“Our representatives are busy at the moment, thank you for holding.” Does this sound familiar? This is the recording you will hear during Ramazan when you call most restaurants before the time comes to place Iftar orders.
But despite this tendency to remain closed during the day, there are still some who offer their services to those who are not fasting. Chairman Mao, a Chinese food delivery joint located in Khadda Market in Defence, is one example. Taj, the gentleman who takes orders on the phone, tells The Express Tribune that the restaurant starts taking calls from 12pm. “Numerous orders come in on a daily basis,” he says, indicating that the joint is popular for lunch meals with those who are not fasting. When asked how the staff copes with the workload while fasting, he simply says, “Fasting or not, they are supposed to cook. They are just doing their job, so what kind of difficulties do you think they are facing [if they are getting paid for their work]?”
Another place that remains open is Espresso, which delivers food and coffee during the day. “Delivery at Espresso starts 12pm onwards, whereas dine-in starts after 6pm,” says Amir Yaqoob, the man who takes the orders on the phone. While he admits that they don’t get too many orders during the day, Yaqoob emphasises that Espresso is as sensitive to the needs of its staff as it is to its customers. “Our chefs and delivery boys hired for the afternoon shift during Ramazan are all non-Muslims,” he says. “That’s our policy.” He adds that the Muslim staff members turn up for the 6pm shifts, the time when the restaurant is buzzing with customers.
Mohammad Amir, owner of The Food – a professional catering service in Karachi – says that the caterers provide Iftar to various offices around the city. “Our chefs work systematically so they don’t face any issues with fasting and cooking at the same time.” He jokingly adds that he isn’t too sure about the boys who package the food — they may have problems with the smell of the food as they pack it.
Owner of The Food Expert, another catering service, Ghassan Siddiqui, says: “I can tell you on record that my chefs don’t fast.” He explains that his staff has to constantly taste the food they are making, since it is made in large quantities, so a risk cannot be taken.
As far as cooking while one is fasting goes, owner of Simple Dimple, Rayyan Durrani says it is not an issue. “The chefs are all professionals. Housewives and cooks in the house also start to make Iftari early and it is part of their daily routine,” he says, adding that it is all part and parcel of business.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.