Nando’s Art Initiative and Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design

Nando’s restaurants can be found around the globe, striving to provide patrons with hospitality and a warm South African welcome. Each Nando’s restaurant has its own unique design, but they all have earthy textures and colours reminiscent of their Afro-Portuguese roots, and feature original, local South African art and unique design touches.

Yellowwoods Art (now Spier Arts Trust) is a patron to pioneering artists across the continent. Driven by the core belief that artists are the pioneers of our culture, the organisation conceives programmes that create opportunities for these artists, thereby facilitating successful art careers. The programmes are supported by a broad base of skills development projects geared at emerging artists, and leading up towards a narrower pool of high-end, sophisticated projects which partner with established artists from the African continent.

Nando’s and Yellowwoods Art/Spier Arts Trust have been in partnership since 2001, nurturing local talent, developing artists’ careers, creating access to art and showcasing South African creativity through displaying contemporary African art on the walls of over 1000 Nando’s restaurants in 24 countries world-wide.

The strategic objective of the Nando’s Art Initiative is to demonstrate Nando’s commitment to investing in the people of South Africa, nurturing talent and showcasing their creativity to the world through restaurant and public art installations. Nando’s believes in making a valuable contribution to the creative community, not only through once off purchases, but also by providing regular support and income through various strategic artists’ programmes, developed and managed by Yellowwoods Art/Spier Arts Trust. This partnership is building a sustainable social model by elevating the artists’ careers, while at the same time building the value of the Nando’s art collection.

The Nando’s Art Initiative has grown significantly over the past decade. Every year the number of artists supported increases, the number of artworks in the collection grows and, most importantly, through on-going support and demand for quality artwork Nando’s enables more strategic art programmes, which develop the careers of local artists. The net effect is a real and meaningful contribution to the South African creative industry.

The initiative supports over 320 artists on a regular basis and has made a significant impact on their lives. To name a few success stories through the ongoing support of Nando’s Art Initiative, Ricky Dayolyi was able to turn his passion for art into a full-time career and is now represented by the prestigious Everard Read Gallery, and Lindile Nagunya built a house for his family in Khayelitsha and contributes his skills to local community art projects. Nando’s takes a particular interest in young, emerging artists. It has supported and enabled many artists to focus full-time on their art and, as a result, become established artists, many of whom have now achieved representation by galleries. Knowing that there is an opportunity for artworks to be handed in monthly and, if accepted into the collection, paid for on the same day, has increased the artists’ productivity and opened up their willingness to explore the creative realm. The more secure environment also allows them to take bigger risks and experience enhanced capacity for freedom of expression, as described by artist Dion Cupido: “Having a wife and children and being an artist is very challenging. With Nando’s support… knowing that I’m taking care of them frees me up to devote more energy and time to my art and the creative process.” In the absence of pressing financial anxiety and stress, creativity can flourish. Nando’s Art Initiative contributes to stabilising the arts within South Africa by creating income generation opportunities for artists and helping them establish more secure careers, and by growing the art market; while enhancing its brand and customer experience.

Artists’ skills development is another key aspect of the initiative. The artists are given professional critiques and meaningful industry related feedback and advice on their artworks. This makes a significant contribution to the growth and development of the artists’ works over time.

Having the largest collection of South African art displayed internationally (comprising over 11 000 pieces from emerging and established artists from various social and economic backgrounds) distinguishes Nando’s from other food chains and builds long term brand equity and value. Its consistent support of South African art and artists has been a publically tangible demonstration of Nando’s ongoing commitment to investing in the people of South Africa and proudly showcasing South African creativity to the world, contributing to cultural diplomacy and tourism value. Installing this collection on the walls of Nando’s restaurants enhances the patron experience and provides increased access to art through a welcoming and non-intimidating environment. The interaction with the art tends to make people stay a while longer and visit more often. The Louvre Museum sees over 8.3 million visitors a year, while Nando’s around the world see over 80 million! Artist, Henk Serfontein, feels that “the Nando’s Art Initiative project deconstructs the elitist image that art is only for the select few, and it allows many people who would normally not view art to enjoy it while they enjoy their dining experience.”

Social media has changed the way the world experiences and relates to art, and Nando’s also gathers the “best” of public social media coverage of Nando’s Art to share the public’s enthusiastic experience of the artworks with the team. An ongoing media-engagement strategy is in place, and media coverage has been received in newspapers, on both television and radio shows, and on a variety of online platforms. Popular South African creativity design showcase Between10and5 hosts a dedicated Nando’s Art pop-up channel, which releases #NandosART information on a bi-monthly basis and amplifies these posts through their social platforms. The Nando’s website has a dedicated Art and Design page featuring “Artist of the month” and blog-style news. Video documentaries are placed onto the Nando’s YouTube channel and amplified on Nando’s popular social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram). Art is also used on Nando’s touch points as a marketing tool and on merchandise as gifts.

