Wimpy’s is one of the oldest players of Muhammad Ali Society food street specializing in barbeque items. Along with Kaybees it was a force to be reckoned with in the 80s and early 90s. It packs a punch even today but has lost most of its luster owing to winds of change as well as more competitive entrants in the arena like Pizza Hut and KFC. Then there is its arch rival Kaybees which has gone far ahead of it in terms of brand image and promotion.
On top of everything, Wimpy’s does not have the most enviable of locations, standing deep in one of the by-lanes. And yet the place keeps buzzing on weekends.
It’s not that it hasn’t tried to reposition itself, creating better seating arrangement and ambiance and adding further depth to the menu by including snacks. However, it’s forte remains its barbeque items, some even better than its foe Kaybees.
The one competitive advantage that Wimpy’s has on that entire street is that it has chicken lever on its menu, in fact the best bbq chicken lever in town although it also offers the option of fried lever. The fried version is in the form of katakat and is delectable as well. Both versions cost a reasonable Rs.100 and the katakat version is more than sufficient for two persons.
It’s parathas are disappointing though, so crispy that they literally crumble in your hands. Kaybees parathas are the complete opposite with just the right balance of crispiness and firmness to be enjoyed with a meal.
Other bbq items of Wimpy’s are good, but with so many bbq walas operating in the city, Wimpy’s just doesn’t have that clout it used to have anymore.
Coming to its fast food items, we tried the grilled chicken sandwich. Priced at Rs.165, quantity-wise it scored high with ample serving of fries and coleslaw, but the sandwich itself wasn’t up to the mark. It was deep-fried to the point of being burnt and the taste was pretty much bland.
The beef burger priced Rs.125 was a major disappointment. The beef patty tasted like it had been cooked in prehistoric times. The bun wasn’t fresh. What’s left to report? At least the fries and coleslaw quantity was sufficient enough.
The club sandwich priced Rs.135,however, fares much better than both the beef burger and the grilled sandwich. It is much more palatable with just the right balance of chicken,egg and salad. And it will fill your stomach nicely.
Wimpy’s has tried to emulate Kaybees by adding lots of seating space. However, it has failed to match the ambiance provided by its rival. In other words, the sort of gentry that comes to Kaybees won’t end up at Wimpy’s. The best place to consume Wimpy’s delicacies is still outside in the fresh air where it has put up chairs and tables.
The genuine hamburger. How many restaurants and cafes and fast food joints and what not have you visited that offer you this modern delicacy? Not many, I bet. Take out the foreign franchises and the number goes down even further.
There’s Gun Smoke, there’s Indulge, there’s Mr. Burger, there’s Texas Burger but then that’s just about it. There are, however, a number of restaurants like CK, Arizona Grill and Roasters which offer burger as a mandatory side item on their menu and are not particularly specialist in this category.
Most of the burger walas especially the desi fast food joints like Kaybees, Tooso’s, Kundan, Pioneer, Khan’s and Red/Green Apple offer the hamburger more in the vein of a shami kabab burger. Their main focus is on the Zinger and for good reasons because the ‘pirated’ zinger or crispy burger has become one of the hottest selling items on the local fast food scene.
Coming back to the hamburger, you would be hard pressed to find the genuine version any place other than an upscale fast food joint and that also on the other side of Kala Pull.
Enter Chili Wili, a small café in the not-so-upscale area of Dhoraji, on the road leading from Agha Khan Hospital to Muhammad Ali Society’s food street. Although it is on the main road, it’s not very prominent, and the owners haven’t carried out any launch party to announce the arrival either. And that may just be its downfall. Because that is the only thing that is going to bring its downfall. That and maybe the premium pricing as well.
At Rs.180, the hamburger with cheese, fries, coleslaw and a soft drink is a bit too much considering the area in which it is located. The thing going in its favor is that there’s no worthwhile competition in that entire strip, just a small restaurant at the end of the strip called Spicy and even that is struggling big time.
