Nando’s: Not A Headless Chicken

Published 11 years ago
Nando’s: Not A Headless Chicken

Nando’s founder Robert Brozin, 53, looks, speaks, and swears, more like a surfer than the head of a food industry giant.

Dressed in a pair of jeans, a button-down shirt, a ‘united against malaria’ bracelet and loafers, he could easily be dismissed as an old man suffering from a midlife crisis. It’s all part of his plan to disarm anyone who has preconceived ideas about how a company chairman should look and act.

The reality is that Brozin is a very smart businessman. At the FNB Franchising Leadership Summit held in Sandton, Johannesburg last year, he told the gathered crowd:


“Our basic vision, when we started twenty five years ago, was to have fun. If you are not going to have fun, do not do it. This is not a dress rehearsal; this is life, boet [brother in Afrikaans]. We are trying to keep that balance while at the same time changing how the world thinks about chicken,” he says.

Nando’s has certainly changed the way the world thinks about chicken, not only through the spicy meals they dish up but through their infamous, sometimes political, advertising campaigns.

But where did it all start?


Brozin was born in the small town of Middelburg, in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province, but finished high school at Johannesburg’s King David High School.

He did a BComm degree at the University of the Witwaters-rand, after which he joined accounting giant, Price Waterhouse before they became PricewaterhouseCoopers.

He did two years of articles before joining his father’s business Teltron as a marketing manager.

While working at Teltron, he met his future business partner Fernando Duarte, who introduced him to a shop in the small suburb of Rosettenville called Chickenland that sold Portuguese chicken. They later bought the shop.


FORBES AFRICA had an opportunity to speak to him after the summit.

“Fernando and I used to go eat in Rosettenville and I liked the chicken. I wanted to be an investor. I thought I would put money in and Fernando would be there and I would just come to check how things were. But this was not the case. I soon found out I had to be full-time,” says Brozin.

Brozin wanted to take the brand global and enlisted the services of various advertising agencies to help him market the brand.

They finally found the right match in HuntLascaris, which was also just starting out. The two companies created some of the most talked about advertisements in South African television.


“We met Reg and John, who became our first proper agency. We were so aligned, whereas before we were running around like chickens without heads. I remember Hunt presenting adverts to us that I thought were terrible that went on to win awards, which I will now take credit for,” says Brozin.

One of the HuntLascaris founders, Reg Lascaris, remembers those early days for both companies that have since grown to become world beaters.

“I met Robbie in the very early ‘90s, when he was looking for an advertising agency to handle his business. He came to see us and we then presented some ideas back to him, which he liked. Our biggest achievement was in creating breakthrough and controversial advertising that helped create the personality of the brand,” he says.

Today, Nando’s can be found in more than 25 countries around the world, across five continents. But it hasn’t been plain sailing for Brozin, and his partner, to get it to this level.


“When we started out everyone knew about the other brands like Chicken Licken and KFC […] but we were passionate about chicken. The front line people are the real heroes at Nando’s. You can’t have a great organization without having good people at that level,” he says.

He also gives credit to his father, Max, and his partner for keeping him going when times were tough.

“There were times when I was ready to throw in the towel. My personal success has been surrounding myself with people who pull you up when you are down. My dad has been a huge influence in my life. He is a Jewish accountant. Everything is about cost. Fernando has been fantastic for me. We disagree many times but he has gotten me out of [trouble] many times. It’s not how you get into [trouble] but how you get out of [trouble],” he says.

Brozin has stepped down as CEO of Nando’s and has appointed David Niven, previously head of the American and European Nando’s divisions, in his place. Brozin says it was time to get some “adult supervision” but admits that he is busier than he has ever been.


“It needed the right time and right guy to come in and thicken the Nando’s brand globally. I gave the new CEO a watch. I said, ‘You might have the watch but Africa has the time. As you get bigger you get tighter and you squeeze people. That is not the way to do it.’”

It is clear that the married father of three is not only driven by profits; he is passionate about his efforts to curb the spread of malaria in Africa.

Nando’s sells ‘united against malaria’ bracelets in all of its restaurants to raise awareness. The proceeds go to buying mosquito nets for people in affected regions.

However, it is in business where Brozin is an expert. He offers some advice to those wishing to follow in his footsteps.

“When Reg and John started they had no cash, no office… they started at the back of a car. Who starts one of the best agencies in the world in the back of a car? You have got to start with nothing. If you start with too much and you have the biggest offices in the world you are not going to achieve much. Entrepreneurs come to me and ask for cash. Cash is the last thing. Money has four legs, man has two legs. Money will always catch up to man.”

Sound advice, indeed, from a Jewish boy from the northern suburbs, who started selling Portugese chicken in the south; and now sells Nando’s to the world.





The advert shows a sad Robert Mugabe dining alone at Christmas in a mansion, while he reminisces about “the good old days” with former controversial leaders. Times when he played water tag with Muammar Gaddafi; made angels in the sand with Saddam Hussein; pushed P. W. Botha on a children’s swing and drove a tank with Idi Amin, while Those Were the Days is being played.


In this 60 seconds advert Nando’s aims to ridicule Xenophobia. A xenophobe says that he wishes that all foreigners would disappear from South Africa. Frame by frame South Africans from ethnic and tribal groups start disappearing until only a Khoisan remains on screen. He says, “I am not going anywhere, you found us here”.


A customer orders a Nando’s burger and chips, which are delivered while she is on the phone. Her breasts are so big they cover the plate. At the end of her telephone conversation she asks the waiter where her chips are. They waiter says, “Right in front of you”. She only sees the chips when the waiter pulls the plate to the center of the table.