Maira goes to evening classes at college and that often means late dinners. She says she’s often up until 3am. But what can you get to eat so late?
“My favourite order is Caesar salad and Thai soup,” says Maira, a regular caller to Insomnia Kitchen, a late-night food delivery service. “I like them for the unique variety in their menu.”
Insomnia, which has been running for over a year now, is not the only nocturnal dining option available to Lahoris. In the past decade, the trend of late-night eating and deliveries by fast food chains and restaurants has surged, reaffirming its growth as a lucrative business option.
Managers of restaurants, offering late night service and deliveries, confirmed the increasing popularity of this trend.
Insomnia Kitchen in Gulberg offers deliveries between 8pm and 4am. Most of its clientele is made up of telecom sector executives, hospital workers and airport and media professionals.
In the business since December 2010, it has been marketing its wares mainly through social networking websites. Rashid Turabi, a co-founder, said its Facebook page has more than 3,500 likes. Besides taking orders they use the page for customers’ feedback. Orders are also received through Blackberry messenger and over telephone.
Most of their orders, he says, are from the Defence, Model Town, Gulberg, Zaman Park, GOR I, Askari IX and Johar Town. On weekends the business peaks between 2am and 5am and on weekdays between 10pm and 2am.
Turabi says, “We started off by taking orders from 10pm, but have switched to an 8pm start to also cater to people ordering an early dinner.”
The median dish at the Kitchen is priced at Rs450. Burgers and lasagne are the most frequent orders, but the menu includes Thai, Mexican, Italian, Chinese and continental food as well as a combination platter.
Turabi said police pickets during security alerts and fog during winters were some challenges the business had to deal with.
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Subway, Nando’s, McDonalds and Pizza Hut as well as some restaurants in the Gulberg, Defence and Cantt areas have been in the business for longer.
More than 60 per cent of take away restaurants in the Defence H-Block’s market stay open through the night. While most of these restaurants deliver food in the Defence, Cavalry and Model Town areas, a few also offer service to their clientele in Gulberg and Cantt.
Catering mostly to students, prices are comparatively lower than those at Insomnia Kitchen.
Azeem, manager of Hot ‘n’ Spicy, a local fast-food chain, said most of his late night clientele were students. “We mostly receive orders for rolls, sandwiches or burgers. An average order is around Rs300,” he said.
Azeem said on weekdays, they received some 50 to 40 orders daily. On weekends, he said, the number reaches to as much as 100.
Average price for an order at a barbecue restaurant in Defence, that remains open till 4am, is Rs300. Its manager, Sohail, says there are more customers during the summers compared to winters.
Food blogger Jehangir Sheikh says Lahoris have always been fond of eating, including eating late at night.
“Yet, only a few years ago, very few restaurants were open late,” he said.
Not all late night food businesses in the city have been a success. Luciano’s late night pizza truck, for example, closed down within a year.
Omar, a boarder at LUMS, says he is content with the quality of food being sold at the fast food eateries in the Defence area. “This is the type of foods students want. It costs less and is available at late hours,” he said.
A number of desi food restaurants are also doing well among late night eaters.
Qadeer Gilani, manager of Dogar restaurant in Defence that serves Pakistani food in the nearby areas, says most late night eaters prefer food delivered at their homes. The numbers swell during summer and on weekends, with peak hours between 10pm and 2am, he says.
A vast majority of patrons at restaurants late in the night, he said, are late night workers. Students who cannot leave hostels late in the night tend to order over phone, he said.
Mobin, manager of a restaurant in Defence Block-H, says eating out late at night is an increasingly popular trend. He says the restaurant delivers food in the Defence, Cavalry and Model Town areas and the prices are similar to most of its competitors, ranging below Rs400 per order.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 19th, 2012.
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