The increase in the number of eateries in Punjab’s capital Lahore, prompted by the lure of hefty profits, has changed dining trends for consumers in Ramazan and offered them a wide variety of choices over the past few years.
In Ramazan, the restaurants remain closed at lunch time, providing them with an opportunity to offer food to consumers without any interruption from Iftar to Sehr. They overcome the loss of a lunch shift by offering Iftar and Sehr deals along with dinner.
According to people running the business, these additional offers have doubled and in some cases tripled revenues of the eateries, making Ramazan the most profitable month for the industry.
The eateries can be divided into various categories like Desi, Continental, Chinese, Mexican, etc, each having its own specialty and taste. However, in Ramazan, the consumers prefer those which provide a variety of dishes in all categories under an average Buffet deal.
The growth in restaurants came in the middle of last decade, before this very few were offering such deals and majority of the consumers were unaware of Sehr offers. But as competition got stiffer, every restaurant started offering attractive deals and advertised them via different media sources. The attractive deals lure citizens into trying out something new every time they visit a restaurant.
However, despite tough competition and high consumer demand in Ramazan, many managers feel that sales have declined this year and they are blaming the mushroom growth of restaurants and entry of fast food chains in Sehr and Iftar deals.
“Yes, sales have slipped this year and we have to bear this due to increased competition,” said Raja Rizwan, General Manager Operations of Arizona Grill.
He said customers were enjoying rates of the previous year despite high cost of food items. In addition to this, he said, another competitor in the form of fast food chains had entered the market and snatched a large number of customers from the restaurants.
According to a survey and talk with industry stakeholders, the rate of Iftar buffet ranges from Rs700 to Rs2,000 per person, whereas Iftar deals start from Rs400 and reach Rs1,000. Almost all restaurants of the first category have been overbooked for Iftar from the second week of Ramazan, but Sehr shifts have not caught much attention of the consumers.
With few restaurants earlier this century, Rizwan said, he was enjoying handsome profits in Iftar deals. “But now as sales have dropped, we are overcoming this by expanding our deals until Sehr, which somehow makes us profitable in Ramazan.”
However, “we are facing space issues, especially at Iftar,” he said. “In Lahore, you cannot stop citizens from eating. Despite all difficulties, this business is still the best if compared with others, we are expanding our chain because people love to eat.”
At present, about 450 restaurants in the city are offering different buffet deals in Sehr and Iftar, of which around 40 are situated at MM Alam and Mehmood Kasoori Road, the places which are famous for local and international food chains, say industry people. However, the number does not include restaurants of different hotels, international and local fast food chains.
The figure crosses the 750 mark when small and medium-sized restaurants are included, but they mostly offer traditional Desi food.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.
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