Adapting a brand to a new market can be a tricky proposition for any businessperson but fortunately Handley Amos isn’t your average entrepreneur. Having helped translate foreign food brands Nando’s and Rossopomodoro to the British market and significantly scale their offerings, he has made a specialism of helping companies capture international markets. And now he has turned his sights on Creams Cafe, making it his mission as the dessert franchise’s new CEO to bring its gelato to the globe.
Thanks to his globetrotting parents, Amos is no stranger to the benefits that adapting to other cultures can bring. “My parents were obsessed with taking my brother and I travelling to see as much of the world as possible,” he says. “That was fantastic: it helps you understand very quickly that the world’s a relatively small place and there are so many opportunities out there.” Being of an entrepreneurial bent, his parents also had plenty of experiences building businesses and it was expected that he would join the family business when he finished his studies at the Northallerton Grammar School in North Yorkshire. However, having had a taste of the wider world, Amos had other plans. “Once I’d seen what was out there, I really wanted to get out and do something of my own,” he says. “I didn’t really want to stay in North Yorkshire: I loved the idea of living in London or abroad to widen my horizons.”
And having worked part-time as a waiter to make ends meet during his studies, Amos had already cooked up the perfect plan for his future career. “Everybody looked at restaurants like they were something you do while you were studying rather than taking it as a career,” he says. “But I didn’t see it that way: I saw it as a huge opportunity.” Moving to London, Amos quickly worked his way up from waiter through bartender to manager before relocating after two years to Cape Town in South Africa to help some friends manage a restaurant and bar they’d set up. Over the next five years the friends added four more brands to their portfolio, something that gave Amos invaluable experience in nurturing talent and scaling businesses. “It was after the end of apartheid and we were trying to educate a new part of the workforce and encourage them to come into catering,” he says. “And I absolutely loved it: I had an amazing time there.”
After five years, Amos was forced to return to London after he found himself unable to renew his visa. Fortunately, on his return to the British high street, he was greeted by a familiar sight from South Africa: Nando’s. “When I came back to London and was looking for my next challenge, Nando’s name came up,” he says. At the time, the grilled-chicken chain had just 12 stores throughout the UK and was looking to rapidly scale: after meeting with Amos, then UK managing director Robby Enthoven and HR director Julia Rosamond decided he was the perfect person to help Nando’s rule the roost. And their confidence in him proved well-founded: he rapidly helped to systematise the restaurant and adapt its model to the peculiarities of the UK market. “How we perceive things here is very different to South Africa,” Amos says. “In South Africa, they’re quite happy to wait nearly 20 minutes for a meal; in the UK, we think that’s outrageous.” Soon consumers were flocking to Nando’s and over the following 12 years the chain grew to 240 outlets.