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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robby Enthoven, Nando's

01 July 2011
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Robby Enthoven, Nando's

Overall ranking: 26 (ranked 51 in 2010)

Restaurant ranking: 9 (ranked 17 in 2010)

Robby Enthoven is the managing director of Nando's chicken restaurants in the UK, the 234-strong chain based on a Portuguese-Mozambique speciality - flame-grilled chicken spiced with peri-peri. 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.

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 Earl's Court.

Both were struggling when Robby Enthoven became managing director in 1993. Realising that the take-away format in South Africa was not right for London, Enthoven Jnr 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. The company has expanded rapidly in recent years and now has 234 UK sites.

In September 2010, Capricorn Ventures bought Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) and Real Greek operator Clapham House in a £30m deal. Capricorn said it would provide the "significant investment and time" needed to re-invigorate Clapham House's brands in the current "difficult" trading environment for restaurants. Nando's took on 53 GBK restaurants (14 operating internationally) and six Real Greeks and has taken the company private.

Robby Enthoven - What we think

When Robby's father asked him to take over the struggling Earl's Court branch of Nando's, he expected his son to kill the business within six months but learn something in the process. But neither branch closed, and the self-confessed "bum" turned out to be a bright and astute businessman - although his philosophy is still to have fun while making a profit.

The group's impressive expansion won Enthoven the Group Restaurateur of the Year Catey in 2002, when the then 50 restaurants were turning over £50m a year. 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.

Enthoven has also invested heavily in his staff, with 75% of the human resources budget invested in learning and development. Staff tend to be aged under 25 but staff turnover is low. 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 initiatives have seen Nando's pick up a number of awards, including the Sunday Times Best Place to Work (Big Companies) category in 2010.

Nando's has taken advantage of the cheaper property market and expanded aggressively. There are now 234 Nando's in the UK and Ireland, with 6,500 staff serving more than 800,000 customers every week Capricorn Ventures, which has fended off a number of bids for Nando's in recent years, has declared that the UK can support up to 400 sites.

Although going on to pay £30m for Clapham House in September 2010, the company reported that it had made losses of £23m in the 36 weeks to February 2009. Despite sales of £167m in that period, the company struggled as a result of rising raw ingredient prices and slower consumer spending, but company directors said they were "satisfied" with the results.

Robby Enthoven's ranking in the 2010 Caterersearch.com 100 >>

Former Clapham House chairman David Page buys the Real Greek chain from Capricorn Ventures >>

Nando's owner buys Gourmet Burger Kitchen operator Clapham House Group in £30m deal >>
Nando's website >>

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