Walk into a Nando’s restaurant in Washington, D.C. and you’ll find much more than a grilled chicken menu.
To mark the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president last week, the South African company launched a campaign with the hash tag #everyoneiswelcome.
It has printed posters describing Nando’s as “an immigrant employing‚ gay loving‚ Muslim respecting‚ racism opposing, equal paying, multicultural restaurant.”
The Afro-Portuguese themed restaurant chain famous for its flame-grilled, peri-peri sauce covered chicken began life in Johannesburg in 1987. Since then it has become one of South Africa’s biggest corporate success stories.
President Trump is a fan of fast food. And his pick for labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, is CEO of the company that operates the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr restaurant chains.
By taking its message to the White House (there are two restaurants within easy reach), Nando’s is staying true to its tradition of edgy political campaigns that have sometimes got it into trouble.
Its “last dictator standing” advert poking fun at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was withdrawn. South African President Jacob Zuma has also been on the receiving end of its cheeky adverts.
Nando’s political flare can be traced back to its South African roots.
The company has exported the country’s “constitutional values,” said Thebe Ikalafeng, CEO at Brand Africa.
Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has portrayed itself as the “rainbow nation,” a showcase for diversity and unity.
Emphasizing its South African identity has helped Nando’s compete against big global brands, Ikalafeng added.
Nando’s now has more than 1,000 outlets in 21 countries. The company started operating in the U.S. in 2008 when it opened up in Washington. It has 38 restaurants in the U.S. and even sells its signature peri-peri sauce in selected retailers across the country.
The business is still owned by the Enthoven family and co-founder Robert Brozin, but some of its restaurants in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia are run as franchises.
CNNMoney (Johannesburg) First published January 27, 2017: 8:22 AM ET