Teaching proper dining etiquette is the parents responsibility
Although business savvy, my first meeting with her in 2017 at the Bride and Groom Expo portrayed a woman so down to earth. Listening to her achievements, I appreciate that Mrs Juliana Mugerwa of Table Affairs did not let her years of expertise supersede her human relation abilities.
Professionally, Mrs Mugerwa is an Economics graduate from Makerere University in Kampala and an MBA (Finance) degree holder from the University of Ghana, Legon.
Upon finishing her studies at Makerere University, she worked with Gold Trust Bank (DFCU Bank), for eight years as a relations officer.
After her banking career, she became a business entrepreneur. Operating one of the fast-food joints in Wandegeya, Kampala, then famously known as Mickey- Mo, a business she ran until 2012. During this same time, she had joined her husband, an expatriate, as they relocated from Uganda to different parts of the world for a cumulative period of 16 years.
Life as an expatriate wife did not hinder Mrs Mugerwa from developing her career. In addition to remotely running their family food business, she continued training in several areas in line with the hospitality industry which included Event Organising and Project Management from the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
As fate would have it, just before returning to Uganda in 2012, the landlord of the rented premises that housed Mickey- Mo Takeaway needed their premises for a different business. They looked for premises to relocate the fast-food business but failed because of the goodwill requested. 100 million shillings was just too high. It was at that time that they thought of venturing into the kitchen equipment business, an area still within their line of business.
In August 2012, they opened Kampala Kitchen Care on Bombo Road, opposite Sure House in Kampala. This outlet specialised in commercial kitchen equipment, for hotels, restaurants and cafes.
As time went on, in addition to the kitchen equipment, their clients started inquiring about tableware items. This inspired the couple to think of adding these into their line of business, hence the birth of Table Affairs in 2015. The first shop was housed at Acacia Place in Kampala.
“Just like any new business, we faced several challenges such as learning about plausible and consequently honest sources, pricing, staff training, and positioning ourselves in the market. It was not a smooth ride, and we are still learning.”
In addition, maintaining two almost similar outlets became challenging because the ‘baby’ business needed a lot of attention hence resulting in some attention-deficit for the ‘adult’ shop. Additionally, with time, the financial strain in terms of rent obligations and other operating expenses for the two premises made them rethink and strategize.
“In 2018, we merged the two businesses into one outlet which is currently housed at the Madhvani Business Park, on 5th Street Industrial Area.”
Despite the relocation of the two businesses, and owing to glitches in changing the location on Google Maps, Mrs Mugerwa is glad their clients are still faithful.
Teaching table etiquette
Mrs Mugerwa says while some might think that table etiquette is a foreign idea or reserved for the crème de la crème of society, it is not.
“Having proper table manners has always been emphasized, (although not necessarily from sitting on tables in our grandparents’ homes). Sitting down at that communal eating place with food presented on those neatly laid banana leaves presented us with the opportunity to exercise good ‘table’ manners. For example, one had to sit a certain way, hands had to be positioned in a particular way on one’s lap, and you had to eat without making noises while chewing food or showing food that was in your mouth. You would be spanked for bending over your plate while eating, and so many other rules that governed that communal setup. It is these rules that are being translated into English. The folly is many have abandoned them because of, say busy work schedules unlike back then. So, it is a matter of reminding people about it.”
In addition to her other career development, Mrs Mugerwa has a certificate in Dining Etiquette and Afternoon Tea trainers course from The British School of Etiquette. She says, to re-enact dining etiquette among people, at Table Affairs, they conduct etiquette lessons for interested persons. They also often share tips on their social media pages just to teach many the importance of table etiquette.
From these lessons, one learns the right plate, glass, cup, or cutlery to use for a certain meal and the way to use these different cutlery. Individuals or groups interested in these lessons can get in touch with her on +256392 177893. They encourage everyone, adults and children alike to learn.
Venturing into tableware, Mrs Mugerwa touches the very fibre of parenthood; bonding. She says lately, work schedules have taken away the time mothers (or parents, for that matter) would have with their children. Table manners begin with parents in homes by incorporating ‘family dinner’ time together with their children. It is at such a time that parents can observe any wrong table manners portrayed by their children, which they can correct at an early age before they get out of hand.
It is again at such times that both parents and children can share about their day. Mealtimes also presents an opportunity to talk about various life issues that will impact on their children’s future. Hopefully, the COVID19 lockdown presented an opportune moment for parents to have more time to bond with their children and have meals with them. I pray they actually made use of the time to teach their children these valuable lessons.”
Mrs Mugerwa says tomorrow’s business environment will be challenging because with the onset of COVID19, the cost of doing business has gone up. There are delays in importing the items, hence an increase in their prices.
“Unfortunately, freight charges are now much higher and sadly, this increase is passed on to the customer. That said, we are hopeful that we will remain relevant, serving our clients. We also hope that they will also embrace the change in cost.”