Abaan Taste of Lebanon

Abaan is a Lebanese restaurant that has opened up recently in Karachi to cash in on the growing Pakistani interest in Middle Eastern cuisine.

Although a handful of Arabic cuisine restaurants exist in Karachi, almost all of them are open-air cafesque types. What’s more they aren’t the upscale types a la Zamzama. Although they do offer some semblance of Lebanese cuisine, they aren’t predominantly Lebanese.

Kababji in Sheraton was the only premium Lebanese restaurant in Karachi. Now enter Abaan, which aspires to offer stiff competition to Kababji. And judging by the initial response it’s getting, it can prove to be a star in the making.

We checked the place out on a Saturday night. And it passed the litmus test, for a sizeable crowd on a weekend gives you a rough idea that the place will not crash and burn before it even takes off.

[slickr-flickr tag=”lebanon”]

The initial response Abaan is getting is due to two major factors: one, it has advertised in Dawn and second it has a Facebook page with around 116 fans. Most of them will check the place out at least once, and if it’s any good, will refer it to friends and family as well.

Secondly, it is the only restaurant in Karachi where you can consume Arabic/Lebanese cuisine in an upscale setting. Apart from Sheraton’s Kabab ji, there’s no other A-list restaurant catering to this segment. As such this is an attractive niche that Abaan has positioned itself in.

However, it’s survival in the long run will depend upon a couple of critical factors. The biggest of them is the location. Even if the owners couldn’t afford space on Zamzama or the rapidly developing food avenue on Khayabane Shahbaz, they could at least have rented space in some other happening commercial district, even Khayabane-Ittehad would have sufficed. Khayaban-e-Jami maybe a major link road, but it doesn’t have any restaurant or even any other major shop.

If this wasn’t enough, Abaan has opened up in the office of advertising agency BBCL. When you enter a restaurant, the last thing you want to see is an office and a photography studio. But that’s precisely what you’re faced with upon entering Abaan. The actual restaurant is on the 2nd floor of BBCL’s office for which you’ve to take the elevator. Spoils the ambience right then and there.  First impressions being everlasting is an adage that still holds true.

Another major shortcoming is the space or lack thereof. Although the ambience is acceptable with some Middle Eastern elements thrown in for good measure, the layout of the place is too stifling. If it was Zamzama where the rent is sky-high, it would have made sense to keep everything close, like most other restaurants on it.

But when you’re far away from the madding crowd, you ought to conjure up a spacious layout, where there’s ample privacy for each table.

Finally, the biggest problem Abaan will face is that of repeat customers. The thing is, a restaurant of this caliber (and stiff prices) needs select loyal customers who can afford to dine at the place multiple times a week. And most of these customers will be found on the Facebook Group SWOT where as many as 900 foodies share their experience of eating out.

Unfortunately, Abaan has already received a negative review on that forum. Which means most of the potential customers who can afford to bring repeat business to Abaan will be turned off by this following review posted on the SWOT group:

Osama Mustafa:

“I went to Abaan for dinner last night. The ambiance was nice we were promptly greeted and seated. We ordered the following dishes the Mezzeh platter for starters. And for the main course I ordered the chicken Shawarma and my wife ordered the chicken liver and sheesh Taouk and both of us ordered Liban as our drinks.
The Mezzeh platter had too many micro servings of the assorted starters too many irrelevant things were there not enough of the authentic items . The meat kebobs were over done on the outside and the crispy bread served was partially crispy with stale pieces in between. Now for the main course. The Sharwama in pita was pathetic. The meat was dry from being shaved in advance is my guess but the entire dish did do some time on the kitchen counter because it was lukewarm , the fries were soggy and the sauce had set with a dry layer . My wife’s chicken liver was a bit over cooked but the sauce was good thef sheesh taouk was also not fresh the meat was dry and looked like it had been sitting on the service counter her fries were also stale . To add insult to injury the drinks we ordered were 2 Laban one salty and one sweet to our surprise both tasted exactly the same sweet and salty. A note to the chef the nestle yoghurt you used to make our Laban is sweet and cannot be used in making a salty Laban. We sent both drinks back and the replacement tasted exactly the same. The experience left little desire to return. A note to restaurant owners there is nothing worse than serving a dish that has gone cold!!!! I did register the complaint with the Maitre d I was politely told that “things will be better next time”

And then there’s one positive review as well:

Samaya Alamgir:

“Ok so i just got back from Abaans on ittehad and i seriously dont know what the negative reviews were about!! the food is absolutely amazing! From the Hummus to the mixed grill to the baklava. Everything was splendid and much better than most places attempts at lebanese fare. I was reminded of Patoukh on Edgeware road in london.”

