The litmus test for gauging the sustainability of a new restaurant is observing whether the place is thronging with customers or not at the very outset. Studio Café passes this test comfortably. It’s another thing that the reason Studio Café has a lot of people coming in is that it’s not just a food joint, but a sheesha lounge in addition to being a photography studio. The basement houses the studio, the ground floor the dining hall and the first floor has the sheesha lounge which is restricted to families only after 7pm, which seems to be a good strategy. Talking about strategies, head over to brandasy for a in-depth look at the marketing strategy of Studio Café.
Remember it doesn’t matter what the people are coming for, as long as there’s people milling around and cars parked outside, it creates a vibe which potential customers pick and are drawn to. Many restaurants have gone to extreme lengths, hiring fake customers to throng the place so that unsuspecting people are drawn in.
We checked out the place on a Saturday night, and if you have visited this place it is situated quite far off from the commercial area of Khayaban-e-Shahbaz and almost adjacent to another new entry on the Karachi foodscape, Secret Recipe. Now while Studio Café had numerous cars parked outside its entrance, Secret Recipe wore a deserted look outside. Now this simple scene can literally kill a restaurant. And Studio Café has realized this fact very early on. No matter if people don’t spend much at your place, even if they come for just a drink, as long as they are there, other customers are going to come who may well spend some big bucks.
The actual test of a restaurant’s resilience is on a Monday night. Even a well-established brand like Gun Smoke was struggling on the Monday night we visited. Any restaurant can do well on a Saturday night. It’s how you perform on week days that separates the winners from the losers. Studio Café would do well to focus on those slow moving days.
Coming to the experience, we confined our visit to the main dining hall on the ground floor. It’s a small cozy hall. Not very big, but the layout has been aesthetically done to lend an aura of spaciousness. Instead of the usual table-chair configuration, it has the less formal sofa set layout, an arrangement you find at Sheesha lounges. There are a couple of table-chair arrangements as well. Overall they don’t have a large seating arrangement. At a time they can accommodate at most 6 group of people.
The menu book is your standard stuff, and you would have thought that a place that has done tried so much to differentiate itself from the rest of the pack would have come up with something unique here as well. Not to be. The least they could have done is add snapshots of the entrée besides the name and description just like Arizona Grill has done. It gives the customer what to expect and in how much quantity to expect. The way descriptions of menu items are written in upscale restaurants in this part of the world, you would think that each and every item is a masterpiece. What this does is set the customer up for disappointment if the perception generated by the description doesn’t match with the actual meal. Which did happen in our case as well.
We tested their Fettuccini Pasta, Chicken Ranch Burger, Studio Club Sandwich and Mexican Chicken Steak. All of them were mentioned as chef’s special. The biggest disappointment was the chicken ranch burger. Although the description wasn’t that exaggerated, the last line that it was the chef’s special and also happened to be the priciest burger on the menu at Rs.410, led to disappointment when we saw and actually tried it. It was too bland to be termed as the chef’s special, there was no coleslaw or even some sort of garlic sauce to go with it, and if a customer came and tried just this ‘chef recommendation’ he would think if this is the chef’s special, what can he expect from the lesser offerings?
Even by way of size, it just wasn’t good enough. The Studio Club Sandwich which was supposed to be a secret recipe should have been kept a secret as well. It was your average club sandwich, and even here there was no coleslaw or any sauce to go with it. This time I asked why haven’t you guys got the coleslaw to which they brought a garlic cream sauce, which was quite good. To be fair, both the sandwich and the burger had a generous serving of fries to go with it.
The Fettuccini Pasta was the highlight of the evening, it was that good. Even the portion size was good enough. The Mexican Steak was good as well although a bit too hot.
Then it was time for the desserts. Here we tested their ‘Black & White: Mouth-watering warm American Brownie served with vanilla ice cream’ and ‘Mega Sized Deep-Dish Sundae: Hot-cookie, sweet fun. Mega-sized deep dish haiku. You are kidding, right?’ Unfortunately, they were kidding, for the sundae was anything but mega-sized and deep dish. Just two normal cookies were a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Taste-wise, just okay. The black and white was a better one with the warm cookie actually quite good.
Overall the taste was good but not what you would call ‘heaven on earth’ as the name of one of their desserts suggests. The quantity overall was good enough, but it was the pricing, or more aptly the bill that caught us by surprise. Yes, the prices are steep but when we got the bill there was no GST charged in addition. Now if you have been to any upscale restaurant, you would know that in addition to the premium pricing, GST is an added weight on the customer’s wallet. In this case they had included it within the price and not mentioned it anywhere on the menu. So you do get good value for money at Studio Café.
The items on offer are numerous unlike many restaurants in this category, which is a good thing. You don’t have to offer everything under the sun in order to be a great café or restaurant or whatever. That only confuses the brand essence of a restaurant. What you do need to do is offer great value in the items you do offer.
It’s a fine dining place, just don’t expect it to compete with the brand leaders Copper Kettle and Arizona Grill, not just yet.
It has come up with a good marketing strategy but one which can be further spruced off. That calls for another article. Head over to for that discussion.