However, when we met the owner, he was very upbeat about the future of his café which he based solely on his offering. According to him, he’s offering a Rs.400 burger at a mere Rs.180. That was before the meal. After having just a couple of bites, we had to admit he was right. We tried the chicken wrapper and the hamburger, and I don’t know if they look sumptuous in the snapshots or not, but they were totally scrumptious and more.
The hamburger had one big beef patty unlike any you would experience in this side of town. It had that ‘hieng’ that you associate with anything beef and which the local fast food walas try to tone down with all the desi masalas. Chili Wili didn’t. And that brought out the genuine taste, accentuated by the addition of pickle and the mandatory salad. As far as the size is concerned, it wasn’t gigantic like Gun Smoke or Roasters but still big enough to stuff you completely. The Fries were good as well. The Coleslaw wasn’t the usual desi one submerged in rich cream which the Pakistanis love but the variant that Gun Smoke has come up with.
The chicken wrapper was better than KFC both in size and taste. It costs Rs.105 outside of the combo.
The rest of the menu seems to be just as scrumptious, and definitely warrants one other visit.
Unfortunately for Chili Wili, the fact that we approve of their product offering doesn’t mean that it’s going to go on to make it big. The history of restaurants in Karachi has the rise and fall of some terrific restaurants which had fantastic taste and yet didn’t make it.
Its biggest problem is that of the location. Locals of that area are not going to be visiting much owing to the high price. And if they are not going to come, the place would need people from other areas to throng the place. And for that to happen, it needs positive word-of-mouth, and fast. Once they come and check out the place, then it’s going to be alright because apart from the quality food, it has managed to create a nice ambience in line with upscale cafes. But the place is tiny, the main dining area at the top seems to be created for elves.
Of course there were a few minor shortcomings as well. For instance, the drink was offered in a disposable bottle but there was neither straw nor glass available to consume it. The guys would have no trouble drinking it like that, but for the girls, they wouldn’t have any of it. In any way, an upscale fast food joint shouldn’t have such minor shortcomings.
Then there was the ketchup issue. The ketchups were offered in satchets and yet there was no place to pour it. In the end we had to pour it on the paper wrapper. Not very elegant. When you are charging premium prices, the least you could do is offer unlimited ketchup in a bottle to be poured in a small bowl.
So how can they induce word-of-mouth? One opportunity they missed was at the launch when they could have really driven traffic their way by offering discounted meals. What’s done is done.
They could easily offer the discounted deals they ought to have offered at the launch now. It’s never too late. Make a facebook page. Get on twitter. Get people talking about the brand. Opening a café maybe hard, but sustaining it profitably over a period of time is infinitely harder. They just need to have a marketing budget. Then whether they spend it on discount offers, advertising, or a combination of both depends entirely upon on them. There’s no right or wrong answer.
In fact, it’s so easy and cheap to come up with a TVC these days that they could opt for that option as well. Agencies like Time & Space Media specialize in making TVCs at reasonable rates ranging from Rs.1-3 lac. That’s dirt cheap when you consider a standard TVC by a big media agency gets made for anywhere from Rs.20 lac to as high as Rs.2 crore. Mostly it’s the telecom and bank TVCs that have exorbitant budgets for TVCs.
The second expense is the placement on channels. Again here as well, if you can steer clear of prime time and upscale channels like Geo and Dawn News, you ought to be ok.
Of course the money you spend on this could well be spent on giving extra discounts and stuff to the customer. Membership cards, repeat visit free meals, the sky is the limit on how you can exceed customer expectation.
In short, Chili Wili has the basic ingredients of being a top notch fast food joint.
Zeenan is one of those ancient restaurants that have survived the winds of change. Located on a strategic corner of Muhammad Ali Society Food Street opposite the ever-green Kaybees, it’s past its glorious days of the 80s and early 90s when the street was famous for everything barbeque. Then the wave of fast food swept the city and Kaybees was the first one to leverage it and go way past the compet
Zeenan just waded the water of the snack category instead of taking the plunge. In the end it manages to be specialist of neither. However, it’s still standing unlike it’s neighboring restaurant Spinzer which was part of the raging success along with Kaybees and Vimpy’s in the good old days.
On a weekend night, Zeenan manages to get quite a few customers but for the rest of the week it’s mostly deserted.
