Born in South Africa, Universal in Appeal
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: James Mitchell
The Nando’s story is one full of flavour and culture, but despite the brand’s ever-growing presence and global influence over the years, the much-celebrated chicken restaurateur has never forgotten its South African roots, and still places the country at the forefront of its continuous evolution.
Harking back hundreds of years to the first Portuguese explorers who set sail for the east in search for a legendary spice route, the subsequent discovery of PERi-PERi laid the foundations for the dining experience everyone knows and loves now, and Nando’s remains as committed as ever to maintaining the legacy of its birthplace.
“Nando’s began life decades ago as a small chicken outlet in a decidedly unfashionable Johannesburg suburb,” recalls the Company’s Head of Design, Michael Spinks. “The dream was fired by the ambition of a pair of ‘Jo’burg boytjies’ and the most delicious, PERi-PERi marinated chicken on earth.”
Business Development Director Trudi van Niekerk continues: “It was an all-consuming love at first bite and the beginning of a passionate, fiery journey that changed the way people saw – and ate – chicken in South Africa. It’s a journey that continues in every Nando’s restaurant across the planet.
“From those humble beginnings, Nando’s has gone on to become a much-loved South African brand, as renowned for its compassionate business values and cheeky marketing as it is for its delicious taste.”
Spinks picks up: “Nando’s has grown into a global brand, but we remain completely true to our roots. We’re a brand that was born in South Africa, but inspired by flavours that are Portuguese in origin and universal in appeal.
“Nando’s is committed to its global business and to putting its unique taste on plates from Sydney to Singapore and from Bloemfontein to Birmingham. We are committed to creating jobs, contributing to economies, supporting the agricultural sector and proving to the world that South Africans take second place to nobody when it comes to great food, amazing hospitality and business acumen.”
All-told, the global Nando’s empire now stands at more than 1,000 restaurants, with more than 300 in South Africa alone; van Niekerk musing that the business has become an even bigger and more successful export of the country than Charlize Theron.
“At Nando’s we feel passionately about our brand which is steeped in a rich heritage,” she says. “Each country has developed its own DNA drawing extensively from this heritage to ensure that we don’t forget where we came from and what we are about.
“We are deeply rooted in our Afro-Portuguese heritage which, in turn, is reflected in all we do ranging from our menu through to the design of our restaurants and even up to the Afro-Luso music which we play everywhere.
“Anything Nando’s related, including our marketing, our corporate gifts and our staff uniforms are all designed with this heritage in mind.”
The design of each restaurant – and by proxy, the regional array as a whole – is consequently an integral part of the Nando’s image, and has – subconsciously or not – played a vital role in its overall attractiveness and appeal to potential customers.
As Head of Design, Spinks knows all too well, this facet takes on even further importance in South Africa where the initial image was incepted.
“In South Africa we have made a commitment to South African design. We are privileged to be at the source of the fire and soul that fuels Nando’s, and the new aesthetic that was discovered at Nando’s Central Kitchen and has now evolved into the look and feel of each and every one of the new restaurants in South Africa,” he emphasises. “Being able to work with the wealth of creatives and skilled crafts-people at home has allowed our designers to rethink the way they approach design and challenge themselves. The result encompasses the soul of a Nando’s.
“Nando’s is differentiated through its approach to design which looks to create unique spaces that stimulate senses of the customer, while enjoying the soulful experience of being in a Nando’s.”
The end result is an atmosphere and surroundings that makes customers feel at home, balanced with a dining experience and flavour that certainly could not be recreated in their own kitchens.
This consumer experience is the result of many peripheral and background activities though, incorporating the cooking, design and everything in between; all carefully structured for optimal efficiency.
“In South Africa we have around 300 restaurants and continue to grow the footprint each year using a market planning instrument which we developed locally for the brand,” van Niekerk explains. “In addition to this, we also invest extensively into restaurant upgrades, averaging about 40 a year.
“Our design platform is continuously being upgraded and we don’t have a static look and feel, instead we design each location specific to the customer profile in that area.”
From a product and process perspective, the same level of innovation is instilled with continual renovations of restaurant kitchens and equipment geared up to facilitate fluctuating consumer trends and advanced technological opportunities.
And driving such innovations of course, are the people, whom Nando’s believe hold the key to its ongoing success.
Van Niekerk continues: “Nando’s is a brand with a very strong focus on our people. One of our mantras is, “it’s the people that make the chicken”, and if we can play a meaningful role in growing and improving our ‘Nandocas’’ lives, then everybody grows.
“Nando’s is also committed to job creation in South Africa [currently employing around 9,000] and is a founding partner of the Harambee youth accelerator initiative, an organisation focused on sourcing, training and placing unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into first time jobs.
“We are proud of our commitment to providing a first step for South African youth.”
Pride, passion, courage, integrity and family are all key pillars on which Nando’s’ personnel strategy is built and will continue to hold the business in perfect stead for its future goals of ongoing growth and societal enrichment in South Africa.
“We would hope, as we continue to grow, that we play an ever-increasing role in consumers’ lifestyles. We would like to see our customers dining in more of our beautiful restaurants whilst enjoying our healthier product offering,” van Niekerk states.
“[Looking forward] I would expect to report that Nando’s is recognised by its customers in South Africa for its progressive view on design, and for its contribution to the local design community while developing a collection of beautiful Nando’s restaurants,” Spinks adds.
In turn, it is expected – and history supports the notion – that Nando’s’ global prominence will thrive as a result of the strategies put in place in South Africa; the heart and soul of the Group continuing to drive what has already become a worldwide obsession with the PERi-PERi experience.
“The global offering resonates strongly with its South African roots,” Spinks says. “This is a product that’s taken to the world, and the world has fallen in love with it.
“Naturally, there are aspects of the business that have been honed to the markets where we have taken the brand; staffing, corporate governance and subtle culture essentials must become part of operations in markets around the world.
“But our essential product remains true to its roots: the most delicious PERi-PERi, flame-grilled chicken on earth served in an environment that’s warmly welcoming. These are essentials of our brand that fuel our growth.
“The Nando’s package delivers a sensory experience, to indulge all your senses, to relax, to feed both your body and your soul; and to return to again and again.”