The food and beverage sector were among the badly hit during the Covid-19 outbreak. The implementation of the Movement Control Order on March 18 forced players in the industry to shut their doors temporarily for three months. As a result, they opted to deliveries and eventually takeaways as a means to support daily operations. Some survived, others didn’t.
BusinessToday Malaysia speaks to Stephen Chew, Chief Executive Officer of Nando’s Malaysia on how one of the country’s most recognised brand braced for impact and some of the key takeaways it learned from the experience.
“Like most if not all F&B establishments, we were impacted quite early on. As soon as the pandemic and subsequent MCO were announced, we complied with the government’s orders and closed our restaurants for dining in, and limited operations to delivery and subsequently takeaway only,” Stephen tells BusinessToday.
Beginning last year, the F&B player had observed an increase in delivery requests, via partners such as FoodPanda and GrabFood. As a result, they considered an expansion into a multi-channel business, instead of one that is mostly focused on dine-ins. Covid-19 and the MCO had instead expedited the transition, along with various technological advancements that goes with it.
“We are focusing on digitalising our processes. Customers have embraced digital dining and ordering due to Covid-19. We also saw a growth in delivery and takeaway and the use of e-commerce,” Stephen says.
As digitisation takes place, the company is looking to move with times and meet changing consumer needs. It’s a two-pronged plan to evolve, Stephen says.
“We are restructuring and reorganizing the business to cater to consumer trends, with the aim of becoming a truly multi-channel business. We’re looking at growing our delivery and takeaway channels with the aid of digital enhancements,” Stephen tells BusinessToday.
While the pandemic had accelerated the process, prior to the MCO, Nando’s was already working on encouraging customers on adopting digital payment methods and low contact dining.
Committed to their purpose to create meaningful impact on lives of their people, Nando’s decision to opt for in-restaurant digital enhancements looks to enable their staff to upskill themselves.
Stephen further points out that the company continued to prioritised their members as well. “The Customer Relationship Management system enables us to create a more personalised engagement with our loyalty members, We can be as specific as to track their orders at Nando’s and reward them accordingly,” he says.
“It enables our loyalty members to feel like they have a personal relationship with the brand. We provide them with benefits whilst they can also get involved in our community programmes by donating the chicken rewards they’ve earned,
Stephen also says that he and his team are continuously evolving in order to better serve their customer’s needs.
“As customers today have a strong focus on healthy living and healthier food options, we are adding these options to our menu. Our chicken is flame-grilled and never fried, and we have a good mix of fresh vegetables prepared in a variety of styles, on the menu,” he says.
On the road to recovery and the new normal
“We are on a recovery journey right now. Though we cannot predict what exactly the market will be like come October when the government assistance and moratorium ends, we are still viewing the future optimistically. If our current trend continues, we are forecasted to break even by the end of the financial year,” Stephen says.
He believes that the optimism stems from being a purpose-driven company as this had allowed them to build a personal relationship with their community and build a loyal group of people who loves the brand as a whole.
In light of the new normal, Stephen says the company will be approaching expansion in a different manner. He says being multichannel also means offering Nando’s in a away that suits the needs of the area.
“In the past, we were dine-in focused and now we see that there are opportunities to build a dark kitchen in a neighbourhood shop lot where takeaway and deliveries are more common, rather than a full-fledged restaurant in a mall,” he shares.
As the unprecedented circumstances proved to be challenging and at the same time a learning period for Nando’s, Stephen believed it allowed him and his team to change their mindsets internally to truly live their brand culture and empower their people in order to make the right changes and adapt efficiently.
“The new normal has allowed us to increase our awareness and presence as a meaningful brand and restaurant that just wants to be a good neighbour in the neighbourhood,” Stephen concludes.