We decided to check Abaan out after reading this review. Yes, there are glitches in the presentation and quality of food but it’s not as bad as this review projects.

We started off with the assorted Mezzeh, which encompasses pretty much all the Arabic appetizers- hummous, tabouleh, mutabbal, baba ganoush, feta cheese the works. At Rs.450 exclusive of 17% GST, it’s a bit stiff.

Hummous was delectable but we felt it was way too tangy similar to the moutabel also called baba ganoush sometimes.

Tahini seems to be missing from the ingredients which was evident from the texture of hummous.

Although there’s no standard taste of hummous with numerous variations available throughout the world, still the majority refrain from making the hummous sour.

The Shish Kabab had French fries strewn all over it! It comprised of two skewers of lamb cubes which were charcoal grilled, a single skewer of grilled vegetables and a pita bread. Then there was the garlic sauce along with cucumber mint yoghurt. Priced at Rs.495, the serving size could have been much better. On top of that, the surface of lamb cubes was charcoaled excessively while the inner was slightly raw.

This points to the fact that the grilling was done in a hurry, which is baffling considering that the food was served a good 25 minutes after the order was taken.

On the face of it, that’s not bad, because some people prefer it that way- well done on the outside and slightly raw from the inside. However, not everyone is enthusiastic about this arrangement; therefore the waiter ought to ask how the customer prefers his meat to be done.

All in all the dish was palatable, and the garlic sauce played a major role in tilting the odds in the favor of the dish.

Service could have been a whole lot better. When they served the Mezzeh, they provided only one pita bread and didn’t mention that the refills were free. Only later when the main course had arrived that they brought another pita bread as a refill, which was too late.

Then they took their own sweet time revving up the generator when they lights went out. Even then they were indecisive, trying feebly to light up a candle as an afterthought. Only by then the generator had started. It would have been better had they lit up the tiny candles that were already placed on every table. That way the place wouldn’t remain shrouded in total darkness if the generator doesn’t fire right away.

The Abaan special ‘Kasbah’ was appalling. It was basically rice with tiny pieces of what seemed like boiled chicken and pieces of almonds mixed in. There was literally no distinct taste in it. And at Rs.195, the quantity wasn’t up to the mark.

If you’ve had this cuisine in the Middle East and yearn for the same taste, Abaan is not for you.

But if you’re simply looking to devour Arabic cuisine in a proper restaurant as opposed to the makeshift arrangements of Damascus and Arabian Nights, then Abaan is your best bet.  Although Kabab Ji at Sheraton fares much better, price-wise Kabab Ji is way too exorbitant and you’re better off checking out Abaan which offers better value for money.

Diner’s Iftar Deal

Diner’s is one of the new breed of upscale restaurants that are dotted on the DHA landscape away from the Zamzama crowd, owned by the couple who run Sawasdee nearby.

Located smack in the middle of the Khayaban-e-Shahbaz commercial area, we had been receiving mixed reviews about the place for quite some time. People either loved the place, or hated it altogether. There were no mixed feelings about it. The most common complaint was that the quantity was way too low to justify the prices they were charging.

We decided to check out their Iftar deal and in the process get to know what Diner is all about.

From the outside, it projects an aura of a sophisticated food joint with dimly lit interior offering you the opportunity to dine in ample privacy. From the inside, it’s sophisticated alright, but the privacy part does not hold good as it has a fairly bright lighting which we felt they need to tone down to ensure a more calming ambiance. Overall the ambiance is top notch.

Right, now getting down to the business. This Ramadan most of the restaurants have changed their strategy of offering dinner buffet. Now they offer you an Iftar platter after which you’re allowed to choose just one item from their regular menu. While some restaurants are straightforward about their deal, others are not.

