The chickens and vegetables are local. The sauces are imported from SA. "The bulk we source locally," says Claude Ibalanky, the man who eight months ago opened the first Nando's in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
"The things which are Nando's intellectual property ? sauces, packaging, all the Nando's branded stuff ? we import," he says.
Setting up a restaurant in one of the world's least stable countries is not easy, says Ibalanky. His company, Bantu Investment Holdings, owns the master franchise agreement with Nando's to make the chicken cross the border ? into its ninth African market outside SA.
"First, the lack of infrastructure, identifying a good site that meets the basic requirements," he says, citing just one difficulty. "A site is not just a location. Basic infrastructure ? water, electricity, sewerage, space, cleanliness. That's one of your first challenges."
30 stores in six years
Despite its violent past, with only recent tentative steps towards establishing a stable democracy, the Congo's population of 68.8 million ? 47 percent of whom are younger than 14 ? is an attractive market. Ibalanky aims to open 30 stores in the next six years, in part by licensing store operations to lower-level franchisees in the country.
With the global appetite to do business in Africa growing ? especially on the part of other developing countries ? South African companies can ill-afford to be left behind.
"We want to diversify our portfolio," says Makgane Thobejane, executive director of Nehawu Investment Holdings (NIH), owner of Bantu and the investment arm of Nehawu, SA's largest public sector union. More than 60 percent of NIH's assets are invested in miner Exxaro. "We want to start taking advantage of developments in the African continent," says Thobejane.
Bantu is the vehicle by which NIH wants to expand in Africa.
More modest ambitions
Still, Nando's chief operating officer, Fernando Duarte, is more modest in his ambitions for the new venture than Ibalanky.
"We do have plans for five to six restaurants in the next two years. Like most countries in Africa, it's a medium-term strategy. It very much depends on the dynamics of the country and how it grows with its economy," Duarte says.
He does not automatically endorse the 30 store ambition of the dual Congolese-South African national Ibalanky.
"We would support that type of growth provided it had merit and providing it is going to be rewarding for all concerned, (but) we take a cautious approach. As time goes on we will revisit it."
He is right: Ibalanky describes some of the other challenges.
"It was a problem to go through the administration from customs to transportation to everything ? there have also been key advantages. Some import duties were relaxed to allow us to bring in goods easily," he says.
A risk for the parent company
When it comes to the overseas operations of Nando's, African ones are likely to remain small by comparison with the company's established markets. There are 280 Nando's restaurants in SA and more than 200 in each of the UK and Australia.
"Most of the African countries will never achieve those type of numbers," says Duarte. "Having 14-20 restaurants in Zimbabwe is very different. You can't compare 200 restaurants to 14 restaurants."
Bantu is paying for the Congo expansion. Ibalanky says it paid "a few million rand" for the master franchisee licence, will pay the parent company a percentage of monthly turnover and will pay Nando's a fee each time it opens a restaurant. While the franchisee is paying for the expansion, Duarte describes it as a risk for the parent company, which puts its name on the line.
From the brand perspective, a country such as the Congo "is on a high rate of risk", he says.
So far, however, the bet seems to be paying off. The first store, in a commercial area five kilometres from the centre of Kinshasa, is profitable, Ibalanky says. Three more restaurants are due to open in Kinshasa this year.