In 2020, Mac Chung Lynn, the founder and Group Chief Executive Officer of Nando\u2019s Chickenland Malaysia was named \u2018Woman Entrepreneur of the Year\u2019 by The Asia Corporate Excellence & Sustainability\u00a0Awards\u00a0(ACES). In announcing the winner, the jury panel said: \u201cNothing speaks about great female leadership than the sass, gumption, and sheer leap of faith exhibited by Mac Chung Lynn in her peri-perifying of Malaysia and Singapore.\u201d That is a great commendation indeed! And this is not Mac\u2019s first award. She has won a string of them over the 22 years she first introduced this South African-based, Portuguese-African flame-grilled PERi-PERi (African bird\u2019s eye chillis) chicken called Nando\u2019s to the Malaysian and Singaporean palate. And they have loved it from day one. Nando\u2019s was founded in Johannesburg, South Africa by Robert Brozin and Fernando Duarte. The now very famous international restaurant chain was named after Fernando Duarte. The 2 friends in the above story were Robert Brozin and Fernando Duarte. One day, they visited a Portuguese-African restaurant, ordered chicken with PERi-PERi sauce and before lunch was over, decided they could start their own restaurant chain serving this incredible chicken dish. They bought over the restaurant and just like that, in 1987, Nando\u2019s was born. Quick as a flash, it became a worldwide chain of restaurants. Mac Chung Lynn\u2019s Role in the Success of Nando\u2019s Malaysia & Singapore How Mac Chung Lynn got into the picture of running Nando\u2019s Chickenland Malaysia and Singapore is quite another story by itself. Mac was an architect at the time, having recently graduated in the UK with only 2 years' work experience. It was 1998 and she was having lunch with her father at a Nando\u2019s outlet in London. Dad jumped at the taste of the chicken and before she knew it, they had become a Nando\u2019s franchisee. Today, Mac is Group CEO of Nando's Malaysia and Singapore. Nando\u2019s Chickenland Malaysia Sdn. Bhd. holds the Master Franchise for Nando\u2019s Malaysia. There are now 75 outlets here and 6 in Singapore, and plans are afoot to expand the network in the very near future. Perhaps the best person to talk about these plans is Mac herself. With International Women\u2019s Day celebrating women leaders, women\u2019s achievements, and gender equality in every field, Mac is one lady who is a match for the goal of this global commemoration. Motherhood takes a moment to chat with Mac on how she trailblazed the way in making Nando\u2019s a brand that is more than just PERi-PERi chicken. Mac Serves Up a Nando\u2019s Take-Away on F&B, Leadership, Entrepreneurship, Motherhood, and Giving Back to Society 1. Motherhood: Having won so many awards now and running close to 100 outlets in 2 countries, what are your feelings today about coming so far since the inception of Nando\u2019s Chickenland? Mac and her women-strong team at Nando\u2019s. Mac Chung Lynn: I am really proud and humbled by how far Nando\u2019s Malaysia and Singapore have come. The achievements we have garnered could not have happened without the Nandocas (people who work at Nando\u2019s). They are our true heroes of the business. Over the past 22 years, we have often had many accomplished leaders throughout the company and over half of them were women. This year, we have 55.07% of strong, intelligent women holding leadership positions in Nando\u2019s. At Central Support, 63% of these women are at managerial level and above while at restaurants, 53% are either restaurant managers or assistant restaurant managers. I still feel we have so much to learn and in fact, whilst the awards are a nice recognition and sometimes, an affirmation that we are on the right track, I think it is important not to be complacent and let our guard down. It has been a long journey these last 22 years with good times and bad times and it has taught me to be resilient, embrace change, and also, anticipate the future as well. We have been a brand that really has evolved over the years. We are in fact entering a phase, where we are incorporating more technology across the business, which will help give our customers a safer, more engaged, and personalised experience, which includes ordering, paying, and collecting Loyalty Member chilis (points) all in one go via QR code. 2. Motherhood: How many outlets are there in Malaysia alone? How many in Singapore? What are the countries that Nando\u2019s is in? Can you name a few? A few of Nando\u2019s outlets (from left) At AEON Maluri, KLCC, and Subang. More will be coming soon. Mac Chung Lynn: In Singapore, we have 6 restaurants and in Malaysia, we currently have 75 restaurants. We were at 80 restaurants and was well on our