Nando’s is one of South Africa’s proudest consumer exports. With nearly 1500 stores in more than 30 countries the brand is gaining traction in new markets all the time. It has more than 500 stores in the UK and Northern Ireland where most patrons know it to be exotic but suspect it’s probably British because it is highly visible and part of popular culture. Its home market is second biggest with a gratifying number in Australia and New Zealand as well as in the UAE and Malaysia with a growing footprint in the USA.
Few people know its real origins story which is why it was such a joy that it featured as episode 1 in my new Genius: How to Thrive at the Edge of Chaos podcast.
The episode is a rich tapestry of lessons; including, the importance of trust and why you should only ever work with people with whose values you align. Plenty will go wrong in the journey to building a business and most of those that fail in their early stages do so when founders or shareholders no longer buy into the mission of what they are doing. You are going to spend more time with your team-mates, at least in the early days, than your own family, so you better get along.
Neither Robbie Brozin nor Fernando Duarte who sat down for lunch one day in 1987 to tuck into their peri-peri chicken pieces remembers who said it first – but one certainly said to the other: “Let’s take this chicken to the world!” Before you set off on your big idea, you’d better know what you are going to do and have a very good idea as to what your ambition is, then work like mad to make it happen.
They quickly realised that growing an empire is harder than it looks. Most people will miss opportunities, prolific inventor Thomas Edison once said; because “they come dressed up in overalls and need serious hard work.” Many apparent opportunities will present themselves and you will require the presence of mind, fortitude and capital to seize upon them and more importantly know which to ignore however attractive they may appear on the surface.
You will need to listen to the podcast to find out why you should always listen to the input of your staff and when you meet a dream partner who can take you from the third division to the premier league – do whatever is required to make it happen. There are lessons in the story about persistence, creativity, cheek, irreverence, knowing when to push boundaries and when to dial back.
And, as far as Nando’s is concerned; understanding purpose and the power that it has to define a brand is critical. If the only purpose is to serve spicy chicken with a choice of sides and a bottle of sparkling sugary drink that’s fine – but forget about capturing your customer’s imagination.
This is a story about building a brand in a marketplace that is perpetually risky, but finding ways within that environment to build a truly unique and resilient business with a global fan base that goes beyond the numbers…and even the chicken.