Saffron for instance has claimed to offer Iftar dinner buffet but in reality they’re offering the buffet for just Iftar items and in the end it’s back to just one item from the main menu. Which is pretty steep considering that they charge a staggering Rs.1250+ tax which comes out to be Rs.1463 and that does not include the soft drinks! No wonder the place was deserted even on a Saturday evening. Even the rich this summer are selective about throwing their money away.

Diner on the other hand has gone the traditional way of offering a complete dinner buffet like the category leaders Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters. But there’s a catch here. It’s not exactly buffet but ‘Eat all you Can’ in the same vein as Pizza Hut. You’re given a menu and you have to order anything you like and as much as you like from that. Then there’s another catch. You can only do so till 9pm. You would think two hours starting from the time of Iftar would be enough to try everything out. If you’ve been to Pizza Hut’s deal, you know it’s a pretty chaotic scheme.

We got to Diner’s in the nick of time and found the place partially filled; in fact the top floor was pretty much deserted. And yet the service was slow, no, make it excruciatingly slow. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion. On that entire floor, there was just this one table occupied (our entry made it two), there were three waiters on the prowl, and yet they couldn’t decide what to do.

Going by the way the waiters were scurrying about excitedly, it seemed Diner’s had for the first time received even this much customers for their Ramadan deal. The Iftar platter which should have been delivered right away along with the dates, was brought six to seven minutes late. To be fair to them, they were all very courteous and it is the restaurant management’s responsibility to direct their activities.Iftar platter- diner

There was no prayer area. They had just designated a miniscule corner for praying that could accommodate only two persons. And the least they could have done was keep proper ‘Jaanamaz’ for that purpose instead of making people pray on large-sized white napkins.Iftar Menu- Diner

On top of everything, people who were sitting downstairs were coming up to pray in this corner, making it extremely difficult for us to offer our prayers on time. After fifteen minutes had elapsed with no sign of us getting the turn, we asked the waiters to arrange for our prayers in the other corner of the room which had space since the place was mostly deserted even by that time.

Maybe Diner’s hasn’t allocated proper space for prayers because most of their customers don’t offer the prayers after Iftar. That is the only sound logic we could come up with.

We visited the place on the tenth of Ramadan. Why the management hadn’t learnt from its mistakes from the last ten days is beyond us.

Oh, by the way, an appetizer platter  arrived while we were waiting for the prayer turn.Appetizer- Diner

The platter comprised of chicken strips, Buffalo wings and mini beef burgers. The strips were simply divine – chicken with cheese with a thick crispy coating. Buffalo wings are basically deep-fried chicken wings cooked in spicy hot cayenne pepper sauce. They were first made popular by Anchor Bar, Buffalo, New York in 1964, hence the name. The wings were dipped a bit too much in the sauce and they were more sour rather than spicy, but good enough.

The mini beef burger were sumptuous as well but won’t appeal to everyone. If you like your beef heavily marinated in all types of spices and stuff to tone down its authentic smell and taste, then you’re not going to like these. They were the real deal – beef with all its ‘Heeng’ glory.

After this we ordered from the menu which comprised of 12 main entrées along with a host of soups, appetizers and salads, a total of 17 items. The format, as already revealed before, is that you could order any item any number of times, and the total cost of all this is Rs.895+ tax which comes out to be Rs. 1,047.15. You add a further Rs. 75 for a soft drink and that makes it Rs.1122.15. It is pretty steep but considering what the others are offering this year, it’s not a bad bargain.

For the first round we ordered four dishes. The chicken and mushroom crepe was delectable, remarkably similar to the Roasters one. The Fettuccine Alfredo with Prawn, quite a mouthful, the name, isn’t it? Fettuccine (literally “little ribbons” in Italian) is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour which is wider than the conventional round ones. Alfredo is basically the name of the restaurant ‘Alfredo alla Scrofa’ in Rome. It was named by the Italian restaurateur who owned the place and created this dish back in 1917.Chicken mushroom crepe- Diner

Fettuccini Alfredo with prawn

pepper steak- DinerThe dish would have got full marks had it not been for the prawns. The prawns we felt were a bit on the stale side judging from the strong smell emanating from it. The pasta itself was palatable.

