Since launching its first UK restaurant in 1992, Nando’s has expanded to over 1200 restaurants and has helped to revolutionise the casual dining market with its Portuguese influenced chicken menu.
One of the chain’s longest running strategic partnerships has been with Rational. Cameron Holder, head of non-food and indirect procurement, explains. “We’ve worked with them for at least 25 years now, and we like to think we’ve grown up together over that time.”
Rational equipment has become one of the keystones of Nando’s success. “It has certainly affected the way we cook our products,” says Holder. “There’s a Rational appliance in every single restaurant of Nando’s, we use them to prepare our ‘hero product’ so they are the only cooking equipment we demand.”
There are many reasons for this, but consistency is at the root of why they have become such a vital part of the setup. “We need to be able to create a consistent product, and we need to take into account not being able to rely on highly skilled staff being available all the time,” says Holder. “With our Rational equipment, we know that kitchen staff can select the program they need and let the appliance get on with cooking the chicken, safe in the knowledge that it will come out exactly as required.”
Working closely with Rational has helped Nando’s to integrate the latest technological developments into their business. “We were very interested when Rational launched ConnectedCooking,” says Holder.
ConnectedCooking is Rational’s networking system that enables an entire fleet of appliances to be controlled and monitored remotely. It can provide real time diagnostic information and allows menus to be altered remotely too. “We’re really just beginning our journey with this technology,” says Holder. “But we’re constantly finding new ways to use it to improve efficiency.”
For example, ConnectedCooking is helping Nando’s to reduce downtime. “Our Rational appliances are absolutely critical, if one breaks down it can shut down that restaurant until it’s repaired. We’ve worked closely with our service partners to create a proactive maintenance schedule, which has allowed us to extend the working life of our equipment quite considerably,” says Holder. “We’ve been very successful with that, many of our Rational appliances are now over 12 years old, and working as well as they did when they were new.”
But the introduction of ConnectedCooking has given Nando’s even more opportunities to improve service life and reduce downtime. “Having the ability to monitor simultaneously every single Rational appliance we own opens the door to some amazing possibilities,” explains Holder.
“Our service partners can now identify units at risk of breaking down before they do so and either schedule a maintenance visit, or even fix them remotely in some instances.” This has helped Nando’s to cut down the number of maintenance callouts by 35% since the introduction of ConnectedCooking. “By any metric it’s been tremendously successful already, and we can only see this improving from here.”
Being able to streamline the preventative maintenance programme can save time at every stage of the process. “If we can identify the nature of the problem before an engineer is sent out we can ensure they come out with the right parts, which makes the entire process go incredibly smoothly.”
There have also been unanticipated benefits of the new system. “We’re already discovering interesting applications for the system,” says Holder. “Having full access to the HACCP data instantly has been a boon in handling customer complaints.” For example, if a diner reports a meal not tasting right, or in alleged food poisoning cases, the records of the appliance used to make that meal can be checked instantly. “This lets us immediately see if there was anything wrong with the process, helping us to resolve queries much faster.”
As time goes on they’re able to take more data into account, which helps drive further savings. “We’re starting to get very detailed pictures of how each machine gets used, so we can offer restaurant managers precise suggestions about how to improve usage on each one,” says Holder.
“For example, if they need to tighten up their cleaning schedules, or if one of the appliances is getting used more than the other (most Nando’s restaurants have two appliances) to balance it up more. Being able to provide simple, actionable advice can lead to big improvements.”
Nando’s is now beginning full deployment of ConnectedCooking across all of its UK estate, and will be bringing it to Canada, South Africa, the Middle East and the US by the end of the year. “The support we receive from Rational has been vital,” says Holder. “They’ve assisted us every step of the way, from training to implementation, providing tips on menu development as well as advising about the best appliances for specific situations, for example smaller restaurants.”
“When you’re aiming to offer a consistent experience across such a large company as Nando’s, everything needs to work the same,” says Holder. “With Rational’s help, we’re able to manage hundreds of restaurants with the same personal touch as single location businesses.”
RATIONAL is the leading provider in hot food preparation equipment and, with the VarioCookingCenter and SelfCookingCenter, the company delivers all a commercial kitchen’s thermal cooking requirements. Together, the two appliances offer the best cooking solutions. For information and brochures, or to come to a free VarioCookingCenter Live or SelfCookingCenter Live demonstration, call +44 (0)1582 480388, freephone 0800 389 2944 or visit