Nando’s: A homegrown success story

SHIGGEN: Former CEO and founder of Nando's, Robert Brozin.

SHIGGEN: Former CEO and founder of Nando’s, Robert Brozin. Photo: Provided

Since stepping down as group CEO of Nando’s four years ago, Robert Brozin now looks after the “culture and the soul” of the brand. The business has grown from a single restaurant in Rosettenville to having a global presence with 1100 restaurants in 23 countries.

Speaking at the Investec Business Matters conference held earlier this month, Brozin gave small business owners insight on how he and Fernando Duarte, later joined by Dick Enthoven, broke into the restaurant industry in 1987. “I realise how little we actually knew and we didn’t realize how tough the journey was going to be,” he recalls.

Brozin says the team loves that the brand emanates from South Africa. “The kick that I get from people around the world, is that they can’t believe we [Nando’s] could be African… To me it shows that South Africa can truly be world class.” Brozin says that in South Africa, you have to expect the unexpected. With that knowledge, the group worked to exceed expectations with “surprises and delights” which aided its global expansion.

Nando’s has become a social commentary brand in South Africa.

Over the years, the brand has stuck to its core values; pride, passion, courage, integrity and family. Business partner Enthoven shared these values and the partnership has been key in scaling the business. Brozin says it’s important to have supportive, long-term partnerships.

Three goals flamed Nando’s success, according to Brozin.

1. We wanted to have fun (and make money).

“When we started out, we had no money. But we had a lot of fun,” says Brozin. Striking a balance between the two proved challenging. Instead of letting money dictate to their business, they found business drivers that maximised value generated. By doing things for the right reasons, money ultimately “found’ them, he says.

2. We changed the way the world thinks about chicken.

Initially, Portuguese, flame-grilled peri-peri chicken only existed in small family operations in the South of Johannesburg, Mozambique and Angola, says Brozin. The market was dominated by Kentucky fried chicken. Given their limited capital, they decided to build the brand through 30-second TV adverts designed by ad agency Hunt Lascaris (TBWA Africa).

“The ads defined and created the brand character of Nando’s,” he says. Nando’s has become a social commentary brand in South Africa. “We can say what other people are thinking.” The goal of the advertising is to get customers to the stores, and to make people remember and think about the brand. It was important for the advertising to push boundaries, as Brozin says, “One of the threats of getting bigger is that you become cosier, and scared to move”. The “bravest” ad they did was the Mugabe- Last Dictator Standing. It gave the brand its first “taste” of social media with 2.5bn hits on YouTube, according to Brozin.

However when expanding internationally, it was not possible to translate the same branding strategy in South Africa to the rest of the world. They had to think differently, out of the box. “Beautiful store design” is what built the brand overseas.

 3. We wanted to change people’s lives

When you change people’s lives, the energy and power that comes back to the organisation is incredible, says Brozin. Business needs a sense of purpose and for Nando’s this meant investing R80m into building a head office in Lorentzville near Johannesburg’s CBD to bring people back into the city to rejuvenate it. Brozin says this is part of looking at things differently. “Being part of a solution and not being part of a problem”. Nando’s has also implemented social projects that “resonate with the soul of the brand”. These include art projects where contemporary art by local artists is displayed in restaurants worldwide. Other projects include work in Africa to fight Malaria.

This article was featured in Finweek magazine and Finweek.com. 

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