Deli restaurant has been offering Ramadan deals of some sort ever since it opened shop back in February 2007 on Zamzama in Karachi. It has yet to offer a buffet iftar dinner, mostly rely on a mixture of iftar items followed by a single main course culminating in dessert.
Here’s what Deli is offering in its iftar deal this Ramadan at Rs. 1395 + tax:
Nadeem Raja’s Arizona Grill is one of the category leaders in the upscale ‘restaurantscape’ of Karachi. As such it has a reputation to protect especially when it comes to Ramadan deals. Today’s consumer empowered by the social media has become extremely unforgiving. One false move on the restaurateur’s part and before you know it, the whole wide networked world is talking about it.
We checked out Arizona Grill’s stamina for dishing out the perfect iftar dinner by visiting on the very last day of Ramadan’s gastronomical orgy. Apart from a few hiccups, the iftar bonanza is something you could rely on to tantalize your taste buds.
The purely continental iftar dinner is something which Evolution restaurant is credited for coming up. Although Evolution was a latecomer to the foray of upscale restaurants, it revolutionized the iftar dinner by offering its main entrées as part of the buffet offering. Before it, the restaurants refrained from including the expensive items and instead used the standard buffet items to fill up the table.
Evolution came and upped the ante, as well as the prices. In 2002 when the prices for a buffet iftar used to be somewhere between Rs.200-350, it came up with a buffet costing Rs.500 which was astronomical by that era’s standard. Of course today 500 bucks would fetch you only the cheapest buffet in town.But in those days 500 bucks was a great deal of money.
That didn’t deter the consumer from thronging the place. There was limited space for moving about what with the buffet items taking up half the space, and people were falling over each other trying to get their hands on the steaks and the pastas. It was complete mayhem. We know this for a fact because we checked out Evolution’s iftar buffet back in 2002 when it was first introduced, and we can safely conclude that Arizona Grill’s offering pales in comparison to that buffet both in terms of taste and the number of items on offer.
However, whether that offering holds good even today is a big question mark since we haven’t checked on Evolution’s quality standard since 2007.
Notwithstanding the comparison with Evolution, Arizona Grill’s iftar dinner buffet is a force to be reckoned with. At Rs. 895 plus tax equal to Rs.1056, it may not have the most number of items on offer, roughly around 35, it’s the weightage of certain items that tips the balance in its favor. Here’s the complete listing of the offering:
Egg n cheese sandwich
Hot n Sour Soup
Black Pepper Steak
Sweet n Sour Prawn
Country Fried Chicken
Pasta a la Pesto
Vanilla Ice Cream
In addition this, there were about 3-4 salads and two sauces, one with the chicken wings and the other with the fish. Both were sumptuous and could be had easily with the other items as well.
The fish was by far the best item on offer. It was golden crisp just the right amount without any hint of over-cooking. The same cannot be said of the sweet n sour prawn which left the impression of something which is slightly burnt. The same goes for the beef chili. In fact no one so much as touched this dish which even looked uninviting. The country fried chicken was quite good, just a tad short on salt, which was the case with the pasta as well. It not only tasted devoid of the requisite herbs that give a pasta its exquisite taste, but any other worthwhile meat ingredient.
The chicken mushroom was delectable, so was the shashlik. The steak was a bit on the bland side. Not the best steak Arizona Grill offers otherwise anyway. The lasagna was palatable as well loaded with mushrooms and stuff.
The iftar items were your standard affair. Nothing remarkable about them.
Coming to the desserts, the malt cake was scrumptious. The verdict on cheese cake could go either way – depends on how much you prefer the sweetening factor to sour. The Sports Bar iftar dinner offers the perfect blend in its cheese cake. Arizona Grill’s version was dominated by the cheesy part with even the base almost non-existent. If you prefer your cheese cake that way, then your’re gonna love it.
The apple pudding was surprisingly horrible. The mousse was simply divine.
We do feel that Arizona Grill could change this experience from being just pleasant to delightful from next year by just tweaking a few changes at little or no investment:
The salt content wasn’t upto the mark in many instances. It was either too low or too high. Just by ensuring the appropriate salt level, the taste of the dishes could be enhanced manifold.