Next up was the Mushroom steak. We had directed the steak to be well-done. What came out was a small lump of meat which was burnt on the outside and raw from the inside.

The Margherita Pizza was a disappointment as well. The razor thin crust wasn’t so much as a problem than the razor-thin topping. It is named after Queen Margherita of Savoy when she visited Naples in 1889 and was served this pizza resembling the colurs of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (Mozzarella) and green (basil).

This wrapped the first round. The second round for which we ordered almost immediately took more than half an hour to arrive while the first one arrived within fifteen minutes. This was mind-boggling considering the same type of dishes were ordered the second time around.

The grilled chicken with tarragon sauce was the highlight of this round. Tarragon is a type of herb also called ‘dragon herb’. The chicken was succulent and the sauce sumptuous.Grilled chicken with tarragon sauce

penne arabiataFiesta chicken pizzaThe Penne Arabiata with chicken and tomato sauce was the weakling of this round. Arrabbiata is a Roman sauce of garlic, tomatoes, and red chili cooked in olive oil. In this case, it was simple bland with no distinct taste.

The roast beef sandwich was pretty ordinary as well. The fiesta pizza with chicken fared just marginally better than its Margherita counterpart.

If you look closely at the pictures, the portion size is frugal. If that’s tailored to the Iftar deal so that people don’t waste much, then it’s alright. However, if this same size is served in normal offerings as well, then people have been complaining rightly about it, because at more than Rs.500, you expect the dish to satiate you enough.

In the end we tried the solitary dessert on offer, vanilla ice cream with brownie. The ice cream tasted like one of the popular yet bland brands, the brownie was mediocre although served hot.

Overall, we found Diner’s Iftar deal a mixed bag. It definitely scores a whole lot better than what’s on offer at some of its contemporaries, but the slow service especially the serving of the meals which was to be supposed to be buffet-style should have been prompt. We felt there may have been an element of deliberately stalling for time so that the customer consumes the least amount of dishes in the allocated time till 9pm.

However, if you haven’t been to Diner before and really want to sample their offerings, this deal is as good as any to do that.

Fuchsia’s Iftar Deal

Fuchsia is one of the handful restaurants in Karachi offering Thai cuisine. Baan Thai was probably the first one who brought this cuisine to this coastal city and as such still retains the first mover advantage.

Fuchsia has been around for quite some time now and thus can safely be deemed as one of the success stories since surviving on the cutthroat Zamzama street is no child’s play, restaurants have been known to crash and burn on this upscale food hubbub many times before.

We decided to check out Fuchsia’s Iftar deal 2010. Priced at a steep R.995+tax which comes out to be Rs.1164 +soft drink+ tip, it comprises of an Iftar platter, a single main entrée of your choice, a single-choice dessert, and a hot beverage (tea or coffee or green tea). In addition you get a mineral water bottle, a single glass of either lemonade or rooh afza, and a pinch of aab-e-zam zam.

The proceedings kick off with the Iftar platter which comprises of two pieces of chicken on toast, two chicken rolls, two ‘aaloo ke pakoray’, two tiny shrimps, sweet n chili chutney and a palak ka pakora.

Indeed a very sparse platter. On top of that the chicken on toast had so much salt it promised to give a high-blood pressure patient a kill-blow right there on the spot. Although the menu promised a Thai-based platter, it was a pretty much desi platter. We just couldn’t find the Thai angle in it, apart from the two tiny shrimps.

Prayer area was way too insufficient. They had designated their small private dining room for this purpose and there was no segregation of the sexes. Maybe most of the clientele who come for their Iftar deal do not pray hence this   miniscule arrangement.

The main entrée menu was heavily edited compared to their original menu. We felt that Fuchsia could have added a whole lot more items from their main menu considering they’re charging a 1000 bucks for a non-buffet dinner.

And this is always going to be a major problem for all those restaurants that offer a limited dinner set menu instead of the full-fledged buffet at a price that is pretty much the same as that of the buffet. Heavyweights like Copper Kettle, Arizona Grill and Roasters are offering an iftar buffet dinner at Rs.1000. So when you have to compete against this sort of offering from the giants that are literally across the street from you, you better come up with something special.

