The pioneers of Camberwell

by Matt Grimshaw
February 5, 2015

Nando's Camberwell

There’s something special happening at Nando’s Camberwell. It might not be the most glamorous of locations, but Camberwell is one of the group’s best performing restaurants. And it’s all because of their people. The team at Nando’s Camberwell are true pioneers…

When we first met them, Camberwell was already one of the top performing restaurants in the company, but it was clear from our very first conversation with restaurant manager Gabor Gombkoto that they were keen to find the next improvement.

The whole team embraced the spirit of our pilot, taking the chance to experiment with new ways of working and to judge the results for themselves. Team members were inspired by the idea that they might discover a new management practice that would then spread across the rest of the group. In the course of the three months we worked with them, they did just that.

We popped into Camberwell a couple of days ago to get their perspective on the pilot and to see whether they’ve be able to sustain the improvements they discovered.

Here’s Gabor’s view: “Nando’s gives its managers the platform to build a great business. The brand is really strong, the concept is so sharp and the support given to managers is fantastic. The best thing about Nando’s is that it gives its managers the freedom to make decisions and to try things. So long as your intentions are right and you act with integrity, you can take calculated risks and you know the business will back you up even if it doesn’t work.

“But not everyone takes advantage of this trust and I think that’s the key difference between the best restaurants and those that sit in the pack — it all depends on whether the managers have the appetite and drive to continue to learn and improve. The pilot gave us the perfect opportunity to use the whole team to innovate and to innovate quickly.”

It was interesting chatting to the Camberwell managers earlier in the week. Sometimes after a burst of significant improvement or change our instinct is to take our foot off the pedal to ‘consolidate the gains’ or ‘embed the change’. This isn’t how the Camberwell management team see things. They’re continuing to post great like-for-like sales improvements and their priority is to sustain the momentum: to continue to try new things and to find new ways of improving the business still further.

For us, it’s this mindset that keeps them ahead of the pack. It’s what makes them pioneers.

In the course of our conversation with some of the team at Camberwell we settled on three key aspects of their pioneering mindset:

  1. Don’t be constrained by other people’s perceptions of what you can achieve. Outsiders might think that your business is doomed or that it’s topped out, but it doesn’t really matter where you currently are… what matters is whether you can inspire your team to believe things can get better.
  2. Fail early, fail often and fail small in order to learn a lot. The team at Camberwell have the confidence to play, to have fun and to make mistakes because they know that this attitude is key to learning and innovating.
  3. Focus on strengths not weaknesses: Gabor believes you don’t become a high performing team by eliminating weaknesses. Instead everyone at Camberwell is expected to be open about the things they find difficult and to support each other to cover for these. Gabor’s view is that helping each other out in this way is critical to building reciprocity, trust and team spirit.


You can find more stories about pioneers here:

Pioneering customer service from Netflix

London Underground’s pioneer

Floyd Lee – a pioneering cook in the US Army

A US debt collection agency being ‘nice’!

The rise of the Big Mac

Enjoyed this blog? Sign up to our monthly newsletter to receive more great content just like this.