way to opening the targeted 100 restaurants by 2025. However, we were all hit with the pandemic and are now focusing on doing our part for the community, whilst looking at ways on how we can continue serving PERi-PERi to Malaysians but in a different and exciting way. The main Nando\u2019s countries are South Africa, where it originated from, UK, and Australia. They each have just over 300 restaurants each. We are the next largest country followed by the USA. Malaysia is actually the 4th largest market whilst Australia is the 2nd largest Nando\u2019s market with over 300 restaurants there and despite the pandemic, Nando's still managed to capture the hearts and tummies in Australia. We are proud to say we are on every continent and have restaurants in Saudi Arabia, India, New Zealand, and many more. 3. Motherhood: How old are your children now? I read you have a set of twins. How are they doing? What is it like bringing up twins? I am sure a lot of our mum-readers would like to know the difference between raising twins and single children. One for the album: The family on holiday. Mac Chung Lynn: My children are now 18, 16, and 16. The 3 children were born 15 months apart. As you can imagine, it was very difficult at the beginning as the company was still relatively young and it was like having triplets. We had to be super-organised. I was lucky to have help but my husband and I were quite hands-on parents, so when we were not at work, it was all about the family. We were the ones who bathed them, put them to sleep, and woke them up in the morning. I remember when the twins were babies, I would literally wake up 3 to 4 times a night, hand them over to the maids at 6 am when they woke up, and sleep for an extra hour or so before heading to work. When you have twins, you have to be very practical. When you have just 1 child, you can dote completely on that 1 child. But when you have twins or near triplets in my case, you become very practical. There is no such thing as favouritism. Reading time is entertaining as you will have 3 kids lying on you \u2013 one on either side and one lying between my legs whilst I read. It made for interesting times. Before the twins were born, I was also able to spend a lot of time with my son; bringing him all around with me when I visited restaurants. However, this changed when the twins came along as I could not push all 3 at one go. Nevertheless, my husband and I brought them everywhere with us when we were visiting sites over the weekends, and it got to a stage that the children saw the sand for wet works for construction as their sandpit. The good thing though is they are all extremely close with one another and have each other for support and company. The bad news is when they leave for school overseas, they all go at one go. Most people become empty nesters slowly unlike us. I guess the lucky part is I still have my Nando\u2019s family. They have been my constant over the last 22 years \u2013 quite a lot of people here refer to me as the Mother Hen! Guess Nando\u2019s is my baby, too! 4. Motherhood: As a mum with older children with changing needs from those early days, how do you juggle it all, especially in these pandemic times of school closures, postponed exams, and online learning? Mac Chung Lynn: It has certainly been different \u2013 I feel bad for them as the girls missed out on their last term at their old school and had to face the changes of IGCSEs being cancelled last year. My son is in his last year at school and if schools remain close, his last year at school will be a near virtual year and his A-levels exams will also be cancelled. They seem to be coping with the online classes albeit less enthusiastic about it. The part they miss most about school is the social aspect of it \u2013 the interactions with their friends, the participation in sports competitions, etc. This social aspect is such an important part of growing up as it teaches you how to interact with people and in a way, I am grateful my children are slightly older and matured to be able to handle these trying times. The good thing is, as a family, we have bonded together over meals, cooking, and our own exercise routines at home. I have counted it as a blessing that we are all together. 