As recently as 2022, Nyama Mama was a much-loved restaurant brand and a favorite spot for many Nairobi diners looking for a comfortable décor.
They were famed for their African-themed dishes, particularly the chapati quesadilla and matoke burgers. The restaurant was also revered for its classic cocktails and milkshakes, reggae nights, live jazz performances, and hearty breakfasts.
In this article, WoK takes a journey through the rise and fall of this iconic eatery.
Nyama Mama was part of The Good Earth Group (TGEG) company, founded and owned by Jayesh Shanghavi and his wife, Nina Shanghavi.
Initially, the couple operated a successful travel agency business before venturing into the hospitality sector in 2016, when they opened the first Nyama Mama outlet at Delta Towers along Waiyaki Way.
According to the restaurant’s Assistant Executive chef, Lesiamon Sempele, the name Nyama Mama was inspired by the notion that everyone’s mother is the best cook in the world.
The restaurant’s interior featured dozens of pots and pans, cooking fat, and packets of unga on the shelves. The idea was to make customers feel at home and give the impression that the food had come straight from your mother’s kitchen.
At the end of 2018, the owners introduced Good Earth Deli and Bakery and Good Earth Catering as well as a new Nyama Mama branch at Capital Centre along Mombasa Road.
By the end of 2018, there were four Nyama Mama outlets offering a unique dining experience in Nairobi.
In 2019, The Good Earth Group decided to diversify its ventures and invested sh 500 million in two new restaurants.
These included a beverage facility dubbed Blue Door, which featured a cocktail lounge, beer garden, and a nightclub dubbed African Tapas. They also opened another Chinese-themed restaurant dubbed Mr. Yao. These were located in Kenrail Towers, Westlands.
Until 2019, Good Earth raked in robust revenues, with outlets being opened across Nairobi.
At the time, the company announced that it was looking for private investors to boost its local and regional expansion bid.
Covid and Accusations
Like most businesses, Nyama Mama was not spared by the Covid pandemic. The restaurant’s revenues dwindled to a mere 10%, boosted only by their delivery services. This forced them to slash their workforce by at least 70%.
The company weathered the storm and was on its way to recovery when, in 2021, the owners were accused of Fraudulently obtaining a sh 520 million loan from Victoria Commercial Bank.
Nina Shanghavi was said to be on the run and an arrest warrant was issued for her. In December, she was wheeled into a Nairobi court by hospital attendants with an oxygen tank fitted on her wheelchair.
Her lawyer, Charles Njenga, argued that she had not been on the run but had instead traveled abroad for medication.
After a highly publicized legal battle, the court ordered the parties to resolve the matter out of court, releasing Nina Shanghavi on a sh 450,000 cash bail.
The End of an Era
Things were quiet for a while until February 2022, when the Daily Nation reported that Nyama Mama had been put under administration.
According to the newspaper, corporate advisory firm Adili Associates had been appointed as the company’s administrator effective February 10. This meant that Adili would be managing all the property, business, and affairs of the Good Earth Group company.
Putting the Good Earth Group under administration meant the end of the road for the business.
“But even as the business took a hit from the pandemic, the loan the business and directors took and the lack of investors in its hour of need were the final stroke that broke Nyama Mama’s back and sister businesses,” said the Daily Nation.
While WoK could not confirm whether the restaurant is currently in operation, a spot check on its social media accounts revealed that they had not been updated since 2022.