A new direction for Nando’s
MISSISSAUGA, ON—South African chicken restaurant Nando’s Canada is taking on the fast casual market with a rebranded look that reflects the chain’s intentions across Canada.
Two locations piloting the look include a revamped Toronto location on Bay Street and a site in Calgary on 32 Ave NE, both of which were unveiled this year.
The company also recently moved its headquarters from Richmond, BC, to a new site opening in Mississauga in July to signal its focus on central Canada.
“It was a strategic decision to concentrate growth in Alberta and Ontario,” said Ron Cecillon, president and chief executive officer of Nando’s Flame Grilled Chicken Canada, to ORN. “Our concentration had been on the West Coast and we thought Ontario is such a great growth vehicle for us.”
Part of the rebranding reflects the decision three years ago to change Nando’s in Canada from a master franchise agreement and allow founders and shareholders to buy back the rights, Cecillon said.
Although the brand has been in Canada for almost two decades, the changes are targeting a different demographic and business model. “For the first 18 to 20 years in Canada, Nando’s was playing in an expensive fast food market,” said Cecillon, a former vice-president of operations with Swiss Chalet and Harvey’s. “With the traditional South African model of very high-end takeaway and low guest engagement, because we were selling chicken, pricing wasn’t congruent with our competitors.”
This disconnect led to a global decision to migrate the majority of Nando’s units to the full fast casual model. “We were cheap and cheerful, and wanted to get into market with the least investment, which at the time, was right for the brand as it was 100 per cent franchised,” said Cecillon.
The chain will use a blended model moving forward, with the next four or five sites being company owned.
Nando’s current plans involve moving from a footprint of 1,500 to 1,900 square feet to 2,800 to 3,500 square feet, creating more of a dining experience than takeout. “Ideally, people dining at a QSR would trade up, and people dining mid level would feel comfortable rounding down,” he said.
Working with local artists in Africa for fabrics and paintings, and farmers in Mozambique and Malawi, base and table sauces, as well as the art on the walls, will reflect the brand’s South African heritage.
The flagship Bay Street Toronto location, at 4,600 square feet and 160 seats, reflects the direction of the design for all existing Nando’s restaurants in Canada in the next three years, said Cecillon. With open kitchens, wood and leather furniture, all touchpoints will be reimagined for the larger footprints, said Cecillon.
“We’re a chain that doesn’t want to look like a chain,” he said. “When you visit the new Nando’s, you don’t expect the type of fixtures that you see when you’re paying a $14 average check.”
Every restaurant will be designed differently moving forward, with artwork unique to each location.
An Etobicoke, ON, location will be opened by early fall, with a second one to follow in Toronto later this year, said Cecillon. Another three units will open in the province and one in southeast Calgary in 2015.
“What we’d like to do in the next five years is double our locations to get us to 60 locations across Canada,” said Cecillon, who indicated that Nando’s is “definitely looking at future development” in Atlantic Canada.