In this regard, we feel Fuchsia really lets its customers down.

So, coming back to their main entrée menu which was heavily curtailed, we picked three items from the 10 items on offer:

  • Green Curry Chicken with Baby Eggplant & Sweet Basil Leaf
  • Wok fried prawns with sweet basil and oyster sauce
  • Crispy fried fish with tangy Thai tamarind sauce

Here’s their original menu.

Along with these dishes, plain white rice were served as many times as you want. Not that you want them much, because they were over-cooked, more like a rice-paste or halwa. Maybe it’s Thai style.

The fried prawns were good, the big succulent type that people relish. The quantity can definitely be improved upon considering the price of the deal.

The fish was alright, cooked in a sauce which lacked a distinct taste.

The green curry chicken was the biggest sore point of the evening. Maybe Thais love this kind of stuff, none of our party took to it. The curry was way too strong, reeking of coconut essence, the sort of curry you get along with Masala Dossa.

The dessert, again Fuchsia offers 8 choices of desserts but in the Iftar deal they have confined themselves to just one: chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Although both the cake slice and ice cream (homemade) were delectable, the quantity issue reared its ugly head again. See it for yourself.

The tea was your usual tea-bag stuff. Nothing Thai or anything special about it.

Service was prompt and up to the mark. No shortcomings there. The family at the table next to us, however, were not satisfied with something. The only thing we overheard of their complaint was something about freshness.

Although Fuchsia had quite a few customers coming in, if it is to scale the height of success its neighbors have done, it will have to reposition its offerings.

One thing it could do is instead of offering just one main entrée, offer them the choice of three or four different items which would arrive in a big thal with small bowls loaded with these dishes. That way, the customers will have the satisfaction of having had a sort of mini-buffet. The second equally important benefit this would have is that a customer won’t get stuck with a single entrée that he doesn’t enjoy, which is more likely to happen in the current deal.

Fuchsia’s forte at the moment is its ambiance which is smashing even by Zamzama standards. Head over to Karachi Snob where you can find snapshots of the place as well as the menu items in detail.

We recommend this place only for those who already have an affinity for Thai cuisine.

Roasters Burgers UNcut

Roasters’ Burgers are the biggest you’ll ever see in this part of the world. You’ll notice these humungous objects from far off as the waiter approaches with them. It doesn’t get bigger than this. And if you can’t satiate your appetite with one of these, then you need to get your stomach examined.

We tested two of their fast food offerings- Caesar Chicken Sandwich and Chicken Bacon Royal. Funny thing is, even if you order a sandwich, it invariably comes out to be a burger as in the case of Caesar chicken sandwich.

The chicken Caesar sandwich, well, if you’re into mild stuff, you’re gonna love this. It’s devoid of any strong essence. Just your crunchy romaine lettuce entwined with a healthy slab of very mildly grilled chicken with a price tag of Rs.395. We would have recommended this meal as a diet had it not been oozing with mayonnaise. Overall a very subdued offering, but enough to satiate your appetite.

The Chicken Bacon Royal Burger’s description promises to give you a heart attack, what with golden crisp chicken on top of which sit bacon strips and mushrooms and even garlic mayo. We went for that option but were disappointed not to get a heart attack. Reason being, there’s still ample room for improvement (read filling). The chicken patty was a bit too thin, and the bacon strips could have been more generously stuffed, especially at a hefty price of Rs. 395. Nevertheless it’s good stuff to sink your teeth into.

Chicken Bacon Royal
Chicken Bacon Royal

The fries content was more than sufficient in all meals.

However, it’s the lack of coleslaw or some other worthy sideline like garlic sauce that is the main drawback of

Roasters’ burger offerings. On the face of it, it may not appear to be that big a deal, but when you consider that all the competitors are offering  generous helpings of either coleslaw or garlic sauce with their burgers, you need to wake up to that reality.

But it’s not the real reason that Roasters should start offering these sidelines. The thing is, the Pakistani consumer got spoilt by the earlier snack-walas who started offering these delicacies along with the main entrée, and the trend was continued by their successors.

