The fast-food and restaurant market in Pakistan has reached a threshold where it may be recognised as a driving force for new investments. The billion dollar market of Pakistan isn’t only seeing growth of local food outlets but also attracting international food chains.
Fatburger – Santa Monica, California-based fast-food chain – is the latest one to announce its intentions to take a bite out of the local food market. One of fastest growing food chains around the world, Fatburger will be introduced in Pakistan soon by BIL Foods Ltd, a subsidiary of Dubai-based BIL Investments that owns a chain of restaurants and a chemical company.
Fatburger will join the likes of McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC, Hardee’s and OPTP that are already operating in the country. Not to mention hundreds of local restaurants and fast-food outlets opening each year to meet the growing demand.
According to industry sources, around 50 new food outlets were due to be operational during the last couple of months in Defence and Clifton areas of Karachi alone. Of those 50 some places, many have already opened while others are in the pipeline, sources said.
The list does not only include restaurants and fast-food chains but also cafes, bakeries and specialty food outlets, the source added.
The growth of the food business has even created a secondary market for young entrepreneurs as many online food portals have opened up and are doing well financially.
While there is no official data available about the size of this market, a conservative study of some 25,000 food centres by Food Connection Pakistan – an online food portal – found that Pakistanis spend at least Rs90 billion ($1 billion) on dining out every year.
“I believe, food is the only entertainment in Pakistan so far,” BIL Foods CEO Samiullah Mohabbat said while sharing his views about international food chains’ interest in Pakistan – in an email to The Express Tribune.
There is still a huge gap for international food chains to enter in the Pakistani market, Mohabbat said.
Referring to the benefits of doing business in Pakistan, the CEO said Pakistan has a strong human resource; English speaking workforce, cost-effective managers and technical workers. Besides, he added, it has a large and growing domestic market.
There are about 180 million consumers with rising incomes, he said, and a growing middle-class moving to sophisticated consumption habits – making it a strong emerging market.
Explaining what attracted BIL Investments towards Pakistan, he said good quality telecommunications and IT services, comprehensive road, rail and sea links, long-standing corporate culture in Pakistan make the country an attractive market for investment.
He further said that Pakistan’s strategic location makes it a regional hub and principal gateway to the Central Asia republics. The country has a long-standing link with the Middle East and South Asia and provides comprehensive duty-free facilities to the investors.
Excited about launching Fatburger’s first franchise in the country, Mohabbat hinted for more investments in the local food market.
“We are passionate about international franchising and seeing as there are flourishing opportunities present in the country,” Mohabbat said. “BIL Foods is striving to bring the highest quality of international brands to Pakistan and you will witness more of our endeavours in the near future,” he added.
BIL Foods will be opening five restaurants in three years, according to Mohabbat, and further development agreement would be signed after that period. Fatburger will follow Hardee’s example and open its first franchise on MM Alam Road, Lahore followed by Dolmen City Mall, Karachi. Mohabbat did not mention any exact dates.
Fatburger has over 95 locations in the US. In addition to its California roots, Fatburger has a strong presence across America. The fast-food chain has its franchises in Canada, Dubai, Hong Kong, Macao, Beijing, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jakarta. Pakistan will be the latest addition to its portfolio.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2012.