Chicken and Change | Mac Chung Lynn of Nando's PERi-PERi Chicken Malaysia & Singapore
Updated: Apr 7
Every country has their own signature chicken, an indelible element of their cuisine featuring one of the most versatile ingredients in the world. South Africa’s unique climate makes for the best environment for the African Bird’s Eye chillies to grow, providing a unique kind of heat. Add the influence of Mozambique & Portugal, a little touch of lemon and garlic, and roaring charcoal grill, and you get the beloved peri-peri chicken. One particular brand however can be credited with making the dish iconic around the world, and that is Nando’s PERi-PERi Chicken.
Nando’s is a restaurant chain based out of Johannesburg, South Africa that has carved out a following worldwide thanks to their spicy chicken. The brand has a strong, almost cult-like following, in places like London, New Zealand, and Bostwana, among a host of countries that you can find them in across the globe. Malaysia is one of the countries that you can find many a Nando's in, with the brand entrenching itself in their food culture. Even with the size of the country, with all the separate states and regions, finding a Nando’s isn’t the hardest thing, especially if you’re in and around Kuala Lumpur. The almost 80 branches of the chicken empire across Malaysia and Singapore are under the management of Nando’s group CEO Mac Chung Lynn. Both countries provide that signature peri-peri flavor, without ever compromising flavor, service, and an all around dining experience. But Nando's is much more than just another chain restaurant that you can have a great meal at.
Taking a chicken empire from Johannesburg to Kuala Lumpur The story of how Nando’s got to Malaysian shores began when Mac Chung Lynn was working as an architect in London. In 1997, her father tried Nando’s signature chicken for the first time while visiting Mac. He loved the food so much that called the manager over, asked about the workings of the company. No more than a month later, her brother was negotiating for Nando’s franchising rights with the parent office in South Africa. At the time, she was only 24, having just earned her license, with no experience in the food industry. Her father asked Mac if she would come home to help their family manage this new venture into the spicy world of peri-peri chicken.
The first Nando’s restaurant soon opened in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, with the launch drawing much fanfare. In those first few years, the Nando’s brand began to grow thanks to word-of-mouth, becoming a local favorite in the process. Thanks to the affordable pricing, signature interiors & artwork, and no fuss service, the brand grew over the years. The growth of Nando’s saw them grow to 78 branches in Malaysia, and expanding to Singapore with 11 branches of their own. Under the watchful eye of Mac, that store growth also came with a certain standard that not many fast or fast casual food establishments take seriously: constant evolution.
Nando's does things you might not expect, going above and beyond what you expect of any restaurant. Before the first day of operations, the team behind the branch goes on a 3km walk around their neighborhood to promote the new store, making sure that they get in touch with their community at the street level. The team behind the branch makes sure that the neighborhood knows what Nando's is about before opening up.
Promoting new branches is good for business, but Nando's believes that maintaining each branch is also in the best interest of their customers. Part of what distinguishes Nando’s is their emphasis on architecture, interior design, and art, adding a layer to the dining experience some might not expect. Even with the emergence of food delivery services in metro areas, Nando’s continues to give their customers the benefit of excellent food with ambiance and comfort to match. According to Mac in a podcast interview, each store undergoes physical improvements every 3 or so years to switch things up both functionally and aesthetically. Improvements like this are taken quite seriously, with approvals coming from home base in Johannesburg to ensure top quality for a global brand.
Growing bigger while doing better
Over the years, the dedication of Nando’s to deliver on customer’s wants and needs has made them a key part of Malaysia’s food scene. With growth like that, and more than solid presence in Malaysia, Mac and her team began expanding out to neighboring Singapore in 2010. Under her guidance, she took the lessons from their many years in Malaysia over to the more trend-driven, and famously diverse Singaporean food scene.
As they set up a new base of operations, the team behind Nando’s kept that sensibilities that brought them so much success. One new wrinkle they added was partnering with The Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises, otherwise known as SCORE. Through their partnership, they have created opportunities for former convicts where there were none by providing gainful employment for these individuals. Since starting the program in 2012, over 300 former convicts were able to get fresh starts with Nando’s Singapore after their prison stints. This kind of employment program allows those who want to turn their lives around the opportunity to do so with dignity, and respect. Nando’s as a work environment gives them gainful employment that helps them get their lives rolling after spending time in the penal system.
Going beyond all of the chicken, Nando’s Malaysia has also given young Malaysians an opportunity to delve into their artistic side. Ever since 2007, The Nando's Art Initiative has been a fixture for young artists looking to showcase their work in a professional setting. What began as a contest featuring commissioned work from seven local artists has now evolved into a nationwide celebration young talent. With categories like Fine Art, Digital Art, and Graffiti, Malaysian artists have gotten a chance to exhibit their work to a wider audience, engaging the local art scene for more than 10 years. Recently, the initiative renamed itself YOUthReka Art Competition, while still maintaining the same willingness to support young talents.The past decade of curating and supporting art have yielded a number of stories, and even more artwork, Nando’s actually launched a commemorative coffee table book, ‘A Journey of Colours’ that told the stories of the careers that benefited from the support that Nando’s. The book paints a picture of the grand prize winners, showing their journey after the competition proper. With YOUthReka, you can see Nando’s commitment to the arts and ensuring that young creatives have the support, and the platform to showcase their talents.
Under the leadership of Mac Chung Lynn, Nando's has for the better part of 20 years, thrived in Malaysia. The success of the spicy chicken brand however is not merely monetary. With Mac at the helm, Nando's has given people chances where there previously were none. From the arts to the incarcerated, the amount of heart that Nando's displays through these initiatives shows the best of Malaysian entrepreneurship: all while profiting from some of the best chicken in the world.