Nando’s Peri-Peri’s Grand Opening Celebrates Restaurant’s Unique Flavor

| December 4, 2013 | 0 Comments | Bristow Biz

Nando's Peri-Peri preservice diners got a first look and taste of the restaurant's food on Monday.

At the Nando’s Peri-Peri of Gainesville mock service Monday, diners sampled cuisine from the Afro-Portuguese restaurant, which is known for its unique peri-peri chicken and eclectic décor.

However, for general manager Ed Dandar, who is originally from Nokesville, the opening of the restaurant at the Promenade at Virginia Gateway meant coming home to his old stomping grounds.

“I grew up in the area, and where the restaurant was we rode horses and dirt bikes,” Dandar said. “It’s wonderful how it has developed, and I am super excited to be coming back and hence bringing everything full circle.

Initially, Dandar did not expect to enter the restaurant industry, but he was impressed that Nando’s treats employees like family, which is why he prefers the title of “patrão,” a Portugese word meaning “head of the family” to general manager.

Nando's General Manager consults with staff members Janie Cardwell and Kylee Carter during the mock service Monday night.

“How I see my role here is as head of the family. It’s very important to coach, teach and develop our team. It’s why I love Nando’s and consider it more than a restaurant company; I consider it a learning company,” Dandar said.

Steven Thornton, Operation Director for Nando’s Peri-Peri in the United States, said that the company never has had to worry about sub par costumer service from the staff because they believe when they treat their employees well, those employees will treat their customers well in turn. The Nando’s philosophy holds employees in high regard and offers them perks like formal holiday parties, retreats, get-togethers and getaways.

The decor at Nando's stands out for being detailed, modern and rustic, and surpassing people's expectations for a casual dining restaurant.

“It’s so different from anything else in the food service industry. What I love about it is our culture and how we treat our people,” Thornton said.

Thornton is proud to work with a company that has over 1,000  restaurants in 30 countries and said he is especially happy to be here in Gainesville. Northern Virginians may know Nando’s Peri-Peri from its Alexandria, D.C. or Maryland locations, but being in the suburbs, Thornton said they plan on becoming a part of the community.

“It’s an amazing area. We are very excited to be in Gainesville and to get involved with the communities and schools. We are very aggressive with our community involvement, giving 40 percent back to the community on community nights,” Thornton said.

He also expects people will find the dining atmosphere at Nando’s very unique for the area, with the decor featuring one-of-a-kind art pieces, rustic structural details and premium furniture.

The restaurant also includes a blend of self-serve and table service.

Customers order at the counter, but food is prepared fresh and delivered to the customer's table.

Thornton said that Nando’s decided to take the best parts of high-end dining and merge it with all that is great about fast casual dining.

“We’ve taken the parts of dining that are frustrating to customers and eliminated them. With fast casual dining, if you are in line, you worry about where you are going to sit,” said Thornton. “We felt that the consumer wants more control over the experience. Here, you get to drive your own experience.”

The story of the Portuguese discovery of the Peri-Peri pepper in south Africa is told on the restaurant's wall.

Nando’s Peri-Peri is known for it’s flame-broiled peri-peri chicken, which ranges from “plain..ish” to extremely hot, and includes lemon & herb and mango & lime varieties. They also offer a number of vegetarian options, like salads and wraps and Mediterranean style side dishes.

“All the chicken is fresh, never frozen, and prepared in the peri-peri marinade then flame broiled to taste, not deep fried,” Thornton said.

Nando's Peri-Peri owns the largest world-wide collection of one of a kind South African art in which pieces are displayed at its many restaurants.

Everything is prepared fresh daily, and Thornton hopes people will find the healthy and gluten-free food a nice change of pace from the typical ethnic cuisine found throughout the region.

And for those who carry their laptops and tablets into coffee shops, Nando’s  has WiFi, coffee and a variety of soda flavors from new touch-screen soda dispensers.

Nando's in Gainesville features a domed ceiling with individual wooden beams and modern light fixtures.

Customer Lena Dosky, 17, was familiar with the Nando’s in Alexandria and Chinatown in D.C., but said she likes the Gainesville location, which is close to home, even better.

“It’s spicy and it’s good,” said Dosky.

Dosky, with her parents, liked both the fresh spicy chicken and the “Carribean looking” atmosphere.

Carlos Gonzales who has worked at other Nando’s restaurants also said the Gainesville location is his new favorite.

“The food is better here,” Gonzales said, commenting that the restaurant is very open and the servers are friendly and helpful.

Dandar said he is happy to meet his new neighbors and looks forward to working closely with community groups, school groups and sports teams.

Nando’s is opening to the public Wednesday.


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