Mar 10 - 16, 2008

Food streets are popularized worldwide because of its underlying tendency to build coordination among its food servers and to develop pleasant infrastructure based on collective approach in satisfying eat-out habits of eaters. The realization about the innate purpose of the food street is taken slowly in Pakistan; however, it will turn out to be a lucrative sector specifically in the Karachi, where foreign investors have shown their interests to invest in building food streets if public private partnership ties up. One such food street with foreign collaboration at Native Jetty is nearing completion. Along with, City District Government of Karachi has received offers from various international fast food chains for establishing Food Street at recently constructed monumental and beautiful Bagh-e-Ibne Qasim park. In last three years, untiring efforts of city administrators especially of CDGK have done marvels to bring forward renaissance of Karachi's old days, when the city was acclaimed as "the city of light" and was strolled around for relishing bon journ and delicate gourmet in safe and secure ambience by the serene seekers. The restructuring of metropolitan outlook in line with the growing civic demands to a larger extent gives its citizenry a sigh of relief yet all-out redressal of formidable issues to have been springing up for over six decades, in such a small period of time, is in reality nerve-wrecking. One such issue is the absence of formalized food courts across the city. Karachi has the burgeoning population of nearing two crore that mainly consists of mid level income and comparatively literate group of people who are well savvy of food taste. Due to its population propensity to enjoy foods outside home and consider eating out as a recreational activity multitudes of hotels and motels are opened up. With cultural supplements these restaurants paint up attractions for locals in spite of high probability of their least stress on hygienic conditions. Similarly, barbeque shops have been embarking on in numbers across the city. Mostly, these shops partly use in-house space and are set up in open to be prominent. Inconsiderate of hygienic conditions and careless of many important health measures, they serve their customers. While they have superficial neat and clean eating arrangement they usually avoid spending a penny on to follow healthful serving practices.


Food court or Food Street is not a new concept. World over, densely populated cities with sizable consumer market have government supported food streets, composed of chain of restaurants and kiosks of munchies. Legal status by the government to food streets oblige sellers of food items to abide by the municipal laws. Therefore, food sellers are more likely to work together for the society as a whole instead of to commercialize their business only for making profits. On one hand, legal status bounds them to fulfil social obligations they entitle in course of selling foods and gives them preferential and industrial privileges on the other that increase economic activities in consolidation. In Pakistan, very few food streets have so far earned legal stature by the government nonetheless there are numerous local and international restaurants operating their businesses across the nation rather in more isolated manners while collectivism will prove itself as a driver of economic growth and bring progress in the food industry. Melody and Gawal Mandi, located in Punjab, are amongst few exemplary and well known food streets of the country. Ironically, there are no such quotable examples in case of the 12th largest mega city of the world, Karachi. In no doubt, thousands of scattered shops are in the city giving satiable eating experience to the citizens, the lack of proper and standardized eat-out locations rarely encase enjoyable experience for them. On finds it nuisance to enjoy food for instance in a crowded "Burns Road, which has several restaurants as well as food stalls famed for their delicious offerings, owing to routine vehicular traffic congestions and filthy scenic surroundings intensified by encroachments.


Once ballyhooed, this famous food junkies yard was never declared as Food Street, said a senior official of enterprises and investment promotion, CDGK. He said despite of several meetings between E&IP and representatives of the market, food street status to the Burns Road is still pending. Basically, the lacklustre response of food sellers obstructed our decision of declaring it a food street while the department has already chalked out a plan to facilitate prerequisite requirements such as traffic diversion plan and allotting a parking zone. The department planned to stand proper foods kiosks on rent for small food sellers at the roadside to shape an orderly look. Food street status needs food stall holder and restaurant owner to beautify their surroundings. They earn substantial profits from customers; can't they spend a little on them? He believed they should be dealt with an iron hand. But, he added their exploitation under officialdom should also be stopped. He told that the department is also detecting vacant sites suitable for the food courts around the city. Safari Park and Bagh-e-Ibne Qasim are recognized sites for building food streets. The expressions of interests have already been received from international fast food chains like Papa Jones and McDonalds for Bagh-e-Ibne Qasim, he informed. The agreement is on build, operate, transfer or ownership basis. Bagh-e-Ibne Qasim holds profitable business for food items as it attracts thousands of visitors daily.

Food streets are very necessary to give quality foods in a quality environment to the community. However, the concern of small food sellers should also be taken care of by the government. In addition to this, the efforts of the government to mobilize interests of the restaurants in collective operation must be expedited. Food streets would not only mitigate the risk of health hazards associated with the unchecked sale of food items but the setups would also multiply the numbers of eating out eaters and incline traffic of customers towards food stalls and restaurants. Until public and private partnership solidify and financial cooperation between government and private sectors increase no community based project can be successful.