Drop the beef chili. No one was interested in it anyway. Introduce either chicken steak or better still ‘chicken and mushroom crepe’. It already is a smash hit at its sister brand Roasters so Arizona Grill won’t have any trouble adding it here as well.
Both Shashlik and sweet n sour prawn taste essentially the same having the same reddish sweet gravy. A better option would be to remove the shashlik and introduce prawn tempura instead. No other restaurant is offering two prawn dishes. It would help Arizona Grill stand out from the crowd, especially since people love prawn dishes. And if it can afford to include its heavenly divine battered fried shrimps, that would be fantastic.
Ensure the prawns are not overcooked. Also since it’s the prawn pakora-style, it’s better to make it bigger.
Improve the level of service by focusing on even the minor things. We had one short date on our table. We asked at least three waiters for the extra date before it arrived. It wouldn’t cost a fortune to place some extra dates on each table.
One glass of lemonade is too stingy on the part of Arizona Grill. It doesn’t cost much, and it would help increase its standing in the eyes of its customers by offering unlimited drinks of the lemonade or any sherbet for that matter.
Replace the bland branded vanilla ice cream with a homemade version. Or maybe have a brand alliance with Hot Spot or some other well-known ice cream parlor and offer that. It would go a long way in enhancing the value of the overall dessert experience.
And now the worst part about their service. There was no prayer space. None at all. There was this tiny ‘dasterkhan’ on which you can offer your prayers one at a time and of all the places, right at the entrance where people were coming and going. Even if majority of your customers don’t pray, it doesn’t mean you can ignore this essential part of an iftar deal. There are always going to be a few who would. And the least you can do for them is to buy a decent Jaanamaz for them and a secluded space to pray. This was the worst arrangement we found at any Karachi restaurant, upscale or otherwise. Even Fuchsia fared much better on this count.
In spite of all its shortcoming, Arizona Grill’s iftar deal was one of the best deals we tried this Ramadan.
Fuchsia is one of the handful restaurants in Karachi offering Thai cuisine. Baan Thai was probably the first one who brought this cuisine to this coastal city and as such still retains the first mover advantage.
Fuchsia has been around for quite some time now and thus can safely be deemed as one of the success stories since surviving on the cutthroat Zamzama street is no child’s play, restaurants have been known to crash and burn on this upscale food hubbub many times before.
We decided to check out Fuchsia’s Iftar deal 2010. Priced at a steep R.995+tax which comes out to be Rs.1164 +soft drink+ tip, it comprises of an Iftar platter, a single main entrée of your choice, a single-choice dessert, and a hot beverage (tea or coffee or green tea). In addition you get a mineral water bottle, a single glass of either lemonade or rooh afza, and a pinch of aab-e-zam zam.
The proceedings kick off with the Iftar platter which comprises of two pieces of chicken on toast, two chicken rolls, two ‘aaloo ke pakoray’, two tiny shrimps, sweet n chili chutney and a palak ka pakora.
Indeed a very sparse platter. On top of that the chicken on toast had so much salt it promised to give a high-blood pressure patient a kill-blow right there on the spot. Although the menu promised a Thai-based platter, it was a pretty much desi platter. We just couldn’t find the Thai angle in it, apart from the two tiny shrimps.
Prayer area was way too insufficient. They had designated their small private dining room for this purpose and there was no segregation of the sexes. Maybe most of the clientele who come for their Iftar deal do not pray hence this miniscule arrangement.
The main entrée menu was heavily edited compared to their original menu. We felt that Fuchsia could have added a whole lot more items from their main menu considering they’re charging a 1000 bucks for a non-buffet dinner.
And this is always going to be a major problem for all those restaurants that offer a limited dinner set menu instead of the full-fledged buffet at a price that is pretty much the same as that of the buffet. Heavyweights like Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters are offering an iftar buffet dinner at Rs.1000. So when you have to compete against this sort of offering from the giants that are literally across the street from you, you better come up with something special.
In this regard, we feel Fuchsia really lets its customers down.
