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"Our Food Is The Healthier Option To Fried Chicken"

Bangalore is a social melting pot, which makes the market for a brand like Nando's quite substantial.

At 10.00am on a Thursday morning, Church Street was somewhat empty, but Nando's was already bustling with activity. A manager was instructing a group of stewards to organize themselves and to get things in order.
It’s been a few years since Nando’s started operations in Bangalore. Their world-famous grilled chicken and peri-peri sauce are famous amongst the chicken lovers in the city.

How have they done since they launched? Have Bangaloreans taken to grilled chicken? Would the Indian craving for (batter fried) carbs not trump healthier stuff like grills?

Ajit Muthanna and Vikram Dasappa, Owners of Nando's Karnataka claims Bangaloreans have taken to grilled chicken in a better-than-expected manner. He gave us insights into this famous South African brand and what makes it cluck.

What is your brand positioning?
Nando's has over 1000 restaurants across the globe in different markets. In each market its positioned differently. For instance, if you look at the brand in South Africa or Australia, its more of a QSR (quick service restaurant). Nando's is perceived as fast food and competes directly with KFC. In the UK market, where we have 280 restaurants the set-up is more high street; large, 120-150 seater restaurants with table service.

When we launched in India, in Bangalore specifically, we decided we would follow the UK model and not the QSR model. The reason for that was based on market study and surveys. We came to the conclusion that rather than do a footprint of 20-25 outlets across the market or city, we could open fewer but grander restaurants. The fundamental thinking behind this step was to essentially create a space like the Church Street store or the Whitefield store, where people would come to celebrate birthdays, office victories, anniversaries and events as opposed to a having a quick meal and leaving. So we felt, for that kind of a positioning we need to have grander restaurants where the aspiring affluent of the city will actually want to come and celebrate in this environment.

Just to give you a simple example, would anybody feel like celebrating their birthday at a KFC or a McDonalds? Or at a Nando’s restaurant? So you see, there’s an aspiration aspect to it. So that was the primary driver behind this concept and we said we’ll have a smaller footprint but we’ll do it in a better way. We opened grander, magnificent restaurants and we have great service at the table for which there is also an aspect related to customer paying a premium for that level of service and ambience. So that’s the thinking behind it.

Has the response so far lived up to your expectations?
Not only has it lived up to our expectations, in fact it has exceeded our expectations.

What are your expansion plans?
With respect to expansion we’ve looked at Karnataka specifically. And here I just want to break it up and say that we’ve taken the exclusive franchise rights for Karnataka. So the construct of Nando’s in India is that there is a master franchiser for India and he has franchised each territory, which is defined by a state, to different franchisees. So for example Tamil Nadu would be one franchise, Delhi/NCR would be one franchise. As per our initial market study, we aim to open between 7 and 10 restaurants by 2015, all over Karnataka.

How is the market for a concept like Nando’s, in Bangalore?
See, if you actually look at the cuisine, we’ve not tweaked it in any manner unlike a lot of other brands like KFC or McDonalds. We’ve just kept it standard, because what suits an Indian palate is spicy food. And all our food is essentially spicy, so in that sense, we’re catering to the right market. Also, Bangalore is a social melting pot where you have people from different parts of the country residing in the city, which makes the market for a brand like Nando’s quite substantial.

What are your price points?
Our entry level meal is about Rs 220 and you get larger more elaborate meals, which are about Rs 300-350.

How many walk-ins a day?
On a day-to-day basis we get about 200-220 walk-ins. Weekend is more, we get about 500 but that is just Saturday and Sunday.

Which is your hottest selling item?
Our signature dish is the Quarter Chicken Meal. And that is also our hottest selling item.

How is the chicken made? Where is it sourced?
Our chickens are what we call A-grade chicken. We source all our products from Suguna Foods in Coimbatore. All our chickens are served fresh and go through multiple processes of cooking. First, the chicken is baked in an oven and then based on customer’s orders coming in; we grill it with the sauce the customer selects. We have about five flavours - Lemon and Herb, mild Peri Peri that is not very spicy, then hot Peri Peri, which is fairly spicy if you like spicy food, and then there is the extra hot Peri Peri sauce for major spicy food lovers.

And now the big question: How does Nando's differ from KFC?
For one, we’re definitely positioned to a more premium customer base and aspiring affluent customer base. We have grander restaurants, existing ones and in-development.

The second aspect is that our food is the healthier option. I’d like to distinguish between “health food” and “healthier” food. I think the reason behind describing our food as the healthier option is because it is flame-grilled chicken, which is high on protein and trimmed of excess fat, so in a sense it’s a high protein meal. The health and nutrition aspect makes it equivalent to home food. We eat it everyday, I eat it everyday. And we have a lot of regular customers who come in 2-3 times a week.