5. Motherhood: Speaking of the pandemic, which has raged for 1 full year and going into its 2nd year now, have you had to change some business plans as a consequence? Now you can order online and have your PERi-PERi fix delivered to your doorstep! Mac Chung Lynn: Embracing change and evolving are the only ways to grow, be it in business or personally. In many ways, the pandemic is not all doom and gloom. It actually sped up various plans we had in place, such as our digital transformation plans and our strive towards efficiency. For instance, we were already moving towards digital menus and digital payments through our Nando\u2019s loyalty app and the pandemic helped us overcome the concerns we had with customers\u2019 perceptions toward scanning QR codes. Sometimes, you need that nudge to move things along and prove that it can be done (because there isn\u2019t a choice). Some of their takeaway choices. As mentioned as well, Nando\u2019s has always focused on the dine-in experience, where you relax, dine-in with friends amidst beautiful art and afro-luso music. In 2019, we did notice a boom in food deliveries. However, we were taking our time to make the changes. Since we were planning on opening more restaurants, the pandemic helped us re-evaluate the way we build restaurants. Now, we are seriously considering dark kitchens and incorporating delivery-friendly spaces into our restaurant layouts. 6. Motherhood: As an F&B business, how are you side-stepping the restrictions of the MCO in Malaysia? What are some of these initiatives you have taken here and in other countries? Giving back to the community: Nando\u2019s \u2018No Chuckin\u2019 Our Chicken\u2019 donation of chickens and rice. (From left) Donating to Kechara Soup Kitchen and to others who are less fortunate. Mac Chung Lynn: In Malaysia, we are grateful we got onboard with delivery partners in 2019 rather than handling our own deliveries. If we did not make that change, things would have been a bit more challenging. Deliveries and take-aways have now grown to 30% of the business and that has helped. We have also decided to restart our own internal delivery service in areas, where our partners do not reach. Apart from that, we also focused a lot more on giving back to the community. At Nando\u2019s, we believe in changing lives together. Nando\u2019s globally believes that as an F&B business, we have a duty to do our part for the community and in this particular instance, it began with essential service frontliners, stranded students, and the less fortunate. When the pandemic first began, we gave 40% discounts to frontliners, while we donated chickens and rice to the less fortunate. And later on, we had a programme called 'Kind Dining', where customers are encouraged to drop off dry foods to be donated in exchange for a 20% discount when they eat-in or take-away. 7. Motherhood: I also read that you have a Nando\u2019s app for food donation and charity. Can you tell us about that and Nando\u2019s \u2018Chicken with a Heart\u2019? And also, some of the other CSR initiatives you have taken?\u00a0 The innovative 'Member Gift-it' programme, where generous Nando\u2019s loyalty members can choose to donate their chicken rewards. Mac Chung Lynn: This was indeed another bright side to the pandemic as we were able to try out various donation-driven campaigns and come up with 2 permanent CSR campaigns, which launched in August \u2013 'No Chuckin\u2019 Our Chicken' programme, where excess chickens and rice are frozen for donation; and the 'Member Gift-it' programme, where generous Nando\u2019s loyalty members can choose to donate their chicken rewards. We want people to know that Nando\u2019s is more than just a chicken; we are chickens with a heart. The founders, Robbie Brozin and Fernando Duarte have always believed in helping the community because when you help them, they help you and it spreads positivity throughout. That is why they started the fair-trade PERi-farms in Southern Africa. It then grew to helping young artists as restaurants needed art, furniture, and music through the 'Art Initiative' and 'Nando\u2019s Music Exchange'. Some of the other initiatives we have been very proud of has been the 'Nando\u2019s Art Initiative' in Malaysia that has seen an annual art competition held yearly for the last 10 years. This competition became known as the platform to launch young budding artists in the bigger Malaysian art world. In Singapore, we are also involved in SCORE (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises), where we work with ex-offenders from Changi Prison and provide them with work opportunities in Nando\u2019s during their last 6 months of their probationary period. Over the years, we have employed a total of 460 ex-offenders from SCORE and they play a vital part to our workforce in Singapore. One of Nando\u2019s art initiatives was their \u2018Expand your PERImeters\u2019 alumni exhibition celebrating 12 winners from 2016 to 2018. In this picture, 2 of the winning artworks are featured here. From center to right: Choo Ai Xin \u2500 2018 Winner of 'Nando\u2019s YOUTHreka Art Competition-Fine Art Category'. Right: Yau Boon Han \u2500 2016 Winner of 'Nando\u2019s Art Initiative - Digital Art Category'. 