Part of the reason it manages to survive is its enviable position on a corner of a famous food street. The other part has got to do with its offerings. The best dish we have tasted so far is the Grilled Chicken Cheese Sandwich which is the best in this category. Most of the grilled sandwiches you will try in the same category of restaurants are either too well-done or just filled with chunks of chicken pieces with no real taste. Zeenan on the other hand has a definite taste, and its sumptuous factor is comparable to that of the Kaybees’ grilled sandwich.
The other good thing about Zeenan’s offering is the coleslaw. Very few cafes and restaurants are able to prepare the perfect coleslaw. Zeenan apparently has mastered this ability. On the face of it may not appear that big a deal but the way this salad has seeped imperceptibly into the hearts of the Karachiites, no snack is complete without it. And the better the taste of this sideline, the more appealing the meal. Even the compulsory fries were better than most snack bars.
Their beef burger, however, is no match for the grilled sandwich. Which is surprising considering that the sidelines are the same good ones. We found that the patty was a bit rubbery although taste-wise it wasn’t that bad. And the size of the burger was way too small considering its price of Rs.100 +.
The brain masala wasn’t much to write home about either.
The biggest reason Zeenan hasn’t met with the sort of success Kaybees has enjoyed is its lack of presentation and an aesthetically pleasing ambiance. While Kaybees has piled on the bells and whistles to its brand positioning, Zeenan offers a bland picture reminiscent of the scene in the 80s.
Zeenan Snacks could be a whole lot more if only it invests shrewdly into its presentation. While going head-on against Kaybees may not be the cleverest thing to do, emulating some of their tactics especially the aesthetics part would work wonders for it.
Khan Snacks and Broast is one of the oldest fast food joints in Karachi. Located near the Water-Pump Chowrangi (now a proper intersection) in F.B Area, it is one of the pioneers of broast-making in this part of the world.
Even now when a million fast food joints are offering this delicacy, Khan’s version remains remarkably differentiated. It’s rivals have utterly failed to copy its competitive advantage. But it’s not just the broast itself that is uniquely created. The bun, the fries, the raita, even the ketchup is radically different from the rest of the pack. And the coleslaw is out of this world!
Over the years, we feel that the size of their broast has shrunk while the prices like the rest of them have gone up. And herein lies an opportunity for some brand to offer substantial size chicken pieces at the same prices. Even with average taste, this brand will definitely prosper.
Khan’s burgers, however, are not that sumptuous. Especially the beef buger tastes like a home-made version. Its beef patty is your standard ‘Kachchey Qeemay ka kabab’. However, if you fancy the home-cooked taste, you’re going to love it. The chicken version fares just a wee bit better.
However, unlike other fast food joints in the same category, Khan’s burgers are guaranteed to satiate your appetite- they are that big. What’s more, unlike other fast food joints which offer raita only with the broast, Khan offers it even with the burgers – with unlimited refilling.
The chicken zinger, however, doesn’t have a unique taste and tastes just like your standard local zinger in any other fast food joint. Its size though is substantial, guaranteed to fill you up to the brim. Although the bun is of standard size, the crusty patty is humungous, protruding from both sides of the bun. In most of the local fast food joints, the zinger patty is either too crusty with literally no meat inside or simply meat with no flakes. Khan’s version offers the perfect blend of crust with meat.
The prices are pretty much the same compared to the competition. The broast is around Rs.120, so is the zinger. The beef burger is priced at Rs.70.
Over the years, the taste has remained remarkably consistent, and surprisingly, so is the menu. While the competition offers everything under the sun from Chinese cuisine to shashlik, Khan broast has confined itself to just the basic fast food items, adding only zinger along the way and not bothering to offer even the club sandwich which is the prerequisite of any fast food joint.
There’s an even an urban legend associated with Khan’s. They say Khan’s earnings from catering and normal dining is a whopping Rs. 2 lac per day. Now that can’t be right? Or is it?
Stranger things are happened though in this city of lights.
Whatever the stories, there’s one fact that you cannot ignore, and that is, you need to go and indulge yourself in Khan’s delicacies.