The South African restaurant industry was hard hit by COVID-19. It is under huge pressure to adjust to continuous changes in regulations while still trying keep customers satisfied and safe. But Nando’s has used the Lockdown to bring ideas to life that would not otherwise have been priorities in pre-pandemic times.

Nando’s embraced South African Lockdown as an opportunity to drive some technological innovation and adaptation, becoming the first restaurant in South Africa to launch Kerbside collection as well as enhancing the way the brand interacted with customers through technology.

Darren Hampton, GM of Digital Marketing says, “No matter what moment you find yourself in history, there are always opportunities to innovate. A changing environment does not necessarily change our desires, it simply changes the way we fulfil them. Our customers still want our chicken, and we want to serve it to them. So, in true Nando’s style we found a way!”

While Nando’s restaurants remained closed during Level 5, the home of PERi-PERi quickly customised its app to give people the chance to purchase Nando’s vouchers that they could redeem as soon as restaurants were once again open.  Nando’s then used its vouchering capability to raise money for the Solidarity Fund, a public benefit organisation with a mandate to support the national health response and contribute to humanitarian relief efforts as South Africans fight against COVID-19. The vouchering initiative saw Nando’s generously adding ten times the value of any voucher bought during this period to donate to the Solidarity Fund. This resulted in over R1 Million raised.

Once the President moved South Africa to lockdown Level 3 and opened the door for takeaways, Nando’s was quick to give South Africans a safe, sanitised and almost contactless take-away experience. Hampton says, “The pandemic didn’t curtail South Africa’s enthusiasm for PERi-PERi, so launching a channel that gets flame-grilled chicken into the hands and stomachs of South Africans in the safest way possible became a priority for us.”

Zwakala Sokulethela

Through Kerbside (affectionately nicknamed Zwakala Sokulethela  – ‘you come to us and we bring it to you’), customers are given the option to order and pay through the Nando’s app or website, drive down to their local Nando’s and have their food brought to their car on a tray as they wait in a specially demarcated parking area at no extra cost thereby avoiding delivery fees. Think of it as drive-to rather than drive-thru.

Nando’s built the kerbside functionality into their app and website in just a few weeks but has since added features to the app that enhance the experience such as voice ordering in the search function of the app and the ability to watch some of those famous Nando’s ads while you wait for your food (or while you’re dozing off to sleep in bed). “It took a lot of development speed and agility but that’s what South Africans have come to expect from us,” says Hampton.

Hampton believes that Kerbside will last beyond the pandemic, in fact, he expects it to grow. “It’s a convenient and cost effective way for our customers to place their order and collect it without having to leave their car or touch a credit card machine. I’m a dad to a one-year-old, those with kids know the rigmarole of putting them into and taking them out of the car. So as far as we’re concerned, this is a level-up for takeaways.”

Once the lockdown level decreased and South Africans were finally allowed to walk in, sit down and eat at their favourite restaurant, Nando’s took the contactless dine-in experience a step further providing downloadable menus through a QR code using their complimentary WiFi. This means customers can browse the menu on their smart phones rather than touching paper menus that are shared by other customers or moved from table to table.

Customer satisfaction first 

As the pandemic continues to shape the way we live our lives, Nando’s will keep looking out for new ways to satisfy the PERi-PERi passions of its customers. Hampton says, “We know we are not out of the woods yet, but we are confident that Nando’s, along with our country, will weather this storm. Our South African fire, with the help of technology, has accelerated our ability to adapt to these changing times. Making-a-plan is what we do as South Africans after all.

What does Nando’s have in store over the next few months? “Next week our online voucher redemption system goes live,” says Hampton, “so you will be able to use vouchers purchased or gifted when buying Nando’s online including the new kerbside functionality.” Check out the Nando’s app to trial these features.

As Nando’s prepares to hand over more than R1-million raised through online vouchering on its app to the Solidarity Fund, Hampton says, “We are proud to give back in any way we can. As a South African born business, we have to be an active member of our country and we will continue to use technology to not only benefit our business but our impact as well.”

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