Not just chicken and chips

Nando’s has evolved from its South African roots to a recognisable UK high street brand. It has now set its sights on expansion with the appointment of a UK marketing director. By Martin Croft

Nandos%20restaurantNando’s expansion plans give a new flavour to the term fast food. The 186-outlet restaurant chain plans to add 30 to 40 new sites a year for the next four years, opening up to 160 new restaurants and virtually doubling in size.

Whether the UK market can support such rapid growth, especially as tough times approach, remains to be seen. But the chain is preparing the way with the appointment of its first UK marketing chief, former Thomson travel marketing director Andrew Rayner, who joins on July 14 (MW last week).

The chain has also appointed ad agency Beattie McGuinness Bungay to its account, moving out of agency Hooper Galton. Hiring Beattie, creator of big splash ads such as McCain’s “Chips, glorious chips”, indicates that the chain is looking for a campaign with oomph.

In other countries, notably its native South Africa and Australia, Nando’s has had a reputation for spicy advertising as much as for spicy food, and has gone out of its way to court controversy with its marketing. One South African ad, featuring a guide dog deliberately leading its blind owner into a lamp post so it could eat the Nando’s chicken she was carrying, was slammed by the South African Advertising Standards Authority and blind groups. In Australia it got into trouble for running what some thought was a sexually explicit ad.

In the UK, things have been a little different. Oliver Lewis-Barclay, a partner at Hooper Galton, calls Nando’s a “brave client.” He explains: “They were actively interested in buying bold work. But it’s not a culture that has really embraced sophisticated marketing up to now.” He adds that that could change with Rayner’s appointment – “he’s a proper marketer”.

But another industry insider suggests that Rayner’s biggest challenge could be working with the entrepreneurial UK chief executive, Robby Enthoven, a member of the South African family that controls Nando’s via its investment vehicle, Capricorn Ventures International.

The insider warns: “Robbie is very hands on. You can’t do anything unless he thinks it’s a good idea.” Having said that, Nando’s did recently hire a new UK managing director, David Niven, who has a classic retail background.

Nando’s original entry into the UK market came in 1992, five years after its original launch in South Africa. The South African version of Nando’s is effectively a fast-food chicken restaurant using influences drawn from African cuisine in countries such as Mozambique. There is a sizeable Mozambican immigrant community in some of South Africa’s big cities.

But the fast-food approach failed to work in the UK, so Enthoven reworked the concept, moving it up-market from rivals such as Kentucky Fried Chicken by making it a sit-down service. Consumers order at a counter, but the food is delivered to their table by waiters.

That twist, coupled with the Portuguese/African peri-peri flavourings and the fact that the chickens are grilled, not fried, has allowed Nando’s to carve itself a valuable niche on the British high street.

Nando’s popularity is enhanced by its willingness to adapt to local and regional customers. A number of its UK restaurants offer halal chicken, while some offer kosher chicken. In every country it operates in, everything is open to change, although, as marketing manager David Manly says: “While the restaurant service style and design varies widely around the world, you’ll still recognise that you’re in a Nando’s.”

He says that until now, UK marketing has tended to be done on a very local scale. “In the UK, our restaurant design is our marketing budget,” he says. He plays down prospects of a change to a national strategy with the arrival of Rayner, and Trevor Beattie’s ads: “If anything the focus on local marketing and local involvement will get bigger. That’s not to say there will never be a time when we will do TV, but we want to be seen as the local restaurant of choice,” he says.

Euromonitor research analyst Sitanta ni Mathghamhna observes: “Nando’s is expert at changing the style of the outlets to the location they trade in.”

She adds: “The basic offering is chicken and chips with trimmings and there’s no huge difference to KFC – but it’s delivered by waiting staff and served on a plate in front of you at a proper table, not in a cardboard takeaway box. It’s perceived by consumers as a bit healthier and slightly more upmarket than KFC and McDonald’s.”

Nando’s has also been able to extend its brand into supermarkets, with a range of cooking sauces and marinades. Euromonitor, in a comment published in December 2007, points out that Nando’s has managed the tricky balancing act of successful expansion in developing and developed markets. The research company sees Nando’s future as “extremely positive”, with its appeal to the newly emergent middle classes in the developing world and to consumers in Western countries looking for more healthy and exotic cuisines.

The jewel in the crown would be the US, and Euromonitor believes that Nando’s could see strong growth there, given the ubiquity of ethnic cuisine such as Mexican and the recent growth of Indian food. 

Facts and figures 

Nando’s style of cooking is heavily influenced by the mixture of Portuguese and local African cuisines that evolved in the former Portuguese colony of Mozambique. Mozambican immigrants to South Africa brought their style of cooking with them. Two South Africans Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin, bought out a Mozambican restaurant in Johannesburg and relaunched it as Nando’s Chickenland in 1987. 

There are Nando’s outlets in Australia, Bahrain, Botswana, Canada, Cyprus, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, South Africa, Swaziland, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, Zimbabwe and, of course, the UK. The first US branch opens imminently, after the country was softened up by the launch of Nando’s sauces and condiments in US stores. 

Timeline 

1987 Founded in South Africa by Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin, who buy a small takeaway outlet, Chickenland, and relaunch it as Nando’s Chickenland. 

1992 The father of current UK chief executive Robby Enthoven opens Nando’s branches in Ealing and Earls Court in London. 

1993 Robby Enthoven takes over the Earls Court branch. 

1995 Enthoven relaunches Nando’s, introducing counter service but sit-down eating, and switches the focus from takeaway. By the end of the year, there are five outlets in and around London. 

1996 Starts a £4m expansion drive and opens its sixth outlet, in Shepherd’s Bush. 

2008 Announces plans to add up to 160 outlets to its existing 186 over four years.

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