South African restaurant chain Nando’s Peri-Peri is expanding to Chicago

chicken chase is just getting started.

South African restaurant chain Nando’s Peri-Peri is expanding to Chicago, with plans to open one establishment in the New City project at Halsted Street and Clybourn Avenue and another one at 945 W. Randolph St. in the West Loop, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.

Nando’s sells Portuguese-style dishes made with chicken that’s marinated for a day and grilled with different sauces, including the extra-hot peri-peri option, according to its website. Prices range from $7.25 for a quarter of a chicken to $51.45 for a platter featuring two full chickens with two big sides, a menu shows. There are also salads and sandwiches, as well as beer and wine.

Like fast-growing Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Nando’s competes in the fast-casual segment, where diners can customize their orders and move quickly through an assembly line to get and pay for their food. Such restaurants are among the fastest-growing dining segments in the region, but building up a clientele here from scratch may take time.

‘A LOT OF COMPETITION’

In the Chicago area, “there’s 96 Chipotles and 111 Paneras and 101 Potbellys and 36 Five Guys,” said Allen Joffe, principal at Chicago retail brokerage Baum Realty Group LLC who isn’t involved with Nando’s but represents other restaurant groups. “You go down the line and pick a chain – there’s a lot of competition for that dollar.”

Chicken restaurants had a strong run in the city over the past couple of years, though the market isn’t nearly as crowded as the burger chain segment. Recent independent entrants in Chicago include Honey Butter Fried Chicken in Avondale, Parson’s Chicken & Fish in Logan Square and Leghorn Chicken in River North and Ukrainian Village.

Skokie, meanwhile, is home to Fogo’s Peri Peri, a restaurant that serves chicken dishes similar to Nando’s.

It isn’t clear how big Nando’s Chicago restaurants will be, or how many will ultimately open here. The company’s U.S. subsidiary, Washington-based Nando’s USA, has formed a corporation with a name suggesting it plans a restaurant in Lakeview, according to Illinois corporate records. The address of that restaurant could not be determined.

‘MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT SOON’

“Nando’s Peri-Peri first moved to the United States in 2008 and has quickly opened 20 restaurants in and around the Washington, D.C., area,” a Nando’s spokesman said in an email. “We are actively interested in sharing our fiery peri-peri flavors with Nando’s fans around the country and will be making a major announcement soon.”

The firm long has wanted to expand to other cities.

“We’re not about leap-frogging or having one location each in New York, Miami and L.A.,” Nando’s USA CEO Burton Heiss told the Washington Post in January 2013. “Rather we’re looking to build a strong foundation in one city at a time and grow organically.”

The U.S. subsidiary is part of South African company Nando’s Group Holdings Ltd., according to Bloomberg LP. There are 1,100 Nando’s restaurants in 23 countries around the world, according to information from the company.

Michael Drew, principal at Structured Development LLC and part of the venture developing the New City retail-apartment complex, declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Chicago-based Sterling Bay Cos., which owns 945 W. Randolph St., did not respond to messages.

Steve Frishman, principal at Oakbrook Terrace-based Mid-America Real Estate Corp. who’s working with Nando’s here, declined to comment. Retail brokers at Mid-America who are leasing Sterling Bay’s property at 945 W. Randolph and the New City project did not return calls.

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