Chicken Out may be out, but winging its way to 4829 Bethesda Ave. is another chicken chain—Nando’s Peri-Peri, slated to open in October. The international chain, which features Portuguese flame-grilled chicken, has 900 restaurants in 30 countries, and four so far in the Washington area.
Alan Wollenschlaeger, director of operations for Nando’s Restaurants, said “we’ve been interested in that space for a very long time. We walked around Bethesda all the way back in 2007, and we were always convinced that it would be a good space. It took time and we waited, and the opportunity came up.”
Chicken Out closed in December after the company couldn’t reach a mutually agreeable deal with Federal Realty, the landlord (see my Jan. 4 Table Talk blog). A number of prospective tenants, including the Silver Diner, were interested in the prime location, which is on a corner and right next to a parking garage. The lease with Nando’s was signed today.
Wollenschlaeger said that the approximately 3,000-square foot space will seat about 95 people, and be individually designed for Bethesda. “We challenge our designers to make each space have its own unique feel and be relevant,” he said.
The restaurant was founded in 1987 in South Africa, but the history of the chicken goes back hundreds of years ago, when Africans introduced Portuguese explorers to the pili-pili chili pepper. According to the Nando’s website, the explorers mauled the pronunciation, changing it to peri-peri, and the rest is poultry history. Nando’s serves chicken marinated in the chili pepper, but diners choose how spicy they want it.
The restaurant’s new location in Bethesda will be its sixth—there are two in downtown Washington, one in Silver Spring and one in Annapolis. The fifth location will be opening this summer in Gaithersburg (see Feb. 24 Table Talk blog).
When asked why the chain picked the Washington area for its first U.S. restaurants, Wollenschlaeger said the decision took “a lot of work” and “a lot of time with consultants.” In the end, Washington won out because it includes a good mix of downtown and suburban areas, and has a good international awareness, he said. In addition, “the stability of the federal government was a contributing factor,” making the area less effected by the recession, he said.
As for how the other Nando’s in the area are faring, Wollenschlaeger said they are “doing fantastic. That’s why we’re opening more.”