Bird is the Word: Nando’s Lands in Edmonton
Alberta’s capital has served up a bevy of fast-casual dining establishments in past years. Encompassing everything from Neapolitan style pizzerias, gourmet burger joints, taquerias, to southern-style bbq, and even Korean-style hotdog eateries. The latest to join “the flock” is Nando’s, an internationally established Portuguese-style flame-grilled peri-peri chicken restaurant. Nando’s is a brand with significant recognition throughout Africa and Europe, though knowledge of the company is less substantial in Canada.
My first experience with Nando’s was not through one of its many restaurants (over 1100 locations in 30 countries) but through its array of signature hot sauces sold by several national grocery chains. Over the years, it has become my favorite condiment, so it brought "me to tears" to hear that Edmonton would be one of many markets the South African chain would target in its recent North American expansion.
Located at South Blvd Shops, a mixed use office/retail redevelopment, anchored by LA Fitness and Finesse Furnishings along Gateway Blvd and Calgary Trail, Nando’s Edmonton has access to the city’s most highly trafficked commercial corridor. This gives the restaurant the ability to capture commuter traffic of those located in some of Edmonton’s highest growth neighborhoods containing young professionals and families.
Upon my first visit, I noticed this brand has no problems attracting its key market segment, as throngs of millennials and ethnic families were lined up out the door. As Patricia Cobe of Restaurant Business asserts the “emerging trend in fast casual is capitalizing on today’s consumers who have an endless appetite for heat.” The tiny African peri-peri chili pepper used by Nando’s in both its chicken marinade and basting sauce, sets the Nando’s product apart from other chicken-based chains in the market such as Swiss Chalet.
In addition to this small pepper’s taste profile driving continuous “growth at Nando’s,” the rebranding of this chain for the North American market has shown promise by offering a unique value proposition to its fans through innovative restaurant design, accommodating "pick and choose" menu selections, and highly engaged customer service, all the while keeping prices aligned with their customer’s perceived value of the experience.
Overall, the revamped value proposition Nando’s is serving up to the North American market, looks to be promising in providing a unique and tasty experience. It could quite easily, in my opinion, dominate the fast casual chicken market for years to come.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was taken aback by the rare aesthetic of Afro-Portugese design employed throughout the interior. The overall theme within the space includes elements of reclaimed softwood, unusual bright colour schemes, glass and woven fixtures, leather alcoves, Afro-Cuban drum beats, and modern works by South African artists, which “[are] unique to each location.” This concept appears to be aimed at establishing within the customer’s mind that Nando’s isn’t your typical fast-casual eatery. Ron Cecillon, president and CEO of Nando’s Canada stresses: “we’re a chain that doesn’t want to look like a chain. When you visit the new Nando’s, you don’t expect the fixtures you see when the average check is $14.”
The layout within this restaurant is indicative of the high-volume traffic the company expects to generate. A variety of optimally-sized and spaced seating throughout the dining room in the way of booths, round and communal-style tables is able to comfortably and efficiently accommodate guests during peak periods.
When it comes to the menu, Nando’s recognizes the needs of its customer base. Young singles and couples as well as large families are given the opportunity to customize their meals via a “pick and choose” style menu for either dine-in or takeout. In addition, Nando’s “Periometer” allows an individual to pick their desired level of heat. The growing vegetarian segment is also well catered to, as essentially everything on the menu minus the chicken is geared towards herbivores.
The level of staff engagement with customers at Nando’s, is truly impressive. From the moment one steps through the door, one is exposed to several points of interaction with the front-of-the-house team. A host/hostess guides you to a cashier, who customizes your order, which is delivered by a food runner, who is willing to provide anything else you desire (even items you forgot to order). As a customer, this increased interaction (as opposed to in many quick serve restaurants) builds trust resulting in one feeling satisfied.