Tell us a little about your restaurant.
My restaurant is part of Nando’s Ireland which originates from South Africa. We are all about Peri-Peri flame grilled chicken! We even have our own trademarked birds eye chilli, grown under the African sun. I suppose the great thing about Nando’s is the choice is yours. How spicy do you want it? Do you want it in a roll, a wrap or naked? Do you want it with salad or with chips?
We love super happy Afro Luso music and often customers will wave over at me just to tell me that the music is from their country. I love that, they are so happy, it feels like a home away from home for them. We have a very laid back style. As a customer you are in charge of when you order, how many sauces you want on your table and how many times you want to refill your glass.
The restaurant industry is a competitive one, what sets yours apart from the rest?
It’s definitely competitive for first time customers. Eating out is a normal part of life these days so it’s really important to have a reputation not just for amazing food but also a fantastic team to make the experience special. I think at Nando’s we invest so much in our people and our food that when the two combine people recognise it. It’s that feeling of walking into a restaurant and being greeted with a big warm happy hello and smile. It makes you feel like you are genuinely seen as a person and not a euro sign. We love our food too; it gets quite competitive back of house as to who makes the best chicken. We even have a griller of the year competition.
Our story started out with two friends who wanted to make amazing chicken and have fun doing it. This is the recipe that has continued in every Nando’s since. Work hard, be the best you can be but make sure you are having fun doing it. Otherwise, what’s the point?
What’s the most popular dish on your menu?
CHICKEN! I suppose that’s a given in Nando’s. I think our platters are probably the most popular as they are really reasonable. They also help create that amazing experience of sharing food with family or friends. I think they can make or break a first date too, food habits reveal so much about a person, that’s a top tip right there!
What’s your secret to ensuring customers return?
There is everyday things we do to make sure our customers come back, like making sure the restaurant is sparkling clean, tunes are pumping, my team is buzzing and the grills are fired up cooking the best chicken in Dublin. But more than that (and it may sound corny) we really care about our customers. We really want to make them happy whether it’s surprising them with little treats or just hearing about how their day is going. I love making people happy in whatever small way I can. I think when customers come to Nando’s they feel a sense of connection. We know our regulars by name. I have watched bumps grow into beautiful children, spent birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other special times with my customers. I think it’s amazing that customers become part of our family.
What are three ‘must have’ qualities for people who come and work for you?
Passion, drive and a focus on people.
What are the perks of working for your restaurant?
I have space for my own creative freedom. I get to go on life adventures with friends (last year I went on an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa) It genuinely is fun! My favourite times are before opening when I get to chat to everyone, make coffee for them and dance around to whatever music is being played in the kitchen and also when it’s really busy and I get to meet lots of different customers. I feel like my ambition and passion are rewarded with a lot of freedom and space for my creativity to flow. There is also a fantastic bonus scheme which is really achievable and free food every day. I think the biggest perk is getting to develop and support my managers and my Nandocas (grillers). It’s incredible to watch someone grow and not just in a work sense either, it’s actually seeing them develop as a person.
What are the challenges your employees face?
Other than me when I am being super hyperactive and annoying? I think the biggest challenge is also what makes working at Nando’s really special. That is that you really are in charge of your own personal development. You can go as far as you want by working hard, getting feedback and being involved. This a challenge though because you won’t be spoon fed or taken by the hand and given a position. Nando’s is a place where you can begin as a cashier and end up running the restaurant. I began five years ago as a first assistant and was given so much opportunity for growth by being told I could get involved in anything I wanted to. So I did. I am now head of the family with so much experience and knowledge in my head. I had a cashier that started with me with very little English and within a year he went from cashier to supervisor to manager because we supported his schedule for English classes and let him have the responsibilities for certain projects so that he could learn and grow.
Any advice for people who want to have a career as a restaurateur?
Multi-tasking is life. Exercise your empathy muscle; it is the greatest tool to have in this business. You need to be able to understand the frustrations of customers and your own team in order to remove them.
Create as much fun as you can, your team and customers will feel it.
At least fifteen things will happen a day that you didn’t plan for but if you create a team that care about each other and the business, nothing will stop you from succeeding – in other words be amazing to your people and they will be amazing right back!