FAST FOOD FRANCHISES

CHANGING EATING HABITS BY OFFERING CONSISTENT QUALITY

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
June 15 - 21, 2009

Going out with the family and eating out has become part of changing life style of Pakistanis. On the one hand it saves the housewives from the strenuous cooking in scorching heat and on the other hand allows the younger generation to eat different variants in rather cozy environment. The franchising has made the job even easier by offering an opportunity to eat at a preferred or convenient location. Consistency in quality of food and uniformity of the seating arrangement along with play areas for the children are the added attractions. The success of international brands has encouraged evolution of local brands and their franchising.

Historically, men have enjoyed the privilege of eating out. Either at lunch or at dinner they assemble, eat and socialize. However, women and children often feel deprived because they could not go to these crowded hotels and restaurants mainly due to their location and also the manners in which food is served. One of the primary concerns has been 'too spicy and too greasy dishes'. Though, Pakistanis still love to eat spicy and greasy food but those a little worried about their health are switching over to dishes containing lesser irritants.

The basic food component at these franchises is chicken offered in many variants. For centuries chicken has been considered food of rich or a special offering for the guests. However, buying quality chicken has always been a serious issue because of the outfit and environment of 'chicken shops'. Capitalizing on this problem and the strenuous job of cooking these outlets have freed the homemakers besides allowing them eating in cozy, clean and hygienic environment and making eating a pleasure.

The three most commonly known international fast foods restaurants operating in Pakistan are KFC, Macdonald's, and Pizza Hut. The first two are slightly more popular compared to the third one because of the diversity of products being offered. Pizza Hut also enjoys a niche market.

A specific mention of KFC is necessary because of the number of outlets being maintained. The KFC has more than sixty outlets operating in Pakistan, out of which nearly two thirds are located in Karachi alone. By maintaining uniformity of quality and keeping specific watch on the quality of chicken and bakery products they offer an opportunity to the customers to visit any outlet located at a convenient location. Saying this, in no way undermines the quality standards of other franchises.

It is necessary to remove some of the misconceptions about these franchises. To begin with these businesses are owned by Pakistani entrepreneurs who have invested millions of rupees. All the people working at these outlets are Pakistani. These outlets use chicken slaughtered according to Shariah and also cook it in vegetable oil. However, the local owners pay royalty fees for using the brand name to international franchiser. Therefore, any attempt to cause loss to these entities in no way affect foreign entities but Pakistani enterprises.

In the recent past, various attempts have been made to damage KFC outlets and Marriott hotel was attacked twice. The most recent incidence is suicide bombers' attack at PC Peshawar. Not only that colossal damage was caused to properties but more than hundred people have died in attacks on these business establishments. Ironically, the suicide bombers were brain washed for destroying 'foreign business entities' but the brain washers hardly realized that the victims (employees and the visitors) were mostly Muslims.

It is often said that conditions of workers working in street restaurants is disgustingly low because they get very low remuneration and probability of improvement in economic conditions of these people are low. This taboo has been broken by these franchises as they have elaborate human resource development programs. In this regards one just could not resist from quoting example of franchise holder of KFC in Pakistan. They hire deaf and dumb people for jobs not requiring direct interaction with the customers. They also contribute towards education through The Citizens Foundation and often invite children residing at 'Darus sakoon'.

The success story of foreign franchises operating in Pakistan has paved way for the development of local branding and franchising. Though, the success in not enormous a beginning has been made. Some of the leading names of yesteryear have vanished or reduced to very small size because they never thought of exercising franchising option. In a metropolis like Karachi going to certain locations and finding a place to park car is nothing less than a nightmare. Since most of these outlets were established in those areas decades ago expanding seating arrangement or cooking areas is just impossible due to phenomenal cost.

Similarly, a lot of people hardly realize that establishing a brand name takes years and decades. As against this the advantage of acquiring a franchise is easy and attracting customers does not pose problem because customers are assured of quality standards. However, acquiring franchise is not an easy task. The interested parties have to have sufficient funds, develop a team, and then maintain quality standards.