8. Motherhood: Nando\u2019s is a famous name and having built your brand to what it is today, what are the main things one has to keep in mind when becoming an entrepreneur and building one\u2019s own brand, especially in the food retail industry? \u201cOne of the things I learned being in Nando\u2019s is that people are the most important asset in a company and that having fun is vital in ensuring that there is continued passion.\u201d ~ Mac Chung Lynn Mac Chung Lynn: I feel that as an entrepreneur, it is vital to keep on learning. I have been very blessed to also be a part of organisations like 'Entrepreneurs Organisation' for the last 17 years that provided me with the support and the learnings to make me who I am today. I was also very lucky to have had good mentors from Nando\u2019s who taught me all there was to know about the restaurant industry. Lastly, I have also been very lucky to have had a very supportive husband who has been allowing me to grow the business, supporting the family when I have not been around, and keeping me honest. As a leader, you need to ensure that you are able to manage the business with clarity, be objective, be able to step back every few months to look at where you are going, and have the courage to say when you have made a mistake. I strongly believe in surrounding myself with the right people in the right positions, and have always been a firm believer in recruiting people who are better than yourself. One of the things I learned being in Nando\u2019s is that people are the most important asset in a company and\u00a0that\u00a0having fun\u00a0is vital in ensuring that there is continued passion. We have a saying in Nando\u2019s: \u201cHaving fun whilst making chicken\u201d. The company culture is also very important. We are a brand that has very strong values and a clear brand DNA (or compass as we call it) that guides us in our everyday lives. Underpinning all that though is our purpose \u2013 and that is about \u201cChanging Lives Together\u201d. We hope to impact people\u2019s lives, be it internally within the company, our community, and also, our customers. 9. Motherhood: Finally, what are your thoughts about the future, and do you have any words of encouragement or empowerment for women, especially mums who are embarking on leadership roles or entrepreneurship during these challenging times? \u201cIn terms of being a working mum, you can do it. It does take planning though \u2013 you need to ensure food is on the table for the family, your children are taken care of whilst ensuring you deliver on your job.\u201d ~ Mac Chung Lynn Mac Chung Lynn: I am at a stage in life, where I have started enjoying the journey. After many years of chasing goals and targets, sometimes you do need to remember to just stop and remember to appreciate what you have, be it good or bad times. Right now with the pandemic, one cannot even see 3 months ahead and I think it is just about being realistic and being fluid to react to what comes your way. In terms of being a working mum, you can do it. It does take planning though \u2013 you need to ensure food is on the table for the family, your children are taken care of whilst ensuring you deliver on your job. Some sacrifices have to be made and in my case, whilst my kids were young, my social life was near non-existent and exercise definitely took a back seat. As mentioned above, it does help to have an understanding and supportive husband who can also pull his weight. As to leadership\/entrepreneurship \u2013 just do not ever give up. Perseverance is the key to success and if at first it does not work, do review the situation and see what did not work, and change if necessary. I do feel a lot of times people fail because they blame others rather than addressing the situation. If they cannot recognise the root cause of the problem, it is extremely hard to work through the challenges. We have been through many rounds of economic downturns and I have heard people say, \u201cthe economy is bad\u201d when our sales have been bad, rather than anticipate the situation and put plans in place to overcome it. Some of our best results have been during recessions as a result of having plans to counter this. At Nando\u2019s we have 5 values \u2013 Pride, Passion, Courage, Integrity, and Family. We live up to these values in our everyday lives and apply them to everything we do. Be tenacious and humble, and never be afraid to ask for help and advice. There will be days, where you feel overwhelmed but you will find your balance soon enough. Motherhood IWD Special: Keep an eye on this space for more features on inspiring mums who have developed themselves, created a niche, and shone in leadership roles in their own different spheres of interests.