So, coming back to their main entrée menu which was heavily curtailed, we picked three items from the 10 items on offer:
Green Curry Chicken with Baby Eggplant & Sweet Basil Leaf
Wok fried prawns with sweet basil and oyster sauce
Along with these dishes, plain white rice were served as many times as you want. Not that you want them much, because they were over-cooked, more like a rice-paste or halwa. Maybe it’s Thai style.
The fried prawns were good, the big succulent type that people relish. The quantity can definitely be improved upon considering the price of the deal.
The fish was alright, cooked in a sauce which lacked a distinct taste.
The green curry chicken was the biggest sore point of the evening. Maybe Thais love this kind of stuff, none of our party took to it. The curry was way too strong, reeking of coconut essence, the sort of curry you get along with Masala Dossa.
The dessert, again Fuchsia offers 8 choices of desserts but in the Iftar deal they have confined themselves to just one: chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Although both the cake slice and ice cream (homemade) were delectable, the quantity issue reared its ugly head again. See it for yourself.
The tea was your usual tea-bag stuff. Nothing Thai or anything special about it.
Service was prompt and up to the mark. No shortcomings there. The family at the table next to us, however, were not satisfied with something. The only thing we overheard of their complaint was something about freshness.
Although Fuchsia had quite a few customers coming in, if it is to scale the height of success its neighbors have done, it will have to reposition its offerings.
One thing it could do is instead of offering just one main entrée, offer them the choice of three or four different items which would arrive in a big thal with small bowls loaded with these dishes. That way, the customers will have the satisfaction of having had a sort of mini-buffet. The second equally important benefit this would have is that a customer won’t get stuck with a single entrée that he doesn’t enjoy, which is more likely to happen in the current deal.
Fuchsia’s forte at the moment is its ambiance which is smashing even by Zamzama standards. Head over to Karachi Snob where you can find snapshots of the place as well as the menu items in detail.
We recommend this place only for those who already have an affinity for Thai cuisine.
And Gun Smoke’s reputation has become bigger than the actual product behind the brand, which is precisely what brands are created for – to charge brand premium for the larger-than-life perception.
The biggest reason for this is that Gun Smoke has managed to cultivate more brand evangelists than its competition. These brand evangelists have not only joined the Gun Smoke Facebook page in droves (16,000+ todate), they have created video ads of Gun Smoke and uploaded them on youtube. Here are three of them:
Now they may not be the most sensational ads you’ll ever see, but these ads are made by ordinary people who love this brand so much that they’ve put in the time and effort to create them. How many of Gun Smoke’s competitors can boast of this?
Consistency is the second most potent weapon of any powerful brand and Gun Smoke has it.
If you’ve been to Gun Smoke, you must be familiar with their menu pattern. The basic offering of the main entrée remains the same, the only thing you change is the choice of meat – chicken or beef, and the item itself – burger or steak.
For instance, if you choose Mediterranean Garlic, you can have burger or steak in that particular recipe and within that category, beef or chicken. Confused? It’s like this:
Mediterranean Garlic Beef Burger or
Mediterranean Garlic Chicken Burger or
Mediterranean Garlic Beef Steak or
Mediterranean Garlic chicken steak
That means for every single recipe there are four combinations.
In the case of sandwiches and pasta, the scheme is a bit different.
In this visit we tested four of their offerings: Mediterranean Garlic Steak (Beef), Whiskey River Steak (chicken), Royal Burger (Chicken) and Gourmet Cheese Burger (Beef).
Although Gun Smoke’s steaks are pretty much renowned, taste-wise you would be hard-pressed to differentiate them from Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill, Roasters or even Secret Recipe.
Portion-wise you are going to end up disappointed. Gun Smoke could do a whole lot better in offering generous portion sizes like its rivals. While the rivals offer generous helping of vegetable, garlic sauce and French fries, Gun Smoke offered spinach. Can you believe that? Who would want to have that with steak? How does that work? (“Hey honey look, these fine cowboys are so concerned about our health they’re giving us spinach!”)
Maybe some people do fancy creamed spinach, none from our party did. A better strategy is to offer options, something that doesn’t require any extra effort on their part, like buttered sweet corn or grilled vegetables, something they’re already offering with other menu items.
