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Robby Enthoven

Overall ranking: 61 (43)

Restaurants ranking: 16 (11)

Robby Enthoven – Snapshot
Robby Enthoven is the managing director of Nando’s chicken restaurants, a 100-strong chain based around a Portuguese-Mozambique speciality – fresh, flame-grilled chicken spiced with peri-peri (also known as the African bird’s-eye chilli).

Nando’s, which was founded in South Africa in 1987 by Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin, has expanded worldwide through franchising. The UK company is owned by the Enthoven family-controlled investment company Capricorn Ventures International, which also holds a majority stake in the Ask and PizzaExpress restaurant chains.

Robby Enthoven – Career guide
Enthoven’s father opened the first UK Nando’s in Ealing Common, west London, in 1992, followed by a second branch in Earls Court.

Both were struggling when Enthoven junior became managing director in 1993. Realising that the takeaway format that predominated in South Africa was not right for London, Enthoven brought in a new management team and relaunched the concept in 1995 as a quick-service operation where customers order at the counter and collect their own crockery but are served at the table.  He also introduced a scheme to allow restaurant managers to become partners in the business. 

Robby Enthoven – What we think
Enthoven, now in his late thirties, was a self-confessed ‘bum’ before joining Nando’s, allowing the girls of Oxford to distract him from his A-levels and spending a “very long time” doing his business degree in London. Before moving into the London property business, Enthoven took a year out to drive a lorry from London to Cape Town, South Africa.

So when his father asked him to take over the struggling Earl’s Court branch, he expected his son to kill the business within six months but learn something in the process. But neither branch closed and the ‘bum’ turned out to be a bright and astute businessman – although his philosophy is still to have fun while making a profit.

Twelve years down the line, Robby Enthoven is in charge of a profitable, 128-strong restaurant chain and plans to open around 25 branches over each of the next few years and, in time, expand across the Channel. 

The group’s impressive expansion won Robby Enthoven the Caterer & Hotelkeeper Catey Group Restaurateur of the Year award in 2002, when the group’s 50 restaurants were turning over £50m a year. “His expansion programme has been successful, and it is possible Nando’s will become one of the main restaurant multiples,” one Catey judge predicted.

The judges praised Enthoven’s careful financial management and his ability to combine sound commercial planning with the provision of good quality, value-for-money food in a vibrant and fun environment. Most significantly, Enthoven is credited with breaking new ground by bridging the gap between fast food and traditional restaurants.

Restaurant managers or patros (Portuguese for head of the family) control their own marketing budgets and participate in an incentive scheme while staff (called nandocas) benefit from discounts, free food, staff parties, rewards for good ideas, and fun trips abroad for the hardest workers.

These staff-friendly initiatives pushed Nando’s into 33rd position in the 2005 Sunday Times listing of the UK’s 100 best workplaces. The same year the group won two National Training Awards in recognition of its induction and coaching skills programmes – nearly half of Nando’s patros started out as cashiers or grillers.

Nando’s made its first push into Scotland in 2006 and expects to end the year with three branches in Glasgow.

The group has also built up an ad hoc outside catering business handling around 75 events a year along with a presence in British supermarkets via a range of sauces and marinades marketed by its sister firm, the Grocery Company.

Robby Enthoven – Further information

Nando’s profile on CatererSearch

Nando’s official website

Nando’s profile on Wikipedia

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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