Nandos SA: A hot and spicy route to the heart of culinary pleasure

The dining revolution around the world has given birth to a plethora of instantly recognisable restaurant chains, with a level of quality and service expectation that are matched from country to country.

Among the brands that has truly benefitted from popular food culture has been Nando’s, a chain of casual dining restaurants that has taken the world by storm.

The passion for hot, spicy food is very much de rigeur in the modern world, but in the case of Nando’s, calls upon ingredients sourced by Portuguese explorers over 500 years ago, as the company website explains:

nandos-2“The winds of Africa called them ashore and it was there, under the warm sun, in the rich soil that they discovered the African Bird’s Eye Chilli or PERi-PERi. A spice like no other, they used it to create a unique sauce that put fire in their bellies and ignited passion in their souls. “

The vital ingredient became an essential component of a special PERi-PERi marinade concocted by friends Fernando Duarte and Robbie Brozin in 1987, as they went into business, opening a small Portuguese eatery in the heart of Rosettenville, South Africa, with chicken very much on the menu.

The story goes that the pair had visited a Portuguese takeaway called Chickenland for a meal and enjoyed the chicken – cooked in peri peri, a chilli sauce originating in Mozambique, so much that they purchased the restaurant for about R80,000 and re-named it Nando’s, after Duarte.

Within the space of 2 years, the business had already developed into 4 outlets – three in Johannesburg and one in Portugal.

Of course from those humble beginnings has grown a dining phenomenon and Nando’s restaurants, along with its range of sauces, are available across the world now; with a reported 1,000 restaurants located in 30 countries in 2013 – and it is easy to forget that the business started out in South Africa.

Along the way the company has built a solid reputation for its recipes and the ambience of its restaurants, with a culture devised to embellish a family atmosphere. There has also been a fair degree of controversy too in South Africa, with a number of advertisements creating heated debates.

But it is essentially the food and service that guarantees customers come back through the doors.

Nando’s is renowned for its chicken dishes, served with a variety of lemon and herb, mango and lime, medium, hot, extra hot and extra-extra hot peri-peri marinades (which are properly known as Galinha à Africana). In some countries, Nando’s has also adopted local flavour options such as Mediterranean.

According to the company website, part of the secret to nando’#s ongoing success is its use of local suppliers:

“We get our chickens locally and make sure they’re delivered fresh and never frozen. We then marinate them for 24-hours, in a marinade that contains no preservatives, colourants or artificial flavours. Not one drop!

“Before cooking them, we trim our chickens of excess fat and then flame-grill them which reduces the fat content even further.

“We believe the smallest touches can make a big difference.

“We’re so passionate about our food, it doesn’t stop there. Because we appreciate that the smallest touches can sometimes make a big difference, we spend hours in our test kitchens exploring ways to improve our recipes – be it in the way our food is prepared, or the way in which it is served.”

nandos-1The Nando’s brand tries to be relevant at all times and at present many of the South African stores have a particularly colourful appearance as they exhibit some of the finest in South African art.

The creative theme is very much continued across the globe and in the UK, where the first Nando’s opened in London in 1992 as a takeaway venture, the company lays claim to having the largest collection of South African art in the UK, with over 3,000 works displayed in restaurants and where original artworks are commissioned by the company.

The element of convenience is also not lost on the business which launched a highly successful range of sauces some years ago, as the corporate website describes:

“We’ve bottled the fire and flavour of PERi-PERi in a range of sauces, marinades, salad dressings, rubs and snacks. And because we haven’t added any artificial preservatives, flavours, colours or MSG to our PERi-PERi sauces, you can splash, drizzle and spread to your heart’s content.

“We’re trying our best to make our PERi-PERi range available everywhere, and although we’re getting there, we’ve still got a way to go. Pop into your local supermarket and chances are good, you’ll find Nando’s on the shelves. If not, get a bottle (or few) from your nearest Nando’s restaurant and enjoy taking the passion of PERi-PERi and the warmth and sunshine of Africa into your home.”

Nando’s has come a mighty long way from that small restaurant in Rosettenville. Back in 2010, Advertising Age magazine named Nando’s as one of the world’s top 30 hottest marketing brands.

2015 proved an important year for the business which embarked upon a major revamp programme in its South African stores, with the aim of adding more outlets to its 300-plus local portfolio.

“In South Africa, we’re opening around 20 (new stores) a year and we have a major relocation and revamp programme that will add larger, more beautiful stores,” said Nando’s Southern Africa CEO Geoff Whyte.

The expansion was partly bankrolled by Nedbank, who granted a R320 million borrowing facility to Nando’s.

With our craving for hot, spicy chicken showing no signs of abating, the Nando’s success story looks sure to carry on.