To be fair, we didn’t try the Sheriff’s Cut category, which we reckon is just the super-sized version of the existing steaks. Maybe taste-wise they’re different as well. At almost 1000 bucks, they better be all that and more.
Most people say that taste (especially that of the steaks) is the USP (Unique Selling Proposition) of Gun Smoke. We found out that the salad bar option with each steak is the real USP. At second comes the ambiance which the youth especially have taken a liking to.
No rival of Gun Smoke has come up with the salad bar, which is fast becoming the in-thing in this part of the world. Although many restaurants have come up with a salad bar, apart from Pizza Hut no one has been able to leverage it in the form of deals as Gun Smoke has done.
However, it would be better for Gun Smoke to allow the customer to have the salad with the dinner and not before it. What happens is that you’ve the salad 10 minutes before the steak arrives, and by then your expectations have risen to quite an extent that when you see just the potatoes or spinach, it makes for a sorry site.
Just imagine how potent the whole deal would look if the salad bowl is placed along with the steak? It would enhance the worth of the whole deal.
Coming to the burgers, they are no more tastier than most of the rivals, but at least portion-wise they are right up there with the competition. One burger ought to satiate your appetite well, what with the generous helping of French fries, coleslaw and the humungous burger itself.
The coleslaw is a bit too crispy with sparse use of mayonnaise whereas Karachiites are weaned on the pasty softer version.
Gun Smoke has done a pretty swell job of building a strong brand. But it still need to tie the loose ends if it is to become a great brand loved not only by Pakistanis but people abroad.
The pathway to greatness has already been defined in the earlier article Gun Smoke- The Resilient Brand. What can be added to that strategy is that Gun Smoke will have to upsize the portion size of the steak, add more sizzling sidelines to them, and then offer some scintillating deals to maintain the flow of consumers throughout the week.
That is one weakness of Gun Smoke. On some days of the week, the place is pretty deserted which doesn’t do any good to the brand equity especially if a first-time customer walks in. Introduce something along the lines of Purple Haze’s Ladies Only Night on Tuesday where pretty much everything can be had at 50% discount!
Of course Purple Haze is not of the same caliber as Gun Smoke but even then it ought to be willing to try Haze’s strategy if it’s effective. The aim should be to drive traffic to your place even if that means cutting your profit margin a bit.
Gun Smoke has also introduced breakfast deals in line with the prevailing trend of the upscale restaurants. And those deals are prominently displayed on the table. However, the deal itself is not that appetizing. Not many people are going to throng the place for a mere egg with steak at a price that is pretty much the same as the dinner’s. Gun Smoke will need to come up with better deals if its customers are to be tempted out of their bed on a holiday morning.
Roasters’ Burgers are the biggest you’ll ever see in this part of the world. You’ll notice these humungous objects from far off as the waiter approaches with them. It doesn’t get bigger than this. And if you can’t satiate your appetite with one of these, then you need to get your stomach examined.
We tested two of their fast food offerings- Caesar Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Bacon Royal. Funny thing is, even if you order a sandwich, it invariably comes out to be a burger as in the case of Caesar chicken sandwich.
The chicken Caesar sandwich, well, if you’re into mild stuff, you’re gonna love this. It’s devoid of any strong essence. Just your crunchy romaine lettuce entwined with a healthy slab of very mildly grilled chicken with a price tag of Rs.395. We would have recommended this meal as a diet had it not been oozing with mayonnaise. Overall a very subdued offering, but enough to satiate your appetite.
The Chicken Bacon Royal Burger’s description promises to give you a heart attack, what with golden crisp chicken on top of which sit bacon strips and mushrooms and even garlic mayo. We went for that option but were disappointed not to get a heart attack. Reason being, there’s still ample room for improvement (read filling). The chicken patty was a bit too thin, and the bacon strips could have been more generously stuffed, especially at a hefty price of Rs. 395. Nevertheless it’s good stuff to sink your teeth into.
The fries content was more than sufficient in all meals.
