If you are looking to be an entrepreneur, particularly in Pakistan’s food sector, the latest formula that guarantees a 90% success rate, unless your Chef is just too terrible at the skill, is to launch a foreign fast food franchise. It could be from anywhere in the world but as long as it’s foreign, our local population will immediately be attracted to it. We’ve always had an unexplainable admiration for the West. The latest to cash in on the romance is Golden Chick – a Texas-based fast food chain that thrives on selling fried chicken.
When Golden Chick first opened its windows in Dolmen City Mall’s buzzing food court in May, the idea was to tap into the country’s large segment of chicken lovers that reportedly consume about 834,000 tonnes of chicken in a year. It was obvious then that the place got instantly surrounded by long queues of hungry customers of all ages. However, regular visits to the mall have made one notice that the crowds have dispersed to a few on weekdays and slightly more on the weekends. The hype has died down. Of course, the owners would know better of the business side of things, but we shall give a verdict on the taste in order to explain our theory of why Golden Chick doesn’t seem to be buzzing with popularity among customers as it did when it started off.
The little eatery serves two kinds of chicken – deep fried and roasted. The roasted chicken is a cross between Lahori chargha and flame-grilled rotisserie chicken which has become quite the trend. The chicken is succulent, wholesome and well-seasoned for local tastes even if one doesn’t use the ‘Zing’ spicy seasoning that accompanies every dish as a condiment. However, it’s the fried chicken where the franchise is at a bit of a loss. Though crisp enough for that perfect crunch and cooked to the point where the meat is just melting off the bone, the chicken tastes downright bland. One in fact needs a whole lot of that Zing to satisfy the taste buds. The Chicken Strips suffer the same fate. We’ve had all sorts – stuffed, dynamite, jalapeno-crusted – with the same honey mustard sauce but these were comparatively a downer. Amidst strong competition from KFC, which is targeting a similar consumer market, and takes over about 37 percent of the fast food market share with its localized, spicy taste, Golden Chick will have to glocalize its product in order to survive.
Perhaps the best features of the menu are the freshly baked buns, which accompany all chicken dishes, and the crispy fat fries that are served coated in some fingerlickin’ mildly hot seasoning. As a loyal slim fries lover, these are the only fat fries that have impressed so far. And though slightly sweet in taste, the melt-in-your-mouth buns are heaven sent for those who can’t resist carbs. There are other items on offer too: salads, mac n cheese and chicken burgers that are all more or less an average affair.
The menu is reasonably priced unlike a bunch of other foreign fast food chains that have conveniently steeped prices because they boast of a Western label, and it also seems that the chain has its intentions in the right place. While on our food expedition, we were graciously visited by the owner who was eager to hear our feedback, offer replacements and suggestions and make relevant changes. As a franchise, there is often little room for change because one has to remain true to the essence of the original but it’s also important to note that every culture has its own requirement of taste. A few tweaks in regards to that and Golden Chick may be able to create its own niche too.