19 October 2012

Rwanda: If He Sung Better, He Wouldn't Be Making Fast Food - Paul Searby

Deceased world famous tenor, Luciano Pavarotti, is quoted to have said, "one of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.' Many people have invested in the foods and beverages business and have come up with amazing names for their brands. One brand name is famous here in Kigali for lovers of fast food, Mr. Chips.

In an interview with Society, Mr. Chips himself, Paul Searby, the proprietor of Mr Chips Fast Food and Takeaway, with branches at Sonatube and Kimihurura, narrates how he came up with the name for his establishments.

"Every menu I looked at in Kigali restaurants had the word chips. Back home, we call them French Fries, and I was fascinated because it seemed like the national dish here was chips. Since most people love chips, I felt like Mister Chips had a ring to it. I liked it immediately but instead of Mister, I abbreviated it to Mr," he excitedly explains.

Born in 1961 just outside Toronto, Canada, to parents of British extract, he has five siblings. Although his father past away a few years ago, his 90-year-old mother is still alive.

"I'm from a very big family. I don't have children of my own and I have never been married. I am well versed with travel since it's another passion of mine. I think marriage is not something you plan but something that happens. Sacrifices are made by the decisions you make in life. I chose to see the world since I have interest in other different cultures," Searby explains.

He lived in Australia, Russia and Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo before moving to Rwanda in 2010.

"When I got here, I liked the city and saw opportunities to open a business. I have never exclusively owned my own business. I decided, since I had worked for so many people for so long, to try something on my own and the thought of cheese burgers, chicken and fish in Rwanda popped in my head like a light bulb switched on. I can tell you now that it was one of the best decisions I've ever made," Searby expresses.

He registered Mr Chips Fast Food and Takeaway on his 50th birthday as a gift to himself.

"I was fourteen when I started working. I started by washing dishes, cleaning tables and floors. I essentially have 30 years of experience in the restaurant business. When I was 17, someone told me that to be a great business manager; you have to learn the discipline of M.W.A, which is 'Management by Walking Around'. If you sit in the office all day, you don't see what is happening in the kitchen or other areas and this has its effects on the employees' service delivery."

The outspoken and tremendously funny 51-year-old has 15 permanent staff working under his wing. He added that when he recruits employees, the key factor he considers is positive energy.

"When I was in Goma, there was a young lady from Kigali who worked for me. She was a great person with great energy and deep honesty. She is currently in charge of recruiting employees since she understands people here better than I do," Searby reveals.

Regarding the challenges he faces in his day to day work, he said that he does not see them as challenges but rather as opportunities.

"You know there are still a few literary challenges, for example till this day, some people think that a hotdog is exactly that and then I have to tell them that it's just a nickname. Another issue is that when the employees go to buy stuff for the restaurant, it's a lot cheaper than when I go to buy them," he reveals.

In future he plans to upgrade the two Mr Chips branches and also slowly open other outlets more accessible to the general public.

He advises the youth to not be lazy or undermine the opportunities that come their way.

"You have a far better chance at success if you have a passion for something. I had passion for the restaurant business and that is why it's working out. Do not be afraid to take risks because life is all about risks," Searby emphasises.

Besides the restaurant business, Searby is passionate about music and perfoms with a local band, Just kicking Rock Band, which entertains people at several places such as Hotel Milles Colline, White Horse Pub, Club Planet and private parties. The band plays blues, rock, jazz and Rwandan music.

"I have been singing for a very long time. I had the chance to perform at a place here in Kigali when half the band was late and my friends insisted I was a good replacement. It's actually a hobby of mine and it's good for the soul," he reveals.

When asked whether he would consider a career in music, he said, "It's strictly a passion never to be taken seriously, a joke to say the least. If I was a better singer, trust me, I wouldn't be here selling chips. I would be out there somewhere on a stage singing my heart out. "

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