TGI Fridays makes a comeback to Karachi after a hiatus of more than 12 years. Back then it opened shop at one of the most happening places of Karachi – The Point – now popularly called the Park Towers.
The Point was the place to be in 1998 as the mall culture hadn’t taken hold of this coastal town yet, and it was for all intents and purposes the start of that culture. And TGI Fridays was smack in the middle of this metamorphosis/paradigm shift.
We did have some good times there as it was the hangout for teenagers. It also was probably the first restaurant that kickstarted karaoke nights in this part of the world.
Sadly TGI Fridays couldn’t capitalize on it and left the Pakistani shores just a few short years later. It’s back again in town, and this time around it’s not in an envious position since the location isn’t very flattering, and the Karachi market is brimming with foreign franchises. Back then the Pakistani consumers didn’t have access to so many choices.
We decided to take TGI Fridays for a spin to see whether they have learnt any lessons from their last experience and offering something different especially when it comes to Ramadan deals.
TGI Fridays wasn’t very keen to offer any Iftar deal in Ramadan even in their last outing in Karachi, and although this time around they’re offering a deal, they might as well have not offered anything at all. That’s because their Ramadan deal isn’t adding any value to the customer.
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal
So what is TGI Fridays’ iftar deal all about?
Frankly, it’s one of the worst iftar deals I’ve come across in my 14 years experience of dissecting Ramadan deals. Not because of the items it is offering in its deals, but because of the actual value it is offering to the customers.
TGI Fridays is charging Rs.1395 + tax = Rs.1618.2 for its so-called Iftar deal. But if you buy all the items in this deal individually, the price comes out to be the same, and in some cases, less than the deal. So in reality, you lose money when you opt for this deal.
The following are the items TGI Fridays is offering part of the iftar deal:
- Portion of Bean Fries
- Soup of the Day/Salad
- One main entrée from a selection
- Soft drink/mineral water/iced tea
Now let’s do a simple calculation to determine the value if you bought them individually:
- Portion of Bean Fries Rs. 300/3 = Rs.100
- Soup of the Day/Salad = Rs. 325
- One main entrée [Say Fish & Chips] = Rs.625
- Soft drink/mineral water/iced tea [soft drink] = Rs.125
- Grand Total = Rs. 1175
See what I mean? You could have had all this at only Rs.1175 instead of the Iftar deal of Rs.1395 if you bought it out of the deal. Even if you the bean fries at full Rs.300, even then the total price comes out to be Rs.1375, Rs.20 less than the Iftar deal price.
Yes, restaurants make a killing in Ramadan season by offering enticing deals to lure the hapless customer. But in almost all of them, there’s a semblance of value addition for the customer and it’s not a complete rip-off.
Like I said before, TGI Fridays’ Ramadan offering is probably the worst iftar deal Karachiites have ever seen. And TGI Fridays needs to spank the naughty boy who came up with this raw deal for the customers. Not a good start for their first Ramadan after the comeback.
When you consider awesome deals like what Johnny Rockets is offering, this one just pales in comparison.
And now we dissect the items themselves in the Iftar deal.
TGI Fridays Cream Mushroom Soup
The soup of the day as part of the iftar deal at TGI Fridays that day was cream mushroom soup. And it was delectable. Contrary to what most restaurants serve, the soup had a hefty helping of mushrooms and the taste was enough to send your taste buds into overdrive. It got us all excited about the main course ahead. Little did we know what horrors lay ahead of us.
TGI Fridays Fried Mozzarella
As part of the Iftar deal, we were supposed to get the fried bean fries but instead they gave the fried mozzarella served with a sauce that use as base for a pizza. It was alright, nothing to write home about.
TGI Fridays Tennessee Grill Chicken
Now I’ve never been to Tennessee and apart from the fact that the place is crawling with ghosts and ghouls, which Hollywood flicks have led me to believe, I can’t really comment on how Tennesseans like to have their grilled chicken. But I can’t really believe they like to have their grilled chicken rock hard, as if it has been languishing in a hell-hole for centuries just like the ghosts of Tennessee’s, and that it has been set free just now by some accidental human intervention.
