Nando's returns to inner city roots, proudly SA-style

Nando's returns to inner city roots, proudly SA-styleNando's joins the growing trend of corporates relocating their offices to inner city Johannesburg. (Photo: www.nandos.co.za)

Staff from the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), a prime mover in the regeneration of the inner city, recently paid a visit to the new international headquarters of a global company that has returned to its inner city Joburg roots in distinctively funky, proudly South African fashion.

Leigh van der Watt gives JDA staff a tour of the new premisesNando's 'PERi-adventure' manager Leigh van der Watt gives JDA staff a tour of the new premises. (Photo: Elias Nkabinde)Nando's new corporate campus is situated in the working-class suburb of Lorentzville on the eastern side of the inner city, close to Ellis Park and the Johannesburg Stadium.

It's one of the areas that the JDA has been focusing on since 2007, as part of the City's drive to rejuvenate the inner city. The JDA's public environment upgrades, including upgrades to streets, parks and public buildings, have sought to create safe, liveable, economically viable public spaces; they have also sought to encourage residents to beautify their own properties, and to draw in private investors.

On both these counts, Nando's has responded in spectacular fashion, with a R75-million investment that has transformed its original sauce-bottling factory into a state-of-the-art facility, beautifully decorated in a riot of colourful contemporary local art and furniture, that is equipped to serve the needs of more than 1 000 restaurants spread across 16 countries.

JDA staff shown around campus

South African artwork features throughout the campusSouth African artwork features on the walls and in the open spaces throughout the campus. (Photo: www.nandos.co.za)Before the December holidays kicked in, Leigh van der Watt, Nando's "PERi-adventure" manager, gave a group of JDA staff a tour of various sections of the new head office and campus, including the South Africa building (an exclusively SA-furnished and decorated office space), art studio, conference areas, gym, and onsite radio station Heatwave.

Also part of the campus, which Nando's spent over a year creating, are a culinary innovation centre where new products are developed, a test kitchen where food is tasted and new staff are trained, a fully equipped quality assurance laboratory, a staff restaurant, coffee bar and lifestyle centre, and a Welcome Centre with restaurant and coffee bar for visitors.

The JDA staff did not feel out of place: the JDA is a keen champion of local art, taking every opportunity to enliven the public spaces it upgrades with artworks commissioned from local artists - and Nando's new head office is simply alive with original South African artwork, which features on the walls and in the open spaces throughout the campus.

Building relationships with the local community

And it's not only South African artists who are benefitting from the new campus, but the surrounding community as well.

"The surrounding area for us is hugely important, which is why we have started building relationships with the people in the community," Van der Watt said. "We work a lot with Bethany House, donating food and supporting children's homes in the area.

"We also do a lot of work with Harambee on one of our start-up projects, which helps youth development in the area. The objective for us to make the surrounding area safe for everyone, especially teenage girls," she said.

Nando's CEO Geoff Whyte said the company decided "to keep it real, and remember its roots, by staying where it all started and renovating rather than move to shiny Sandton premises".

For Nando's, the result is a celebration and reaffirmation of its humble origins and core brand values. For the JDA staff who saw the campus first-hand, it was both a confirmation that the City is on the right track, and an inspiration to keep pushing the envelope in inner city development.