'Cheeky' Ads Sell South African Chicken

Fun, strong culture heat up Nando's global expansion, says FARE speaker

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Robert Borzin Nando's South African peri-peri chicken FARE (CSP Daily News / Convenience Stores / Foodservice)

Robert Brozin

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- A combination of spicy sauces, a passionate culture and borderline salacious--what founders would call "cheeky"--advertising helped one South African chain expand into 26 countries over its 27-year history.

Robert Brozin, the founder of Johannesburg, South Africa-based Nando's chain of 1,084 restaurants, spoke at CSP's FARE foodservice retailing conference in Grapevine, Texas. Emphasizing the "fun" aspect of their company's values, he said employee passion, its South African and Portuguese flavor profile and quirky ads were important ingredients to its success.

He shared some of that advertising, showing commercials that ranged from cuddly to risqué. In one ad, a chicken calmly walks around a farmhouse when a voiceover says how delicious the chain's Portuguese "peri-peri" chicken is. The bird looks up startled and starts barking like a dog.

In another ad, a distracted and obviously well-endowed female customer talking on her phone gets her chicken sandwich order. She looks down and asks the waitress where her fries are. The waitress says they're on the plate, and moves the dish forward, pulling the fries into her line of sight. Instantly, a sign pops up saying Nando's has a new double-breasted chicken sandwich.

"You've got to have a vision, and for us, it was about having fun and making money," Brozin said, noting how their internally focused mission broadened with their success. "From there, it became all about building trust, creating brotherhood and then taking action."

As a part of that expanded vision, the chain sponsored work to curtail malaria, with Brozin showing photos of people in parts of Africa delivering tents that help shelter residents from mosquitos.

Brozin also discussed the many ups and downs in building his business, which is just entering the United States with 16 locations in the Washington, D.C., area.

Here are some of his insights:

  • Family values. He said the executives initially had the concept of family in their core values statements, but took it out when it became a reason not to let go of veteran employees who no longer were helping the company grow. They eventually put the concept of family back into the values, adapting the meaning to better address both a renewed investment in work-life balance as well as a broader vision of its customer base.
  • Metrics. For a while, Brozin said they did not focus on things that truly helped grow the business, specifically, same-store sales. At one point, executives were more interested in expanding to other markets. But they eventually realized that building upon existing markets was just as, if not more important.
  • Regionalizing menus. While they want to keep the core peri-peri chicken offer the same, they've evolved to tinker with the sauce's spiciness from country to country, region to region. They also adapt the side dishes to the countries and regions they're in.
  • Store design. The décor and overall look and feel of each store varies by country, sometimes even within a market. Over time, they've discovered success in that variety, although all stores are themed with South African colors, textures and woods, and overall evoke a higher-end, sit-down experience.

Begun in 1987 in what Brozin described as an economically challenged town of Rosettenville, South Africa, the company now has locations in 26 countries, including South Africa, Asia, Europe, the U.K., Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Dubai and the United States. He said the global concept speaks to healthy food, purpose-related values and its people.

Angel Abcede, CSP/Winsight By Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP
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