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.