The result: whenever a Karachiite orders a burger no matter where, he always expects something extra other than the main attraction. And if he doesn’t get that extra stuff, no matter how delicious the burger, he always feels disappointed that something is amiss.

One other major reason especially for

Roasters is that since their buns are gigantic, the patty inside sometimes is unable to compete with it for size, which essentially means that some portion of the bun is invariably going to be empty.

Now, if you’re not offering any pasty sideline, what is the customer going to dip his empty bun into?

Pizza Hut came with the novel solution of filling the crust ends with either cheese or sometimes even seekh kabab, and that strategy proved to be quite successful. While

Roasters can’t offer that option, it can certainly make do with the earlier solution of coleslaw.

And that is the only real shortcoming of

Roasters’ burgers. Otherwise they are the very best you’ll find in town at a price that is pretty competitive.

Roasters Coffee House & Grill- Riding High

Roasters started out as a coffee house but then popular demand by the regular clientele forced the owner Nadeem Raja to introduce main entrées into the foray, as revealed by him to Mahmood Nanji on the program Success Stories.

With time, Roasters has morphed into a full-fledged restaurant with the coffee business confined to a mere sideline option.

If you’re familiar with most of the upscale restaurants in town including Roasters, you will notice Roasters has an uncanny resemblance to one particular joint. In fact most of the items on display are identical. That place is Arizona Grill and the reason is both joints are owned by Nadeem Raja.

Wouldn’t that lead to cannibalization of sales? To an extent, yes. Fortunately, they are not located that close to each other, although all the four joints are in the same locality, two at Zamzama and the other two at Bahadurabad and Sindhi Muslim Society.

The most similar dish and probably the best item on both restaurants’ menus is the Battered Fried Shrimp. Heavenly stuff, these shrimps.  The surprise element was the price. At Arizona Grill, this dish costs almost Rs.600 whereas at Roasters it is priced less than Rs.500! Talk about brand premium. There’s literally no difference in the taste, quantity or even in the presentation, apart from the garlic sauce that is served with Arizona version but is absent in the Roasters version.

Roasters- Battered Fried Shrimp

There are of course, differences as well. Crepe is one of the specialties of Roasters but nowhere to be found in Arizona Grill.

The quantity, well, Arizona Grill fares a wee bit better on this aspect than others.

We tested five of their main entrées, and found their sumptuous factor to be remarkably high compared to their contemporary restaurants. The Onion and Pepper Chicken was the worse of the lot, and even that wasn’t all that bad. The chicken itself wasn’t badly done, there was the strange sprinkling on top that spoiled the whole dish.

The chicken waffle is a bold dish for two reasons. One, waffle is not something that is known amongst the Pakistani consumer, let alone be popular amongst it. Secondly, waffle is mostly used as a morning or evening snack; on top of that it is slightly sweet. Our consumer may have become accustomed to the red-sauce sweet-and-sour chicken and prawn and what not, getting used to waffle may take time or may not happen at all. It’s bound to become popular only if more and more eateries start serving it.

Roasters- Chicken Waffle

The Roasters’ chicken waffle was alright, nothing extraordinary. We felt that the waffle itself could have been done a whole lot better. It should have been soft but was quite hard.

The solitary beef burger on the menu was not only tasty but humongous. It ought to satiate the appetite of even the ‘healthiest’ of eaters.

The two crepes that we tried were simply divine. Even the now defunct Crepe Factory couldn’t come up with this level of’ scrumptulicious’.

The pasta was the second best thing on the menu, with just the right amount of spices and herbs used to accentuate the flavor.

Both the joints, Zamzama as well as Sindhi Muslim Society, were checked out and the ambiance, service and food were found to be remarkably uniform. Service was good enough, although at the Sindhi Muslim outlet when we ordered different forms of potato with different dishes, we got only the French fries with each one. Minor glitch.

The privacy factor could be jacked up a bit, although it’s far better than others of its kind especially at Zamzama.

