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A global brand talks about growing the right way

How do you build a global restaurant chain? Robbie Brozin, the founder of $1-billion-a-year Nando’s Chicken, ended the educational component of the Restaurant Leadership Conference with some specific tips for attendees.

Nando’s specializes in Portuguese-style chicken at its 1,000 stores, only four of which are located in the United States. The chicken is grilled and spiced with peri peri, a hot sauce widely known in Nando’s home base of South Africa.

Brozin said he’ll open three more stores this year in his New World foothold of Washington, D.C., guided by what he’s learned from operating on four continents.

Here are some of the lessons he shared with the 1,400 executives in attendance:

  • “You can’t build great brands with advertising. At the end of the day, it’s the people.” Nando’s looks for hires who are “a little different.”
  • “We spend an inordinate amount of money to motivate our staff. We have a saying: Happy staff equals happy customer equals happy bank manager.”
  • How Nando’s motivates its employees can vary greatly from market to market (its strongholds are Australia, with about 300 stores; the United Kingdom, 300 stores; and South Africa, also with 300). The constants are an emphasis on having fun and “making a difference” to the people who please customers one quarter chicken at a time. Partying is encouraged.
  • “Design can change a culture. [But] everything you design has to be about the people.” He cited such people-pleasing possibilities as the look of the uniforms.
  • ”You have to be profitable in America, and you have to have it profitable in Australia.” The means are often very different, Brozin noted. “Yet the brand has to have a common thread.” Programmed into the DNA of every Nando’s is the focus on chicken and the staff that serves it.
  • Indeed, the absolute key to Nando’s success, especially in the early days, was focus, Brozin stressed. He never forgot the objective, nor the means to that end: “At the end of the day, you have to have an amount of passion. But you also have to have an amount of commitment to making money.”

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