KARACHI: It’s a stale stereotype but some people in Karachi still use it to refer to class divide: burgers and bun kebabs. Class divides translated into geographic ones as well, for those less familiar with the actual diversity of Karachi, a city of 20 million.
The middle class ‘bun kebabs’ supposedly all lived in Gulistan-e-Jauhar and the ‘posh’ burgers lived in DHA. But as the North Nazimabad launch of Hardee’s, an international fast food chain, proved on Thursday, investors are just interested in putting their money where the mouth is.
Karachi’s south has developed a solid entertainment and food industry, but those who have been around for a decade or so, will know that Hardee’s is just following in the footsteps of rival burger giant, McDonald’s, that opened its first outlet in North Nazimabad. And after checking out numerous locations all over the city, both the investors and the franchisers liked the location in North Nazimabad better. Plus, it is a large untapped market of people who don’t necessarily want to trek all the way to Zamzama Boulevard.
Thus, at the outlet’s launching ceremony on Thursday, the excitement of the employees wasn’t hard to miss. In their crisp new uniforms, menu cards in their serving aprons and with a smile on their faces, they welcomed guests and showed them around.
Cricketer Shahid Afridi was the chief guest at the event, but was sadly forgettable, as he seemed to be in a hurry and daze all the time he was present. A short ribbon-cutting ceremony and a few speeches later, the floor was open for guests to place their orders. That’s when the entire restaurant seemed to spring into action.
Because of the buzz, the opening ceremony had attracted a lot of people, and families. Sadly, many had to be turned away at the gate since they did not have the special VIP passes. The restaurant is, however, open for business today.
Slice of pie
Hardee’s has been brought to Karachi by Global Quick Foods (Pvt) Limited, a firm owned by three Pakistani partners, with offices both in Karachi and the US.
Global Quick Foods (Pvt) Limited and Hardee’s Vice President Operations Tayyab Alim told The Express Tribune that the total investment was going to be worth Rs700 million for 10 outlets over the next five years.
Each restaurant is going to employ about 100 staffers, creating job opportunities for about a thousand people. “Three more outlets will be opened by December 2012,” he added.
The Karachi-based Hardee’s has different ownership than the one in Lahore though. “Two different companies were granted licences by CKE Restaurants, Inc. the firm that owns all the rights to Hardee’s,” Alim explained.
“The one in Lahore managed to open up sooner than us, even though both the firms were granted licences at the same time, because we still had a few issues to clear up before we were ready to launch,” he said.
However, the silver lining has been that their Hardee’s restaurant got a lot of publicity as consumers in Karachi were aware of the brand. According to some feedback, Alim had received from Lahore, people travelling to Karachi would stop on their way to the airport and buy 10 to 15 burgers at a time to bring back to relatives in this city.
“We are different from our competing burger joints,” he said confidently. “Our burgers are healthier as we charbroil our beef. Moreover, we make fresh milkshakes as and when they are ordered and do not serve frozen ones like the others.”
In a bid to stay competitive, Hardee’s also has an all-you-can-drink beverage bar where refills are unlimited.
They have also trained staff to offer table service to avoid long queues, and customer frustration. According to Ramez Rizk Guirguis, senior international franchise operations manager for CKE Restaurants, Inc., the staff of the Hardee’s outlets were trained for two weeks by a group of experts that had visited Pakistan. Others at a more senior level in the hierarchy were flown to Dubai where they received intensive training for over two months.
“CKE Restaurants, Inc. has been in Pakistan since 2009 and we manage more than 3,000 Hardee’s outlets all over the world,” he said.
According to him, their target market was the youth of Pakistan who are more inclined towards eating fastfood. He added that they had decided to grant licences to Pakistani investors because the food and beverages industry here is vast and lucrative.
“Hungry guys demanding thick burgers deserve to get what they want!” he said with a laugh. “I was here just to ensure the rights issue, so that it could be made possible.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2011.