The very first Nando’s opened in South Africa in 1987 and the two co-founders very quickly developed plans to expand abroad. By the mid-1990s these had been realised, and involved a mix of master franchising and individual restaurant franchising. The difference is key to the success, failure, and perceived mediocrity of Nando’s internationally.
First I’ll explain the difference between the two franchise types:
Individual Restaurant: This is what people generally consider when they refer to ‘starting a franchise’. You apply to the franchise owner, and start your own branch. As long as you adhere to a strict set of rules, the restaurant is yours. Countries where you can do this include Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
Master Franchise: You apply for the franchise rights in an entire country. It takes a lot of convincing for Nando’s to give these away, and the few who succeed have had varying degrees of success. With these rights you get a lot more freedom in tailoring the Nando’s experience in the country. Countries where this has happened include India and Malaysia, as well as Ireland, the UK and USA, which are all owned by the same master franchisee.
Now how do these two systems affect the outcome of Nando’s success in each country?
Well, the countries which have gone for an individual restaurant franchise system could certainly consider Nando’s to be a success. After all, it has been around for over 20 years in some of them. However, if you speak to a South African, or an Australian, about how much you love Nando’s, you will find them simply baffled. To them, Nando’s is just another fast-food outlet at the local mall or motorway services, which serves decent spicy chicken; there is none of the passion associated with the brand in the UK (of course there are exceptions to this generalisation). I cannot hold this view against them, since on my visit to South Africa I had to agree; there simply wasn’t much to write about after each visit.
On the other hand, countries which have gone down the master franchise route can be split into two clear categories: Nando’s in the UK (and Ireland and the USA by extension), and everyone else. With the exception of Malaysia, countries with master franchise rights have all too often failed to succeed*. This can be seen historically with Nando’s in Israel and Indonesia, as well as recently in Turkey and Lebanon. However, on a positive note, Nando’s in the UK hit a winning combination of casual dining (as opposed to fast-food), price, and culture. For this reason Nando’s are now using the UK model when expanding into other countries, and they plan to move their worldwide headquarters to right here in the UK.
Please note that this is purely an opinion article based on both tangible research and word of mouth from Nando’s diners the world over.
*It should be noted that since information on Nando’s in sub-Saharan Africa is so hard to come by (excluding South Africa of course), I cannot comment on this region.