I paid my first visit to the newly opened Nandos at the Forum Plaza in St Leonards yesterday, and what I saw and experienced made me wonder how much longer the shop will stick around before the business is run into the ground.
From what I can see (poor roster planning resulting in a tiny restaurant being ridiculously overstaffed on the quietest day of the week) and what I have experienced (exceptionally poor customer service), I would not be surprised if the shopfront is advertising for another tenant in 6 months’ time.
For weeks, the signs anticipating the “new hatching” of a Nandos chicken shop had me waiting with bated breath and secretly willing the shop to be opened sooner rather than later. Nandos is an equal favourite amongst the chicken shop businesses (KFC being the other, for altogether different reasons), and the nearest Nandos shop until now was in Chatswood (a 10 minute drive away). For weeks, I had imagined the scintillatingly tasty succulent chicken being available at my fingertips, a mere hop step and jump from my very front door, and the anticipation was almost too much to bear.
(By the way, I agree – it’s a sad sad life I lead.)
The past 6 weeks or so have been rather busy in my date book and to be honest, I completely forgot to look out for Nandos’ grand opening signs. Until yesterday afternoon, when completely uninspired by the food in my kitchen cupboards and fridge, I decided it was time to go for a wander in the Forum Plaza. And there it was – Nandos – in all its glory, with all lights blazing and all doors opened. In a trance, I found myself drawn into the shop where I stood in wonder and awe as I studied their extensive menu board.
A mass of bodies resided behind the counter, and after smiling at all of them for a few minutes (mentally willing one of them to come over to serve me), I was finally served by a girl who was obviously still in training. I placed my order, which I had to repeat 4 times before she finally got it right.
Me: Hi. May I please have one order of chicken wings and one order of thigh pieces?
Her: One rib?
Me: No, one lot of chicken wings and one lot of thigh pieces.
Her: So you don’t want the ribs?
Me: No, I would like one order of chicken wings please, and one order of thigh pieces please.
Her: How many wings?
Me (becoming annoyed): 5 wings, just like your board says.
Her: Ok, and how many thighs?
Me (becoming very annoyed): 4 pieces, just like your board says.
Her: So you don’t want ribs?
Me (by now through gritted teeth): No, thank you. No ribs for me today.
Her: Any chicken with your order?
Me: Just the wings and thigh pieces thanks.
Her: Will that be all today?
Me: Yes thank you.
Her: That will be $14. Your name?
Me: Gloria. And this is to takeaway.
Her: Ok. Your meal will be ready in a few minutes.
It was 2.30pm when I walked into the shop, and there was one dine-in customer tucking into his late lunch / very early dinner. I was the only other customer in the shop. After the ordeal of ordering my meal, it was time to relax and soak up the ambience of the newly constructed small but cosy shop, with inside seating for about 12 and outside seating for another 16. As I patiently waited for my lunch, I noticed the following:
* There were 6 staff members behind the counter, not to mention the shop manager sitting in front of a computer in the back office at 2.30pm on a Sunday, when the Forum Plaza is almost deserted.
* The dine-in customer asked the whereabouts of the remainder of his meal 3 times before it was served to him, accompanied with an “oops – sorry” from the same girl who served me.
As the minutes ticked by, I caught sight of the shop hours frosted on the door – it would appear that the opening hours are 11am to 10pm, seven days a week. A quick audit on what the other staff members were doing yielded the following list of tasks:
* Moving the takeaway bags in various shapes and sizes from Dispenser 1 to Dispenser 2.
* Taking the takeaway bags from Dispenser 2, counting them before replacing them in the dispenser.
* Moving the takeaway bags from Dispenser 2 back into Dispenser 1.
* Stocking an already overstocked drinks fridge.
* Removing the stock that had just been placed in the fridge and replacing them in the cardboard cartons.
A glance at my watch told me it had been 25 minutes since my order was placed, and one of the staff members was finally putting something into a takeaway bag. He looked around the shop and turned to the girl who served me and asked “Who’s this order for? A ‘Gloria’?” The girl motioned towards me, the only female takeaway customer in or near the shop. No one else had placed any further orders since 2.30pm. The male staff member then sang out my name at the top of his voice and looked towards a point above the top of my head. It was so farcical I almost looked behind me to see who he was actually calling out to.
As I walked through my front door, the following sums clicked through my head:
* Sunday rates for staff members = approximately $20 per hour
* Sunday rates for shop manager = approximately $25 per hour
* Minimum shift for staff members = 3 hours
* Maximum shift for staff members in one day = 10 hours
At a bare minimum:
* 1 staff member for 10 hours = $200
* 1 shop manager for 10 hours = $250
* 5 staff members for 3 hours each = $300
So, in total, it would have cost Nandos $750 to staff the shop on Sunday, and this doesn’t include superannuation, tenancy rental, utilities or stock replacement!
And in the 30 minutes it took to prepare my $14 meal, there were no other orders. The dine-in gent’s meal could potentially have cost around $25, making the total cash takings of just under $40 for one hour. Even if that was the average takings per hour for the entire 11 hours of trading, the shop was still making a loss of at least $300.
Here’s hoping Nandos does a roaring trade during the working week, when the Forum Plaza is teeming with workers and school kids for at least 5 hours per day. And here’s hoping the staff members are fast learners who actually absorb and retain any and all lessons in customer service.
Oh, yeah – the chicken was just as good as I had imagined it – so here’s hoping customers will return, if for nothing else, then for the yummy, tasty chicken.