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ChesaNYAMA, braai’ing all the way into Africa

With 300 restaurants in the pipeline.

JOHANNESBURG – Stelio Nathanael cuts a determined figure with his goal to outperform counterparts in the fast food industry – no matter what it takes or how aggressive his strategy is.

As CEO of the ChesaNYAMA franchise, Nathanael is preparing to launch 300 more restaurants of his grilled meat business in the next three years, from the current 200.The name Chesanyama for the fast food business, which literally means “burn meat” in isiZulu, will see Nathanael expand existing restaurants to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Lesotho.

“Most people know what ChesaNYAMA is, be it if you come from the townships or if you are born in the suburbs. We have all as South Africans, we have all grown with braai’ing meat,” Nathanael told Moneyweb.

Behind ChesaNYAMA

Coming with a pedigree steeped in fast food, Nathanael’s brush with the industry began at the age of 16. Years later, before ChesaNYAMA, Nathanael became the founder of the Fish & Chips Company in 2009 which was acquired by Taste Holdings (JSE: TAS) for R65 million.

Throughout the interview with Moneyweb, Nathanael repeatedly notes that he has been in the fast food industry “for a long time”, which has helped him to identify a gap in the grilled meat market which was once informal. And that’s when ChesaNYAMA was born.

Finding a niche market worked in Nathanael’s favour, leading him to oversee the birth of more restaurants under the ChesaNYAMA brand including 1+1 Pizza, Pita Land and Wild Wings.

Central to the popularity of ChesaNYAMA since the first fast food restaurant was open in 2012 Nathanael says, is offering value for money to cash-strapped consumers. 

Also an eating experience is sacrosanct to sustain the ChesaNYAMA brand. From its core offering of chicken and boerewors, Nathanael says diversification of products to offer burgers and pizzas through its additional brands has been a success. 

“We thought how we can give people value for money and quality as well. Just because we are from the township, we still supply great meat with value for money.”

“A customer must not wait for longer than ten minutes since it’s a fast food restaurant. We had to make our structure to be a business that offers consumers value for money,” he says.

For example Nathanael says, ChesaNYAMA prepares meat in flame grill ovens to reduce customers waiting time from the point of placing an order.

Gold Brands comes in with franchising

Expanding into Africa is no easy task and that’s where Gold Brands, a company which drives the aggressive expansion of fast moving franchises into the greater African continent, comes in.

Though what has given ChesaNYAMA country and continent wide reach at an incessant rate is the adoption of the franchising business model, with its partnership with Gold Brands.

Despite the tainted franchising track record of control scuffles between franchisees and franchisors which have resulted in businesses folding, Nathanael says the main reason why businesses do not get the best out of franchising is partly due to franchisees not being given the requisite support and infrastructure.

“That’s where we come in with the infrastructure to set franchisees up. It’s about daily operations, stand next to the franchisee and a lot of our black franchisees own multiple stores under the ChesaNYAMA brand”.

With ChesaNYAMA operating in a competitive fast food industry with the likes of global restaurant giants such as McDonald’s and KFC, Nathanael says the industry has a lot of “copy cats”. 

Such “copy cats”, he says have encroached on ChesaNYAMA’s brand by duplicating its product and service offering, but “having a unique offering makes us stand out from everyone”.

“That’s a norm in the industry where someone copies your brand; at the end of the day it’s about who is behind the brand and who has a passion for the brand. For other people it’s a money making scheme”.

But is ChesaNYAMA a case of a business growing too soon, too fast and is the rapid growth sustainable?  “If you are looking at selling stores then neglecting your existing stores without having a good structure, then you are going to fail,” Nathanael assures. 

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