Restaurants and eateries across the world have taken a big hit due to the coronavirus pandemic, and things are no different in Pakistan, where a vibrant food scene faces an existential crisis as customers remain locked up at home.
With restaurants only allowed to deliver food and many customers still highly suspicious of anything that has not been prepared by their own hands, some enterprising eateries have come up with a novel solution:
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) food kits.
The concept is simple: instead of cooked food, restaurants deliver safely and hygienically packaged ingredients to customers’ homes. Customers are given a set of instructions with the kit that can help them cook their favourite dishes at home by their own hand.
Here are list of restaurants who are offering this unique service.
The Rice Bowl
For The Rice Bowl, a Lahore-based Chinese and Thai food restaurant led by Shazada Daniyal Farooq, DIY kits had been an interesting proposition even before circumstances necessitated them.
“We were actually thinking about it [selling DIY kits] for the past two to three months,” shared Furqan Bucha, a co-owner of the restaurant.
The coronavirus pandemic pushed them to speed up the roll-out.
Bucha said customers have grown worried about how their food is being handled and whether staff preparing their meals is being tested for the coronavirus or not.
“When we deliver DIY kits to the customer’s place, they can check the expiry date on the product [themselves] and, of course, cook food their own way,” he explained.
To make sure customers enjoyed the experience, it was important to keep the cooking instructions as simple as possible.
“The most important part of this experience is the fact that you can prepare a meal for four to five persons in under 15 minutes,” he said, “with the same quality, quantity, taste and aroma [as what you would get at The Rice Bowl].”
Bucha said that The Rice Bowl management had gone to great lengths to ensure that sanitation protocols were followed when they were about to launch their DIY kits.
“We sought help from our food technologist beforehand. We closed our restaurants and ensured our facilities were sanitized,” he said.
When asked whether the DIY kits were doing well, Bucha replied in the affirmative.
Karachi-based Burridos is also selling DIY kits of their Burgerito Wrap and their Crispy Chicken Wrap.
Burridos’ owner, Mustafa Khan, spoke to Geo.tv about why he decided to go this way.
“The coronavirus is the main reason for coming up with the idea,” he said. “Our customers were skeptical about hygiene conditions and wondered how clean our kitchen actually was. Not to say it isn’t, but you can’t cure a phobia now, can you?”
It was then that Mustafa thought of selling DIY kits as another way of allaying his customers’ concerns.
“We decided to offer them an alternative: make our food with your own hands and eat at your convenience,” he said. “It’s something new and we are enjoying providing the service as well.”
Mustafa said that the response to Burridos’ DIY kits had been impressive, and the restaurant had already sold 50-60 kits.
“We’re not pioneers [in selling DIY kits], I’ll admit it. But the idea is working,” he said.
Oh My Grill
“The OMG management decided to make DIY kits when we realized that people wanted to handle their food themselves in the [coronavirus] situation,” said Oh My Grill (OMG) CEO Asad Rehman.
“Whatever you’re consuming, you [want to] know it’s safe and hygienic.”
Rehman said OMG’s DIY kits were a success with the eatery’s customers.
“Masha’Allah, the sales are so impressive that we are not able to supply enough,” he said. “We have to turn down orders and apologise.”
He said that the main idea behind the kit was to provide affordable food to people everywhere. “I wanted provide four burgers for Rs1500, so that people from other than [Karachi’s] Clifton and Defence areas could buy them too,” he said.
“Of course, the product is the same that we provide in our restaurants. No difference in our quality or taste.”
Rehman said that the OMG kits were actually more convenient and easy to make. He said it only took five minutes to prepare a whole meal as opposed to other kits in the market.
“I tried a competitor’s DIY kit. It was a lengthy process as first you had to season the patty and do other stuff before your meal was ready. Ours only takes five minutes,” he said.
OMG, according to Rehman, is thinking about continuing the service even after the coronavirus situation is over and things go back to normal.
“We may keep this on a long-term basis. Think about it, you can refrigerate this food for a long time and make it as per your convenience. If a person wants to go to the beach, all he/she needs to do is bring the kit along and get cooking in a frying pan,” he said. “It all depends on the situation, the feedback and the numbers.”
He said that the service was helping ensure the restaurant pays its bills and staffers’ salaries. He urged people ordering food to exercise patience as it is often difficult for riders to deliver food on time due to the lockdown situation.
“We all have to be in this together,” he said.
Other than these restaurants, several other outlets are also selling DIY kits.