Nando’s has taken its support for the South African creative industries further through a shared value strategy, collaborating with South Africa’s design sector to fuel sustainable enterprise growth, while creating exposure for South African design internationally with the potential of opening up new markets. Nando’s is the first South African brand to collaborate with and invest in South African design on such a scale, and does this in three ways:

  1. Every Nando’s interior is different, and the interior designers are challenged to create exceptional and meaningful interpretations of “Nando’s Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design” in the look and feel of new and revamped Nando’s restaurants globally.
  2. Nando’s consciously channels budget for furniture for these restaurants to local South African furniture designers, and collaborates with them as they produce pieces of highest-quality functional design that each bring an inimitable “ZAesthetic” and an authentic sense of forward-thinking South African connection to Nando’s around the world.
  3. “Nando’s Hot Young Designer Talent Search” opened the door for undiscovered young South African design talent to join the heartfelt celebration by designing pendant light fittings that could be used in Nando’s around the world. Nando’s provided a brief and inspiration, chose and mentored finalists, selected winners, and, where there was real “fire”, offered enterprise development and mentorship opportunities to emerging young South African designers.

Nando’s Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design is a dynamic initiative, with significant financial investment from Nando’s, but, in the interests of responsibly backing a sector in a way that allows for small business independence and sustainability, encourages independent design businesses to grow their markets and client base beyond Nando’s.

This broad-reaching collaborative partnership adds value whilst meeting business objectives in three core areas:

  1. Nando’s is proud to be a home-grown South African brand. Investing in the South African design sector awakens an “authentic South African heartbeat” in Nando’s restaurants, and allows customers to experience and share the meaningful South African stories ingrained in every piece, which authentically enhances the Nando’s narrative. 66 Nando’s restaurants with a ZAesthetic that is a Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design opened in South Africa within a year, which saw investment in 10 South African interior design firms. A slow and responsible rollout has begun so that the experience of Nando’s Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design can be successfully shared across the globe. Thus far South African designed-and-made furniture pieces have been used in Nando’s in the United Kingdom, Australia, United States, Canada, Malaysia, Dubai, India, Botswana and Namibia. A portal for the Nando’s international design community enables Nando’s interior designers internationally to choose and order from a curated collection of South African functional design, with activating and fulfilling export processes built into the system. This initiative opens up a much-needed market for the South African design sector through raising the profile of South African design locally and internationally, while Nando’s becomes a global platform in which remarkable South African design is showcased and brought to the attention of global markets. The Nando’s narrative has been enhanced by story sharing at events and in media, and some independent design businesses have reported product or service sales as a result of this connection, and an unquantifiable boost in confidence and drive.
  2. South African design has a world-class aesthetic, and the strategy for Nando’s casual-dining model is centred on taking what is functional in the unique restaurants (lights, tables, chairs, plant holders, screens, etc.) and leveraging it to make it a remarkable celebration of South African Design. This excites guests and feeds into Nando’s point of difference, creating unique restaurant interiors for every Nando’s. The exchange rate of the South African Rand works in Nando’s favour globally, making incredible South African design affordable, and enabling global spend to be channelled towards local design buy so that more people develop a taste for it internationally. Nando’s drive and success come from living the belief that its business is about celebrating people, life, love,courageous adventure, untameable creativity and unique, authentic connections of integrity. Design and the arts are a creative expression of the same common values, which is why Nando’s shares original South African art in its restaurants across the globe, and why this has been extended share South African design. These creative initiatives are in seamless alignment with the Nando’s brand and business objectives. The public also has a stake in this equity, with a mutual benefit of being able to experience exceptional South African design in a welcoming and accessible environment, which in turn creates new cultural appreciation, eloquence and heritage.
  3. Building brand equity is important for Nando’s as the first local brand to collaborate with South African design on this scale, and the first brand to take South African design to the world and in a very accessible way that people can personally experience. This design also offsets Nando’s incredible original South African art collection described above. These approaches distinguish Nando’s from other food chains and brands, while making a significant contribution to South Africa’s creative and design economies. Nando’s believes that sharing these stories in the restaurants, including the journey of Nando’s Hot Young Designers as they progress in their careers, will share the company’s meaningful endeavours in the market place in a tangible way, concurrently building brand equity and showcasing South African talent, assets and heritage. For Nando’s, exceptional authentically South African restaurant interiors “make the chicken taste better”, create meaningful connections with loyal and new customers, and are a unique point of difference from competitors. Nando’s business model of including South African creativity in its strategy and practice positively contributes to brand perception and value.

Nando’s has collaborated with more than 75 designer-makers or furniture design business owners, and contracts 10 interior design firms, positively impacting staff within these businesses. Adams & Adams has been a partner in this process, creating awareness of IP rights amongst the designers so that they are able to leverage the potential of, and protect, their world-class designs. Furthermore, democratic access to incredible South African design speaks to society and to nurturing of the possibility of a thriving South African design sector, which creates work opportunities, good esteem and touches people’s lives in many ways.

Communication about the initiative was made available to 14 000 Nando’s employees. Media coverage has been received locally and internationally, with one example being a half-page editorial feature with a focus on popular-audience communication of Nando’s Heartfelt Celebration of South African Design, printed in the main body of Sunday Times and having reached a readership of 3,436,000 people in South Africa.

This initiative, including The Nando’s Hot Young Designer Talent Search, has spoken to the need for enterprise support, collaboration and development in South Africa. Some of the Hot Young Designer Finalists have continued to collaborate with Nando’s beyond the talent search, of their own initiative and drive, and Nando’s is responding by exploring enterprise development plans. The creativity and originality that comes from this creative collaboration is phenomenal, constantly renewed, ongoing, and in the small and big picture has the potential to continue to consistently add up to wonderfully more than the sum of its parts.