Hardee’s love affair with Karachi is still in its honeymoon period as Karachiites continue to flock to the joint in droves, willing to spend an hour or more of their life in queues just to get their hands on something that’s mere fast food.
That’s the power of Hardee’s brand. Our second visit was at 20:00 hours on a Monday night and we had to wait almost half an hour to get in. By the time we got out an hour and a half later, the queue had ballooned to alarming proportions so much so that the police force was working in tandem with the private security guards to keep the crowd at bay.
And this is happening 10 days after Hardee’s opened up. Of course the mayhem would subside with time as well as with the launch of Hardee’s defence outlet slated to open sometime later.
This time around we tested another two of Hardee’s burgers. The Super Star Burger Rs.480 and the Santa Fe Chicken Rs.380.
Hardee’s Super Star Burger is just that- a real super star. This burger beats all the other Hardee’s offerings hands down. It’s that good. It’s big, it’s sumptuous, and for the first time we felt the charcoal taste in the beef patty which was missing in our previous excursion when we tried their jalapeño and Swiss mushroom burgers.
The double decker has all the elements that make up a genuine hamburger – double patty with double cheese, onions, jalapenos, the complete works, and will put any gourmet burger to shame. It’s that good. And the thing that makes it stand out is the charcoal essence that tantalizes your taste buds in a way no other local gourmet burger has been able to emulate in this part of the world.
The only fault we could find with it is how to eat it! The bun just disintegrated after a couple of bites and then it was an uphill battle trying to keep it together while maintaining your own composure.
In contrast, the Santa Fe Chicken burger that we tested isn’t anything to write home about. It comprised of a standard chicken fillet which couldn’t even fill the complete size of the bun, mayo, a solitary and an oversize lettuce leaf that was almost twice the size of the burger and irritating to handle.
Strangely, there was neither cheese nor onion in the burger! This is all the more perplexing when you take into account the fact that Santa Fe is the premium chicken burger of Hardee’s, the most expensive of it all. And yet it didn’t have even these necessities of a burger.
This is something that Hardee’s will have to really look into, if they want to continue to make chicken burgers, although they really don’t need to, with their beef burgers having attained stardom status the world over.
But if they do intend to continue, they really need to introduce some sort of differentiation into it.
Why not a charbroiled chicken burger? At least that way they would be able to offer something uniquely apart from its chicken contender KFC and to an extent McDonald’s. Otherwise, with their current crop of chicken offerings, they’re not going to challenge even the local gourmet burgers, let alone the big Whigs.
This time around we had better luck with the ketchup as we get hold of the ketchup guy before he could slip away as he did in our previous outing. But by and large ketchup continues to be a problem. It’s true that ketchup is not for free in foreign franchises in the First World, but then, we’re not living in that world, are we? And if KFC and McDonald can adapt to the ground realities of the Third World, so can Hardees.
Now, coming to their management efficiency, one shrewd tactic they’ve employed to reduce the decision-making time at the counter is to give the security personnel the menu to hand out to the customers waiting in the queues so that they can decide what they want to eat beforehand and not waste time at the counter.
One major problem Hardee’s going to face later when the euphoria dies down is the clarity of their pricing or rather lack of it.
The glitch in the afore-mentioned tactic is that the prices are not mentioned on this menu. Or on any menu for that matter. In fact the only time you’ll see the prices are on top of the counter. And then on your bill.
And the bill is itself is one complex jumble of figures. Instead of quoting the same combo meal price as written on the counter, Hardees has broken down the combo meal price with beverages mentioned separately with separate price.
What this strange costing does is give the impression that Hardees is cheating by charging the beverage twice, first by including it in the combo meal where it is mentioned as well, then putting it again at the bottom of the bill.
Although in reality they’ve broken down the combo meal pricing into two parts and not charging double, most of the customers will be suspicious of this bizarre billing, more so because they’ve included yet another header at the bottom –GST.
It would be far better if they just incorporate the GST and all the intricate pricing components into one big whole to avoid any consumer backlash. At the moment, a consumer backlash has a very bleak possibility but as the infatuation with the brand wears down, a more transparent and clear pricing would be needed to convert that initial crush into mature love.
The price itself is, of course, not the problem. People here spend like crazy on eating out; they just don’t want to be taken for a ride.
There was a problem with Fanta. It tasted, well, something straight out of a hospital. When we complained to the manager, he told us the proportion of syrup in the Fanta mixture had gone wrong and told us to avoid it. It would have been better if they had put a notice near the fountain soda warning people about this problem. Nothing grandeur, just a small note.
Coming back to the menu, you would be amazed to find not a single avenue online that is showcasing Hardee’s offerings in Pakistan. Although the brand has been around for quite sometime, they’ve yet to come up with a website that does just this. Although the domain name has been booked www.hardeespakistan.com, no work has been done it.
Yes, there are separate facebook pages for Hardees Pakistan, Hardees Lahore and even Hardees Karachi, but there’s no menu on any of them. In fact if you search for Hardees menu online within Pakistan, you’re most likely to land on Restaurants Uncut itself. Although you’ll find a tossdown link to Hardees menu, it doesn’t go anywhere useful.
Although Hardees claims to offer Wi-Fi as mentioned on the bill, there was no Wi-Fi available.
Hardee’s continues to mesmerize Karachiites with an array of burgers that will give the existing foreign brands and the local gourmet burger brands a run for their money. How long will this passionate love affair last is anybody’s guess, but as long as Hardee’s continues to churn out new scintillating burgers instead of relying smugly on past brand laurels, it stands a real chance of converting the affair into a successful marriage that lasts.
Check out Hardee’s menu for Karachi.