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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  23 Mar 2015

ENTREPRENEURS: Nando's: the Tale Of SA's Most Successful Restaurant Export


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Nando’s, the popular and well-known brand in South Africa, has become one of the country’s greatest international success stories.

What is the history of Nando’s and how did they become such a worldwide success? What makes them stand out among the dozens of other ‘fast food’ restaurant chains?

In 1987, an entrepreneur named Robert Brozin and his friend Fernando Duarte, went to a Portuguese takeaway restaurant named Chickenland in Rosettenville, southern Johannesburg. Brozin was so impressed with the restaurant's flame grilled chicken that he proposed the pair of them buy the restaurant, which they duly did. They renamed the restaurant Nando’s, abbreviating Duarte’s first name. Within two years, Nando’s had three outlets in Johannesburg and one in Portugal.

Their growth and popularity continued, and today there are over 1,000 restaurants in 30 countries around the world, making Nando’s South Africa's most successful restaurant group export.

Their first two British branches opened in 1992, in Ealing and Earl’s Court, west London, serving mainly takeaway food. The business struggled at first, and was on the verge of collapse when the chairman, Richard Enthoven, handed it over to his son Robert, who shifted the emphasis from takeaways to what is known as a mixed service model. Under the mixed service model, the way customers are encouraged to act is different and there's an element of responsibility, in that you have to go to the counter to order and you help yourself to your own cutlery, soft drinks and sauces, before servers bring the meal to your table. All this moving about helps to create a fluid, busy atmosphere, and an environment that customers enjoy spending time in.

Enthoven also came up with the idea of individualising the design and decor of each outlet, thereby avoiding the uniformly bland feeling of a restaurant chain. Nando's commissions its own artworks and runs a Worldwide Art Project, where artists from local communities are invited to interpret Nando's in their chosen, local art form. The artist is then profiled along with their art, and the restaurant wall is transformed into a gallery showcasing their work. Nando’s has the largest collection of South African art in the UK, with over 3,000 works displayed in their restaurants.

Individualised store design and the mixed service model proved to be a highly successful formula. By 2001 there were 29 branches in the UK, and by 2005 the number had risen to 114. In 2012, Nando’s registered a profit of £14.7 million, up from a loss of £7 million in 2010-11 – a 26 per cent increase over the year. Since then, the UK's love for Nando's has grown so much that there are over 250 outlets across the country. They occupy a particular place within the food service industry known as 'fast casual dining’. A survey by the market research company NPD shows that restaurants in the 'fast casual sector’ have an average 'revisit intent’ (defined as definitely or will probably go again) of 69 per cent. Nando’s has a 'revisit intent’ of 80 per cent. They serve everyone from happy families to workers at lunchtime, and from groups of teenagers to dating couples. It's a safe place for teenagers to go on their own, and in an astute marketing move, Nando's is relaxed about its teen-appeal and even encourages it by offering free refills of soft drinks.

Nando’s sees its customers as its best brand advocates. They have carefully cultivated some clever branding elements, and astutely reveal the famous names who have passed through the restaurant’s doors, including David Beckham and J-Z, on a blog on its Facebook page, which has 13 million followers. In 2010, Advertising Age magazine named Nando's as one of the world's top 30 hottest marketing brands.

In 2009, two students from London, James Colom and his friend Marc Joss (who ate at Nando’s every weekend) set up a website called Rate Your Nando’s – a place where different Nando’s branches can be rated and compared. Their site now gets about 500 hits a day. The top contributor to Rate Your Nando’s, and number one in the website’s 'hall of fame’ is Ryan Wilson, who has eaten more than 1,000 meals in 139 different branches. Wilson’s aim is to eat at every Nando’s in Britain, but it is a huge task. No sooner has he struck one branch off his list than another one opens. 'But then again,’ he says, ‘the worst thing that could happen is to go to all the branches and then have to wait for new ones to open. I can only see it as a challenge.’

Nando's professed unique selling point is that it is all about the family feel. It prides itself on its spicy chicken and it does seem that the Nando's peri-peri sauce remains its basic selling point, but it's the friendly atmosphere, both for workers and clientele, that keeps its fans loyal. Customers know what they're getting, which is quick, friendly service, clean surfaces, big tables you can spread out over, unique art on the wall, and a different architectural style in each restaurant.

But there is more to the brand. In a shrewd move, they have added something unique to their marketing campaigns: a dash of comedy, entertainment and the ability to make people laugh.

Nando’s are well-known for their adverts and have made use of witty, astute, and occasionally controversial marketing campaigns to promote themselves. They have built their brand to extend beyond food, and they use humour and political satire to create popular adverts, which range from being hugely controversial to simply providing a good laugh.

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