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Conquering Niche Content – Lessons from Nosa and Folayemi Of Eat Drink Lagos

Eat Drink Lagos started as a food blog by Nosa Oyegun and Folayemi Agusto in 2014 and has grown to thousands of monthly visitors. The blog has now extended its tentacles to host Eat Drink Festival – a food festival that boasts of almost 10,000 attendees. They have also launched a chatbot for finding restaurants in Lagos and private lunch club. We spoke to Nosa and Folly (as she’s fondly called) about growing a blog in a unique niche and with a distinctive voice.

How did Eat Drink Lagos Start?

Folayemi and Nosa met during the NYSC programme. He wasn’t quite familiar with Lagos so Folayemi took up the challenge to take him around. Nosa was quite apathetic to most parts of Lagos. “I have a principle of a bubble. I don’t work outside my bubble, I don’t do anything outside my bubble. It’s not a mainland-island thing because there are parts of Lekki I don’t even go to”

How did you decide on the name?

Nosa came up with a lot of fun ideas. “Gastronomist was one of the names I came up with. There were others but that’s the one I still remember”. Folayemi did some research online and came up with “Eat Drink Lagos”. They designed the blog and launched it in October 2014.

When you launched, the design was really simple but users had to scroll a lot. Was that intentional?

Folayemi notes that the design was based off a template and readers said they didn’t want posts truncated so it stuck for a while. The design would eventually change to group restaurant reviews by location and category. Nosa says “We decided to change it because if you wanted to see stuff about a restaurant on the island, you had to scroll 3-4 pages and you wouldn’t like it”. Folayemi chimed in “We wanted to make it look like there were categories, so people could see all the stuff like Lekki, bars, etc”. Users can still, however, view the old template by clicking “Blog” from the homepage.”

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The minimalist design was definitely intentional. Nosa is a fan of white space and doesn’t like busy web pages and fonts.

The writing style is very funny and cool. Was that deliberate or something that just happened because the reviews are conversations between both of you?

Eat Drink Lagos reviews are primarily conversations about food between Folayemi and Nosa. Their tone of writing has caught on and become popular, growing their readership into fans. The brand voice wasn’t always in that tone though, Folayemi notes that it was initially in prose form and it was hard for readers to distinguish between the different voices in the conversation. Based on feedback, they changed the format to a conversational tone. “It’s supposed to be fun, laid back and relatable and it should sound like how we talk”.

How did you initially gain traffic when the site launched?

Folayemi chuckled at this point. “Well Nosa is a funny guy, he has a curated account and people see Nosa as funny. He’s in all of those twitter circles and so when he shared the content, his fans just jumped on it”. Nosa’s Twitter account was popular at the time so Eat Drink Lagos was shared via that medium and in turn made the articles popular. An Eat Drink Lagos Twitter account wasn’t created upon launch but came thereafter. There’s also an Instagram account that curates the duo’s experiences and food struggles in Lagos.

Have people tried to plagiarize your content?

Because Eat Drink Lagos has great content, many sites have completely lifted content word for word without attribution. To fend them off, Nosa and Folayemi had their lawyers send cease and desist letters. Not only the content was copied, Eat Drink Lagos’ branding was also lifted. “Because you see people now have sites like Eat Drink Relax and Eat Drink Adventure with the same fonts, same kind of branding” Folayemi said. She also noted that all kinds of organisations from NGOs to churches had copied the blog’s unique branding. Nosa said “sometimes I don’t mind when you have like Eat Drink something but when it’s like stylistically the same, when you put everything together and replace the space with the dots or when you stack it in the way that we do, then we have a problem.”

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Eat Drink Festival is one of the biggest events in Lagos. Why do you host festivals?

Folayemi and Nosa attended a pop-up shop event in Lagos and noticed a waffle shop made more sales than the fashion vendors. They then decided to start a food festival and named it “Eat Drink Festival”. In 3 years, Eat Drink Festival has become one of the most anticipated Summer and Christmas events in Lagos with an attendance of over 8000 people at the last festival.

The festival set out to create a unique vibe to showcase food vendors who don’t have a physical location. “It wasn’t until December 2016 that we actually had two vendors with physical locations – Shawarma and Co. and Johnny Rocket’s”. The vetting process includes having an Instagram account.

