Within today’s competitive market, even the most well recognised and acclaimed food chains cannot take the visual branding of their restaurants for granted. Indeed, chains are become evermore design conscious, and are collaborating with some of the top interior design practises to rejuvenate and evolve the aesthetic of their branches. One such brand is Nando’s – now one of the largest restaurant chains in the UK – who have enlisted acclaimed architectural practice, Buckley Gray Yeoman, to help launch a series of pilot restaurants across the UK with a new and exciting look.
This flourishing partnership began after Shoreditch-based architectural and design practice, Buckley Gray Yeoman (BGY), was appointed by Gondola Group to develop a new visual aesthetic for the Zizzi restaurant brand – something the Nando’s team were keen to embark upon themselves.
Five years on, and BGY has completed eight stylish new sites nationwide, with a ninth soon to be completed – each retaining the core characteristic of the Nando’s brand, while offering something completely different in each location.
When BGY first started working with Nando’s its branding was heavily Portuguese in style -“a heritage both the BGY and Nando’s teams wanted to carry forwards but with a more contemporary, unique style.
“Nando’s is a very enlightened client when it comes to the design of their restaurants and they always push us to provide inventive, adventurous design that is inspired, rather than constrained, by the raw materials of their brand,” explains director of BGY, Matt Yeoman.
“Thanks to this approach, each interior we have completed for Nando’s has taken on its own very unique character. It’s almost like a performance from a musical score: the song is always recognisable, but each rendition is unique.”
“While locality may not be an important priority for Nandos, the original features or structure of the buildings in which its restaurants are housed is key.”
From the slightly more muted tones of the stylish Manchester branch – nevertheless bursting with texture and materials – to the 40ft shipping container used to house the kitchen area at Nando’s Dundee and the exposed structural steel and brickwork of Nando’s Glasgow, this design diversity between branches is clear to see.
It is interesting that, during a time when many hospitality brands are seeking to differentiate their branches through incorporating local influences, Nando’s is looking to achieve quite the opposite. Its branches in fact, offer a degree of separation from the outside world – perhaps in tribute to the core Portuguese feel and inspiration of the brand. Indeed, amonst other initiatives, Nando’s is part of an Art foundation in South Africa, from which BGY selects original artwork and accessories to enhance this authentic feel.
While locality may not be an important priority for Nandos, the original features or structure of the buildings in which its restaurants are housed is key. BGY have worked, where they can, to reintegrate these features into their designs, and often find hidden gems beneath the formica, plywood and plasterboard of former retail units.
Nando’s Glasgow, BGY’s eight project, is a perfect example of this. The team stripped the 1920s building back to its bare fabric, exposing the visually engaging textures of the structural steel work, brickwork and heavy Scottish stone blockwork of the walls.
With the help of historic photographs, the original timber and glass shopfront was reinstated – the stained-glass sign above the door and distinctive oriel window bays adding to the atmosphere of one of Glasgow’s major shopping streets.
Elsewhere, the team used reclaimed light fittings, upcycled bicycle wheels and wire baskets to create original chandeliers, as well as using reclaimed wooden window shutters sourced from a salvage company in South Africa to clad the me mezzanine balcony.
The newer elements of the design were selected to echo this rough textural aesthetic, the timber-topped service counter, for example, was made using off-the-shelf concrete lintels, painted by hand and laid on end.
The imagination and creativity that goes into each and every detail of these new restaurants is quite spectacular. Yet, while the BGY team is encouraged to take full reign of these projects, one element the Nando’s team are adamant on is the ‘robustness’ of the new schemes.
This twofold approach, “the design head and the operations head” as Matt describes it, ensures that however inventive and experimental the interior of the restaurant, it is ultimately grounded in creating a functional space that will endure high volumes of traffic.
Given the characteristically busy flow of customers throughout Nando’s restaurants – ordering and paying at the counter, retrieving condiments etc – it is all the more important that BGY construct these spaces carefully.
The success of these new restaurants is not simply down to creating a fine balance between form and function, however, but is a result of the mutually creative relationship between these two teams.
Nando’s faith in BGY’s talent and originality means that they don’t allow for complacency, and are constantly challenging the team to bring new ideas to the table. Given the portfolio of restaurants completed so far, and the promise of multiple new openings in the near future, this “we push you as much as you push us” philosophy certainly seems to be a winning formula.