Largess – the upscale restaurant of yore
Largess restaurant has been around in the Karachi foodscape for what seems like eternity. It is your conventional Pakistani restaurant of the 80s era where you could find pretty much anything to eat under one roof. From Pakistani to Chinese to American steaks, you name it.
Of course that era is long gone. With branding becoming a sophisticated and specialist field, brands are increasingly adhering to the 22 immutable laws of branding, one of which is a brand needs to narrow down its focus to enhance its brand equity.
Restaurant brands in Pakistan have adapted to this law very well – we now have specialist brands like BBQ Tonight, Gun Smoke, Copper Kettle, Crepe Factory and so on- all adhering to a particular niche.
That doesn’t mean the generic restaurant brand is dead. You still have brands like Village Restaurant (not the buffet one but the one opposite Avari Towers), Shezan, Usmania, Lasania and Lavish Dine. However, business for all these brands is not what it used to be. They’re surviving more through offering special discounts on wedding and birthday parties as well as catering services, rather than through their main dining offering.
Amongst this lot, Largess is the top-of-mind material. Nestled at a strategic spot on the main North Nazimabad boulevard (Five Star Chowrangi) with Pizza Hut and Nandos as its branded neighbors. As such, it fulfills the first three requirements of a good business: location, location and location.
The next three requirements: quality, quantity and the sumptuousness factor, it fares ok on these counts.
We tested five different dishes: the mushroom steak, Largess special Chinese fried rice, fried prawns, biryani and spring chicken. The steak wasn’t bad. It was tender, succulent but not sizzling which I felt would have added another taste dimension. As far as the sumptuousness factor is concerned, you cannot expect it to compete with the likes of Gun Smoke and company. In its own desi right, it was good, and the quantity was substantial, brimming with mushrooms and the works. And at Rs.300 per steak, you just can’t compare it with a Rs.800 Gun Smoke steak.
The Largess special fried rice which claimed to be a cornucopia of chicken, beef and prawn was good although finding a prawn in it was akin to finding a needle in a haystack. The quantity was alright – nothing extraordinary.
Biryani was just about right, nothing spectacular either in taste or quantity. Spring Chicken was, well, devoid of taste. You felt you were chewing on some Genetically Modified chicken, the ones you read about in science fiction. The coleslaw, however was a savior.
The fried prawn was the dish that disappointed the most. These ‘pakora’ style prawns which are best when crisp yet tender at the same time, were rock hard at Largess. What’s worse, the tail part in some of the prawns had not been cleaned off. The whole crude prawn had been stuffed into the pakora! That’s criminal for any restaurant to do, least of which a respectable brand like Largess. Even the quantity wasn’t anything to write home about – a mere six balls of average size. If you really want humungous quantity of Chinese grub, better head to New Nanking.
Overall the quality of food is good but there is a lot of room for improvement.
The seventh determining factor is the ambience. In this respect, Largess excels to quite an extent. When you first enter the restaurant, you pass through a long corridor (with eye-catching paintings hanging on both sides) which culminates into an intersection cum reception which in turn leads to different hallways.
This arrangement gives an impression of a hotel with many different restaurants. What this does is lend an aura of prestige to the brand. All in all, the restaurants has a a whopping 6 different halls and that includes the Rooftop with a capacity for 400 people and provisions for Live Music. This is mostly used for private parties.
But their best strategy is the shrewd use of mirrors in the family dining hall. Although this hall is of no grandeur dimensions, the impeccable use of mirrors exudes an image that is double the size, lending a remarkable spaciousness to the hall. And this whole effect is accentuated by dimming the lights. The same tactic is used to good effect in other halls as well.
Dim lights, they serve another useful purpose – a nice meeting spot for couples. The dim lights coupled with the bulky plush seat arrangement ensures the privacy of the diners, something you can’t get even at most Zamzama joints. Now only if the fleet of waiters were not watching over you like hawks as if you were gonna run away with their silverware, this would actually be a perfect cuddling spot for doting couples with raging hormones.
The last time I paid a visit in late afternoon, 60% occupancy was couples. So the place is already popular with the romantically inclined. So with a brand essence already being that of (in)famous, all it needs to do is push things a bit. That is, position itself deliberately as a haven for couples. Instead of trying to position itself as haven for parties through billboards, it must use the lovers spot positioning.
And the ad campaign could take a leaf out of the Nandos communication strategy – something very tongue-in-cheek instead of a serious portrayal of the ‘petting’ benefits at Largess.
Whether Largess goes for this taboo brand positioning or some other, it is clear that the place has far more potential than it is utilizing at the moment.