However, it’s the lack of coleslaw or some other worthy sideline like garlic sauce that is the main drawback of
Roasters’ burger offerings. On the face of it, it may not appear to be that big a deal, but when you consider that all the competitors are offering generous helpings of either coleslaw or garlic sauce with their burgers, you need to wake up to that reality.
But it’s not the real reason that Roasters should start offering these sidelines. The thing is, the Pakistani consumer got spoilt by the earlier snack-walas who started offering these delicacies along with the main entrée, and the trend was continued by their successors.
The result: whenever a Karachiite orders a burger no matter where, he always expects something extra other than the main attraction. And if he doesn’t get that extra stuff, no matter how delicious the burger, he always feels disappointed that something is amiss.
One other major reason especially for
Roasters is that since their buns are gigantic, the patty inside sometimes is unable to compete with it for size, which essentially means that some portion of the bun is invariably going to be empty.
Now, if you’re not offering any pasty sideline, what is the customer going to dip his empty bun into?
Pizza Hut came with the novel solution of filling the crust ends with either cheese or sometimes even seekh kabab, and that strategy proved to be quite successful. While
Roasters can’t offer that option, it can certainly make do with the earlier solution of coleslaw.
And that is the only real shortcoming of
Roasters’ burgers. Otherwise they are the very best you’ll find in town at a price that is pretty competitive.
Roasters started out as a coffee house but then popular demand by the regular clientele forced the owner Nadeem Raja to introduce main entrées into the foray, as revealed by him to Mahmood Nanji on the program Success Stories.
With time, Roasters has morphed into a full-fledged restaurant with the coffee business confined to a mere sideline option.
If you’re familiar with most of the upscale restaurants in town including Roasters, you will notice Roasters has an uncanny resemblance to one particular joint. In fact most of the items on display are identical. That place is Arizona Grill and the reason is both joints are owned by Nadeem Raja.
Wouldn’t that lead to cannibalization of sales? To an extent, yes. Fortunately, they are not located that close to each other, although all the four joints are in the same locality, two at Zamzama and the other two at Bahadurabad and Sindhi Muslim Society.
The most similar dish and probably the best item on both restaurants’ menus is the Battered Fried Shrimp. Heavenly stuff, these shrimps. The surprise element was the price. At Arizona Grill, this dish costs almost Rs.600 whereas at Roasters it is priced less than Rs.500! Talk about brand premium. There’s literally no difference in the taste, quantity or even in the presentation, apart from the garlic sauce that is served with Arizona version but is absent in the Roasters version.
There are of course, differences as well. Crepe is one of the specialties of Roasters but nowhere to be found in Arizona Grill.
The quantity, well, Arizona Grill fares a wee bit better on this aspect than others.
We tested five of their main entrées, and found their sumptuous factor to be remarkably high compared to their contemporary restaurants. The Onion and Pepper Chicken was the worse of the lot, and even that wasn’t all that bad. The chicken itself wasn’t badly done, there was the strange sprinkling on top that spoiled the whole dish.
The chicken waffle is a bold dish for two reasons. One, waffle is not something that is known amongst the Pakistani consumer, let alone be popular amongst it. Secondly, waffle is mostly used as a morning or evening snack; on top of that it is slightly sweet. Our consumer may have become accustomed to the red-sauce sweet-and-sour chicken and prawn and what not, getting used to waffle may take time or may not happen at all. It’s bound to become popular only if more and more eateries start serving it.
The Roasters’ chicken waffle was alright, nothing extraordinary. We felt that the waffle itself could have been done a whole lot better. It should have been soft but was quite hard.
The solitary beef burger on the menu was not only tasty but humongous. It ought to satiate the appetite of even the ‘healthiest’ of eaters.
The two crepes that we tried were simply divine. Even the now defunct Crepe Factory couldn’t come up with this level of’ scrumptulicious’.
The pasta was the second best thing on the menu, with just the right amount of spices and herbs used to accentuate the flavor.
Both the joints, Zamzama as well as Sindhi Muslim Society, were checked out and the ambiance, service and food were found to be remarkably uniform. Service was good enough, although at the Sindhi Muslim outlet when we ordered different forms of potato with different dishes, we got only the French fries with each one. Minor glitch.
