Curtains fall on one of East Africa’s oldest fast food restaurants

The oldest fast food restaurant in the city has been closed [File, Standard]

Against the backdrop of Kenya’s independence in 1963, the late Sham Hubin opened a fast food restaurant overlooking Muindi Mbingu and Moktar Daddar streets in Nairobi’s Central Business District (CBD).

Located on the first ground floor of an old building opposite Jevenjee Gardens, it became one of East Africa’s first fish and chip restaurants, becoming a popular venue for many over the course of its 59-year history.

However, the family restaurant had to close shop two months ago due to the high cost of production. Mohammed Galis, the late founder’s son, said he made the painful decision after much frustration.

“Although inflation and high increases in premises rents largely played a role in the shutdown, the unavailability of potatoes during the Covid-19 pandemic and the constant increase in cooking oil did not couldn’t get us started. We couldn’t meet our customers’ expectations,” he said.

Galis, who joined his father’s fast food restaurant as a laborer in 1971 after finishing school, said that at the time of the store’s closure the store had nine employees who had to be laid off.

Being the oldest CBD fast food joint before many such outlets began to proliferate in the 1980s and 1990s, the restaurant’s patrons regretted the move.

Clare Gacheru, a 52-year-old Nairobi resident, said she heard about the joint through her father who had an office in the CBD.

Her father first took her to the joint when she was a student in elementary school and she fell in love with the chicken and chips there.

“I was disappointed when I went to get some tokens and found they were closing. A few days before closing, the owner had complained to me about the increased cost of making fries. However, it never occurred to me that the joint would be completely closed,” she said.

His sentiments were echoed by Samuel Aliviza who discovered the seal in the 1970s as a teenager.