Nando's Peri-Peri


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Although burgers and pizza remain mainstays of the multi-location (MULO) ecosystem and the fast food chicken market is estimated at more than $59B, new cuisines and variations are coming to the fast casual world. Nando’s PERi-PERi chicken is now a popular alternative.

The first Nando’s PERi-PERi opened its doors in 1987 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has since spread to 24 countries over five continents. Its U.S. debut took place in 2008, with the reopening of its first location in Washington, DC. That site was chosen deliberately because of the international population.

But now the rest of the country seems ready for PERi-PERi. The name refers to the Bird’s Eye chili pepper that indigenous Africans introduced to the Portuguese centuries ago. Nando’s PERi-PERi uses that flavor in its chicken, which is marinated for 24 hours, flame-grilled, and then basted to the customer’s taste. Like Chipotle, freshness, and humanity are part of the PERi-PERi brand.

Nando’s now operates about 50 locations in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, DC, Chicago, and now Texas. Their total number of restaurants is now 1,200 globally.

The sauce itself has become so popular that Nando’s sells it at its locations and even via Costco and Amazon.

But how do you drive U.S. consumers to a new taste?

Some fans come from other countries, so they are already familiar with the brand. It is especially popular in the UK and South Africa.

But most of us are not searching “PERi-PERi near me.”

Word-of-mouth is clearly a marketing strategy that works. In fact, I found out about the brand from my grown daughter who lives in Maryland. I was so impressed with the food and the service that I tracked down the company’s media rep (who got back to me immediately, which proves that human service is a core part of the brand).

How does a company attract and retain high-quality team members?

Nando’s PERi-PERi may not reveal their flavor’s “secret sauce,” but they talk openly about their recruiting strategy. “We consider our Nandocas, or employees, as family and treat them accordingly. We believe that work should be something that fires you up. That’s why we just flew 125 of our Nandocas to South Africa for what we call our ‘Homecoming,’ to experience and learn about South African history and culture first-hand, to better understand what makes Nando’s so unique today. It’s all about having fun, working hard, and giving people opportunities to grow and expand.”

But, as we know, technology is a core element of MULO restaurants today.

Nando’s PERi-PERi has a proprietary Nando’s app so fans can get rewards and free meals. And, of course, QR codes are provided to make ordering faster.

New markets are in the works and Nando’s encourages consumers to weigh in on Instagram with suggestions. Like Steak & Ale, more MULO brands are looking to social media crowdsourcing to get insights, which can be more genuine than traditional market research.


Nancy A Shenker, senior editor with Street Fight, is a former big brand (Citibank, Mastercard, Reed Exhibitions) marketing strategist and leader. She has been featured in, the New York Times and Forbes.