Is it so that people don’t sell fast food?

“Fast food vendors are banned actually, there’s no policy that bans them but no Mr. Biggs”. Nosa says the festival is supposed to be for people who have side hustles. “People who would otherwise not be out there if not for Eat Drink Lagos. Biscuit Bone is one example, she just had a blog and then she came for Eat Drink Festival, she started with deliveries and then got a physical location.”

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Do you ever plan on doing this outside Lagos?

Nosa and Folayemi want to duplicate Eat Drink Lagos in Accra. “ Food in Accra is significantly better from the last time we visited. We follow food vendors in Accra just so when it’s time for Eat Drink Accra, we move”.

Were there any other bots when you launched The Eat Drink Bot?

In January 2016, Eat Drink Lagos launched Eat Drink Bot – an easy to use web application that foodies could use to find restaurants in Lagos based on budget and location. The bot boasts thousands of users monthly and joined the league of Nigerian chatbots. Nosa remembers “Kudi launched in December or November last year but we were waiting for January 1st to launch”.

The Eat Drink Bot helps users find restaurants across different budgets and areas in Lagos

Did the bot come out of a personal problem or was it something people kept asking for?

Folayemi recalls that many people sent them emails requesting for restaurants in places and with budgets in mind. Some of them were plain annoying. Nosa remembers one particular email “I want a three-course dinner for 50 people, the budget is 50k”. There were just a lot of ridiculous questions and it was a coincidence that the guys that built it – Ope and Timi – had sent us an email before about working on an app but I had ignored it”. Ope later approached Nosa to talk about a bot and the idea was born.

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Would you consider building an app in the future?

There’s no compelling use case for an Eat Drink Lagos app. Many people still approach Nosa and Folayemi and offer to build apps but they’re not convinced it’ll be useful.“If we build an app, it’ll only be to view blog posts and that’s not compelling enough. It’s easier to just go to the website.” Folayemi reiterates that most of Eat Drink Lagos’ traffic comes from search and it’s unnecessary to build a fully fledged app for the small number of people who want it. Nosa thinks it’s just a bad financial decision. “Yeah, I’ll be killing myself if I build an app. And it’s not cheap at all, you have to maintain it and update it and with Apple’s regular updates you have to update it to match the OS. Maybe in future when we increase the functionality of EDL like a pub finder or discount finder or something”. Folayemi thinks users could even write their own reviews of restaurants.

Are you ever going to quit your jobs and just focus on EDL full time?

Folayemi and Nosa are not quite ready to run Eat Drink Lagos full time although the blog currently pays for itself.

What do you do full time?

Nosa works in a bank while Folayemi works at Andela – managing guest relations and travel for the operations team.

What’s the idea behind the lunch club?

Eat Drink Lagos runs a private lunch club. The site says the Lunch club “was created for Lagosians seeking something different from their city”. Each month, the club features a chef, a truly unique menu and holds in an unusual space in Lagos.

How do you decide what restaurant to go to or which chef to use?

The pick for the lunch club was based on the favourite restaurant at the time or a restaurant Eat Drink Lagos has been meaning to partner with. Sometimes the pick was a chef instead of a restaurant. The club has however been suspended due to rising costs in Nigeria.

Have you ever been identified at a Restaurant?

“The owner of another restaurant was eating in a restaurant we were at as well. He came to meet us and told us that we reviewed his restaurant.” Folayemi remembers “He said that was a bad day, “let me invite you again””. Nosa notes that an advantage to reviewing Lagos restaurants is the class of owners are usually elderly people who don’t use the Internet or use it so much that they would find an Eat Drink Lagos review. It helps keep the anonymity of Eat Drink Lagos stable while accumulating more reviews.

Eat Drink Lagos has become one of the largest food blogs in Nigeria. With over 7000 followers on Twitter and 24,000 followers on Instagram, they have been able to stand out from the crowd using an intriguing brand voice. Eat Drink Lagos has also successfully extended their brand to encompass a product and a suite of events. We’re so excited and are looking forward to the Eat Drink Festival on December 26!

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