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SA food chains take on London with aplomb

Jun 22 2015 13:50

Nando’s came to the UK in 1992. 23 years later, the restaurant has almost 400 branches on UK high streets. (Photo: CNN)

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Cape Town – South Africa’s influence on London’s restaurant scene is growing to new heights, according to a report by CNN.

London is a cosmopolitan kaleidoscope, with a restaurant scene to match, according to CNN Marketplace Africa. “Its high streets play like a round-the-world pit stop of cuisines, and increasing woven among them are African restaurants,” CNN said in a statement.

Association for African Owned Enterprises chairperson Washington Kapapiro believes in the prospect of successful African food brands in the UK: “For me what’s most exciting is the… growth of what we call African food. People are starting to identify with that brand.”

With that brand comes opportunity for chains on the continent to expand overseas, and London is seen as the golden ticket.

“All brands across the world are testing their models in London,” said Spur [JSE:SUR] UK director David Maich. “If it works here it will work anywhere.”

One South African food chain leading the charge in the UK is Nando’s. Created in South Africa in 1987, Nando’s came to the UK in 1992. 23 years later, the restaurant that successfully blends Portuguese and South African roots with affordable family fare has almost 400 branches on UK high streets.

“It’s a tremendous success because they have been flexible, adapting concept; not a copy and paste rigid brand standard they adopted,” Maich told CNN.

Maich is among those hoping to follow in Nando’s footsteps and become another successful South African chain planting its flag on UK soil, with Spur. “We're now positioning ourselves for the UK market, which is more vibrant, more cutting edge, punchy - and this cries out to the customers and to me this is the way to go.”

South African ex-pats in the UK are welcoming these food chains to London. “They're great - very loyal supporters - and great ambassadors – but we have to think broadly; we have to think of the UK customer profile and that's who we're targeting across the board,” explained Maich.

Another South African company vying for a position in the UK market is The Meat Co, a restaurant whose specialty is the traditional South African dish, basted beef.

Like Spur, The Meat Co has adapted their South African roots to suit the UK market. Johnny Tomazos, CEO of Food Fund International (the company which owns Spur) told Marketplace Africa: “Here at The Meat Co, the African link is perhaps more subtle. This is not about tribal art on the walls, or ornate and more traditional décor…the Africa they wish to take global - is modern Africa - and the hallmark of the dining experience - their beef!”

The growing success of African restaurants in the UK is no surprise to Kapapiro. He attributes a uniquely African can-do spirit to the success of South African restaurant chains in the UK: “Let's solve the problem - let's not stick to our rules… I think that culture is the foundation for a lot of growth we've seen in the African business sector.”

* CNN correspondent Rosie Tomkins explores how South African restaurants in particular are staking their claim in the UK food market in Monday’s 18:30 edition of Marketplace Africa on DSTv’s channel 401.

Watch the programme now:

nando's  |  spur


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