That’s how harrowing the grilled chicken experience was. Portion-size wise, it was one of the most substantial portions I’ve ever seen on a platter of grilled chicken in any restaurant. But then again, when you’re charging Rs.1025 plus tax for a mere grilled chicken, you better fill the plate properly. And fill they did with three large breast pieces sidled with a generous helping of fries and a not-so-generous one of onion rings. The two sidelines are a customer’s choice.
So the platter was enough to satiate your appetite. Only problem was, how to get through the ordeal of munching on centuries old chicken. You knew you were in for some hard times when you tried to slice your way through the first chicken breast. It was harder than cutting a piece of rare beef steak. And if by some miracle you did manage to cut off a piece, trying to chew it was a challenge that would have delighted the likes of Fear Factor participants.
And it was really mind-boggling because the presentation of the Tennessee grilled chicken was spot on.
Something just wasn’t adding up. You looked at the inviting chicken breast, your mouth salivated. You munched on the breast, your entire mouth went dry as if the chicken had sucked all your saliva into it.
There was a sort of a sauce that came with the chicken in a small pot that seemed to have a specific gravity even less than water! Now wait, it was a gravy. I’ve no idea what the hell it was, but it did nothing to ease the tormenting, apart from lending a sweetened taste to the whole proceedings.
We tried in vain to ease the suffering by adding the mustard, the bbq sauce, whatever we could find on the table one after the other. All in vain.
In the end we gave up. The damned chicken from the depths of Tennessean hell won.
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger
TGI Fridays Swiss Mushroom Burger was a treat to watch. It appeared large, with a succulent albeit rare beef patty sandwiched in between with a hefty dose of melted swiss cheese, mushrooms, pickles and onions.
Until we bit into it. The sensation was…….. nothing. Yep. You heard me. Nothing at all. No wait. That’s not entirely true. You could taste the pickles. But that’s just about it.
It really is a feat to devise a burger garnished with a dozen things and yet they all add up to a create a senseless sensation. We were a bit apprehensive about the rare beef patty since it looked almost raw- it was that pink. But our fears were unfounded. There wasn’t any taste in it.
Yet again, we were starkly reminded of the Tennessean connection. Maybe it wasn’t beef at all, but the remnants of a witch that was buried centuries ago in a Tennessee haunted house and now imported directly from that God forsaken place for the twisted palates of the Pakistanis. Scenes from the movie The Conjuring conjured up in our mind.
The only positive aspect of this fiasco is the freshness of the bun, something which is seen wanting at most foreign franchises. Moreover, the beef patty was thicker than the bun itself. Now if only it had some semblance of taste as well.
At Rs. 900 plus tax, it promises to stuff you silly without bothering your taste buds.
TGI Fridays Prayer Area
The prayer area was basically a corner in the main dining hall that was in full view of the public and could accommodate just one person at a time. However, that wasn’t much of a problem considering most of the diners weren’t bothered to offer their Maghrib prayers, so you could easily offer yours if you wanted to. But if you’re female, that could be a bit of a problem, unless you’ve no issues offering it in stark view of everyone in the diner.
TGI Fridays Iftar Deal Verdict
TGI Fridays may have positioned itself as casual dining the world over, but the prices they’re charging in this part of the world are way above what the casual diner pays in Pakistan. Casual dining in this part of the world means having a Rs.200-300 fast food or a plate of biryani at a local restaurant, not something in the range of Rs.1000-1500.
So TGI Fridays prices are skewed more towards the fine dining range, and as such when a discerning customer pays a visit, he will expect an experience a whole lot more than just casual in terms of the quality of food he’s being served, considering the price he’s paying for it.
TGI Fridays does appear to have made a comeback considering the crowd they’re pulling in right at the outset, but that can be a misleading indicator in a city where foreign franchises are a dime a dozen and competition from the local food operators is stiff.
If TGI Fridays can just add some zest to their offerings, it does stand a chance to not let history repeat itself.