One of the great faults with fast–food outlets in Zimbabwe has been a tendency for them to be anything but fast.
Chief operating Officer Navhraj Chauhan outside the Avondale Chicken Hut
The international standard for turnaround in a fast-food situation is two minutes, I have sometimes waited for 15 minutes and this has always resulted from a mix of incompetence and disinterest on the part of staff.
At the delightful Hut in Harare’s cosmopolitan Avondale suburb, service times come close to the international standard and I thought to myself when visiting this week: excellent, here’s some revolutionary thinking right here on our own doorstep, and not before time! Actually, our order
took five minutes, but this was, of course, a whole lot better than most fast-food venues, so we were pleased.
The standard of the food was high and the ambience of the venue was also pleasant, and the end result for my guest and I was a generally very pleasing one.
I would encourage the team there to build on this and to remain at the forefront of a real trend of genuine ‘fast’ food.
Chicken Hut is not new to Harare. Owned and operated by Size Chunk Resources, the first of their Chicken Huts was opened back in 1996 and is now part of the busy and exciting Joina Centre in downtown Harare.
This one in Avondale is the second to open and, according to the team behind the brand, this is just the start. Within a month there will be Chicken Huts in Kwekwe and Gweru, and plans are being laid for even greater expansion, so it seems there’s a Chicken Hut coming your way soon, folks.
The concept is simple: a small but enjoyable menu, with quick and friendly service and reasonable pricing.
The Avondale operation is in the fairly new complex of service station and retail outlets in what is known as the SheikMo Royal Village along King George Road, just north of the Avondale shopping centre.
It is open from mid-morning to mid-evening daily and has a clear and unambiguous focus on chicken, with no other meats appearing on the menu.
Chicken served fast-food style
Most people come in and buy for takeaway, either to office or home, while others telephone in for delivery by motorbike, and only a few stay and eat in the small but clean and neat seating area. We chose to eat there and enjoyed the busy and buzzy atmosphere that surrounded us.
My guest and I looked for simplicity and taste and that is what we found. I had the quarter chicken with Portuguese salad, while my guest had a half chicken with French fries, and we each had a Minute Maid tropical drink.
The food came quickly and was very tasty, with chicken that had been marinaded sufficiently, was well cooked and covered with a really tasty Portuguese-style sauce.
My guest thought it could do with a bit more garlic, for greater authenticity, but I was happy with my mix of flavours.
All of the meat was cooked on a charcoal grill, and there was none of the greasiness often associated with fast food.
Costs were reasonable: drinks were $2 each, while the salad was $2.50, the quarter chicken $3,50, the half chicken six dollars and the regular fries one dollar.
A full chicken goes for $12 and a family combo of full chicken, jumbo fries, 2 garlic rolls and one-litre drink is $16,50.
Also on the menu were burgers and wraps, while specials are created from time to time and there are occasional promotions which all customers can enter, with prizes like air tickets to destinations such as Johannesburg.
We had a chance to chat with senior staff, who told us there was an emphasis on food with health in mind, achievable even with fast food by grilling and by making sauces less fatty, an antidote for the thoughts that fast food is “bad for you”. They also try to create an atmosphere that oozes positive vibes in our often negative environment, and this sounded reasonable to me.
The Avondale operation has been open since June and is doing well, with lots of return business, the restaurateur’s dream solution.
Opening soon in the same premise will be a Coffee Republik, supplying coffees and pastries, as well as other beverages and bakery items.
The team hopes to introduce freshly-squeezed fruit juices to complement the juices and carbonated soft drinks already on sale.
Also being developed is an app, which will assist in spreading the word, staying in contact with customers, getting feedback and just being tech savvy for the younger set.
I think the whole operation gives other fast food operators a run for their money. My own experiences with a lot of the competition has not been good, to the extent that many are ‘off the list’ for me unless I can be coaxed in by a measure of reassurance and encouragement on the back of good food and good service.
I am so tired of the lack of welcome, the disinterest that borders on hostility and the awful food that I so often get from fast food outlets, some of them claiming international brand backing. Why do management allow this, I wonder? Oh, I know so many of us in Zimbabwe are prepared to accept it. My advice is: don’t!
And this is why Chicken Hut was such a pleasant experience for me.
To the folks there: well done and keep at it . . . don’t allow standards to drop and don’t let the Zimbabwean malaise set in.
I get really excited when we in Zimbabwe show we can do here what can be done anywhere else.
I really enjoyed Chicken Hut and can recommend it as a delight for all enjoyers of good fast food.
The Avondale operation is open from 10am to 10pm daily, with an extra hour to 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
The Joina Centre operation, which I am assured is a mirror of the Avondale one in all respects, is open daily from 10am to 7pm.