It’s marketing strategy is a little bit subdued. They have come up with the standard lunch deal which most of the upscale restaurants are following diligently – buy one and get the other at 50% off. However the way this promotion is presented at all restaurants including Roasters – “50 % off Lunch Deal”, it gives the impression that you would only be required to pay 50% on your total bill. A bit deceptive, especially since the actual deal doesn’t offer that much of a difference in the total bill.

Why? Many reasons. For one, the GST is not included in the waiver. Then the deal is valid for only the main entrée. Any appetizer or dessert you order will be charged at full price. And the biggest of all, you need to order even number of main entrees to be eligible for the meager discount. If you order 3 or 5, only one dish would be eligible for the discount.

And herein lies an opportunity for some shrewd restaurateur to tinker with the terms of the deals and make it more attractive than what the rest of the bunch is offering. How?

Include even the starters and desserts within the deal. Then if a customer orders three or five dishes, offer a 25% discount on the odd one out. And if someone is bold enough to order seven dishes, how about the eighth one completely free? These small measures have the potential to tilt the level playing field in the favor of the restaurateur who implements them, that is if, someone is bold enough.

A great opportunity which almost all restaurateurs fail to take advantage of is offer tantalizing deals on the slowest day, which for most is Monday nights. Gun Smoke is one shrewd place which is offering Eat All You Can deal on a Monday night although the deal is a bit too stifling. Then Aqua Lounge is offering a Crab Buffet on Monday night. Although not a bad idea, but who would have a crab-only buffet on Monday of all the nights, and that also for Rs.1000+ tax?

That’s literally creating a barrier for anyone even remotely interested in that deal. So what gives?

Your deal has to be too good to be true, yes it has to be that irresistible, even if it means you don’t make any profit on it. After all your purpose is turn the slowest night into the fastest one, to make sure that the place is thronging with people and people are falling over each other to get their hands on that deal. What this would do is stir a commotion and spread like wildfire. No one to date has been able to conjure up this sort of hysteria on a slow night, weekend yes but not when the going is tough.

Coming back to Roasters, apart from this one deal, there’s no deal, advertising or brand awareness strategy by them. All the branding endeavors are internally driven. They don’t even have a Facebook page which is a major shortcoming considering that almost the upscale joints maintain a regular presence there, interacting with their customers, offering new deals and basically just keeping in the thick of things. It’s even more bizarre since the sibling brand Arizona Grill does have a major presence on facebook with more than 12,000 fans.

Although there’s a group by its name, it’s probably created by a fan and doesn’t have much to offer, not even the menu.

All in all, Roasters has done tremendously well to rise up to the first-tier upscale restaurants from being a mere coffee shop, competing with the category leaders, leaving even the parent brand Arizona Grill behind.

Deli Restaurant – Needs To Fight Hard

Deli has been around for quite some time but hasn’t really caught the fancy of the Zamzama hopping eataholics. One reason could be its obscure location, nestled between two non-descript shops in an equally non-descript by-lane of Zamzama. They say the best location to open a shop is right across the road from your competitor. Unfortunately for Deli, there’s a wall in front of it. Another thing not going in its favor is the absence of other eateries in that lane. Continue reading Deli Restaurant – Needs To Fight Hard

Once Upon A Time At Arizona Grill

Arizona Grill was one of the early brands to jump on the bandwagon jumpstarted by Copper Kettle. Pre-CK era, Chinese restaurants ruled the roost. Then came CK and the café-esque culture with bizarre names and menus chalked on blackboards came into vogue.

While many restaurants and cafes that emulated this style crashed and burned, Arizona Grill is going steady after almost a decade of existence. Arizona Grill was a me-too brand that started out fixated with CK, so much so that it even copied some of the menu items, including the famed Continue reading Once Upon A Time At Arizona Grill

New Nan King – Just Another Chinese Brand?

Back in the 80s, when café rage was yet to hit the Karachi foodscape; branded franchise (Pizza Hut, KFC & McDonalds) were non-existent, and places like Copper Kettle and the Zamzama street were still in the womb, Chinese restaurants were the place to hit if you wanted to have an upscale eating out experience. Most of the Chinese restaurants in the city including Peking, Kowloon and Hong Kong were concentrated in the PECHS and Bahadurabad area. And the king of the lot was none other than Continue reading New Nan King – Just Another Chinese Brand?