UGX 50,000/month and get a content creation team to blog, shoot video, take photos (to supplement your marketing ) for UGX 200,000/month.

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