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The scene: Nando’s Peri Peri is one of the world’s most popular chicken chains, with more than 1,000 restaurants in nearly three dozen countries. In the USA, the brand only operates in Chicago and around the nation’s capital. Nando’s began in South Africa, where there are lots of eateries, and today covers almost all of Africa, major cities in Asia and the Middle East, several Canadian provinces, and especially the United Kingdom and Ireland with hundreds of locations. The brand has also created a successful business selling its signature bottled hot sauces, and these are widely available in U.S. supermarkets from coast to coast.

Nando’s is a fast-casual format where you order at the counter, take a number and grab a table, then your food is delivered to you when ready. The specialty is chicken grilled over fire, so while every location is unique, a view of the large grill behind the counter is generally showcased and a self-serve sauce bar features the company’s full line of hot sauces. The restaurants have a tropical/exotic look with earthy textures and bright colors reflecting the chain’s African-Portuguese warm climate roots, and because supporting South African designers and artists is one of Nando’s core values, each restaurant is decorated with original works of art. With many thousands of such pieces across the chain, Nando’s claims to own the largest collection of South African contemporary art in the world. The company’s newest U.S. location, a flagship in the heart of Michigan Avenue on East Lake St. in Chicago, opens on Labor Day, and is a good example. It features a 21-foot installation crafted out of 6,800 aluminum craft beer cans. The cans have been transformed into pendant lights, creating a chandelier, powder-coated in seven colors and suspended over the main stairwell. This fixture was designed by Tulsha Booysen, a 19-year-old student from Cape Town, and the youngest finalist of Nando’s Hot Young Designer art contest.

Generally, the eclectic and cheery African-inspired vibe, with wooden tables and colorful upholstery, is uplifting, while staff is uniformly friendly and warm, and hip folk music plays in the…