Published: 06:00, 23 March 2021
Nando's has been given the green light to open at the Ashford Designer Outlet - but the pandemic means shoppers won't be getting their spicy chicken fix any time soon.
Bosses at the centre asked Ashford Borough Council whether the South African chain could fill the one remaining food and drink unit added to the facility as part of its £90m extension.
The authority approved the proposal - even though the company is on a list of 39 restaurants banned from moving in.
But Nando's says it will now not be joining the Outlet as its application "dates back to pre-Covid times when our property team was speculatively looking at prospective further sites in Ashford".
It added: "Unfortunately the pandemic has meant we aren’t currently looking to open any new sites in the town at this time.
"We are still very much open on the Eureka Leisure Park for delivery and takeaway and can’t wait to reopen fully for eat-in."
When the Outlet's extension was approved in 2015, Nando's featured in the list of companies restricted from opening at the site.
The policy was agreed between ABC and centre owners McArthurGlen in a bid to protect the town centre, with JD Wetherspoon and TGI Fridays among those included.
But ABC showed its list could be reviewed when it allowed US burger chain Five Guys to open in 2019.
A spokeswoman for the authority said: "We received a request from McArthurGlen to allow Nando's to trade from one of the new food and beverage units at the extended centre.
"The request included information from Nando's about its intended approach to the creation of additional premises in Ashford alongside its presence at Eureka Leisure Park.
"We considered this carefully, consulted with key stakeholders and concluded that, in this instance, we could agree to the request."
When ABC approved the Five Guys move in 2019, it stressed its policy had been designed to ensure the whole town flourishes.
"We want the Designer Outlet and town centre working in a complementary way and together providing something that will attract visitors and improve Ashford’s overall retail and entertainment offer for our residents," it said at the time.
“Therefore when the Outlet expansion was approved the council negotiated an agreement in respect of the restaurants that could open there.
“We believe this was one of the first agreements in the country at the time and demonstrates our ongoing commitment to ensuring the town centre continues to thrive, alongside an expanded Designer Outlet.
“It’s important to note that the agreement was negotiated with McArthurGlen, and not imposed on them by the council.
“It was also agreed at the time to keep the situation under review, which we have done.
“When it became clear that Five Guys had no desire to move to the town centre, discussions were held with all parties to secure this brand for the residents of Ashford.”
As well as Five Guys, Comptoir Libanais and Yo! Sushi - which filled the spot initially expected to be filled by McDonald's - have opened in the new restaurant units.
The 39 restaurants banned from the Ashford Designer Outlet (this list was created in 2015)