The privacy factor could be jacked up a bit, although it’s far better than others of its kind especially at Zamzama.
It’s marketing strategy is a little bit subdued. They have come up with the standard lunch deal which most of the upscale restaurants are following diligently – buy one and get the other at 50% off. However the way this promotion is presented at all restaurants including Roasters – “50 % off Lunch Deal”, it gives the impression that you would only be required to pay 50% on your total bill. A bit deceptive, especially since the actual deal doesn’t offer that much of a difference in the total bill.
Why? Many reasons. For one, the GST is not included in the waiver. Then the deal is valid for only the main entrée. Any appetizer or dessert you order will be charged at full price. And the biggest of all, you need to order even number of main entrees to be eligible for the meager discount. If you order 3 or 5, only one dish would be eligible for the discount.
And herein lies an opportunity for some shrewd restaurateur to tinker with the terms of the deals and make it more attractive than what the rest of the bunch is offering. How?
Include even the starters and desserts within the deal. Then if a customer orders three or five dishes, offer a 25% discount on the odd one out. And if someone is bold enough to order seven dishes, how about the eighth one completely free? These small measures have the potential to tilt the level playing field in the favor of the restaurateur who implements them, that is if, someone is bold enough.
A great opportunity which almost all restaurateurs fail to take advantage of is offer tantalizing deals on the slowest day, which for most is Monday nights. Gun Smoke is one shrewd place which is offering Eat All You Can deal on a Monday night although the deal is a bit too stifling. Then Aqua Lounge is offering a Crab Buffet on Monday night. Although not a bad idea, but who would have a crab-only buffet on Monday of all the nights, and that also for Rs.1000+ tax?
That’s literally creating a barrier for anyone even remotely interested in that deal. So what gives?
Your deal has to be too good to be true, yes it has to be that irresistible, even if it means you don’t make any profit on it. After all your purpose is turn the slowest night into the fastest one, to make sure that the place is thronging with people and people are falling over each other to get their hands on that deal. What this would do is stir a commotion and spread like wildfire. No one to date has been able to conjure up this sort of hysteria on a slow night, weekend yes but not when the going is tough.
Coming back to Roasters, apart from this one deal, there’s no deal, advertising or brand awareness strategy by them. All the branding endeavors are internally driven. They don’t even have a Facebook page which is a major shortcoming considering that almost the upscale joints maintain a regular presence there, interacting with their customers, offering new deals and basically just keeping in the thick of things. It’s even more bizarre since the sibling brand Arizona Grill does have a major presence on facebook with more than 12,000 fans.
Although there’s a group by its name, it’s probably created by a fan and doesn’t have much to offer, not even the menu.
All in all, Roasters has done tremendously well to rise up to the first-tier upscale restaurants from being a mere coffee shop, competing with the category leaders, leaving even the parent brand Arizona Grill behind.
When it comes to special offers, Subway takes the lead over all the other foreign franchises operating in Pakistan. Maybe this has got something to do with the fact that amongst all the foreign brands in Pakistan, Subway has had the toughest time. 10 years down the line, they have managed to capture a meager 6% of the market share in contrast to KFC lion’s share of 29%, Pizza Hut with 23% and McDonald’s with 18%. Although Nando’s is at 6% as well, but then Nando’s hasn’t had the run that Subway has plus it doesn’t have that many outlets compared to the strong network of Subway.
Deli has been around for quite some time but hasn’t really caught the fancy of the Zamzama hopping eataholics. One reason could be its obscure location, nestled between two non-descript shops in an equally non-descript by-lane of Zamzama. They say the best location to open a shop is right across the road from your competitor. Unfortunately for Deli, there’s a wall in front of it. Another thing not going in its favor is the absence of other eateries in that lane. Continue reading Deli Restaurant – Needs To Fight Hard
Gun Smoke is one of those restaurants that opened in an era when service was being used in the restaurant industry as a differentiation factor. TGI Fridays although on the brink of closing down at that point in time, had brought the concept of waiters doing more than just serving. But that was not the only change taking place. Branded theme eating houses were increasingly being accepted by both the consumers and the restaurateurs. Continue reading Gun Smoke – The Resilient Brand