Boastful Buffets

Review by A Wannabe Food Connoisseur

Warning: I will be using the word ‘Ramazan’ instead of ‘Ramadan.’

The aura in the air and the diet schedules are not the only things that change in Ramazan. When it comes to the restaurant business, the changes cannot be ignored; this is proven by the fact that almost every single day there is someone posting on a food forum vis-à-vis “suggestions for a la carte iftaar options available” or “cheap but good quality iftaar buffet recommendations.” It is almost as if people in this restaurant business are waiting for Ramazan to maximize their profit. Firstly, every single restaurant, besides four to five, offers merely buffets in Ramazan – and the buffet prices are not shy. Secondly, as the days pass in Ramazan, the quality of food deteriorates strikingly.

This Ramazan, prices of iftaar buffets reach up to Rs. 2450 plus tax per head (Marco Polo) and the Suhoor prices go up to Rs. 1990 plus tax per head (Cosa Nostra) – excluding water bottles, that is. A sample of eighty restaurants was selected and the average price found was Rs. 1560 plus tax per head for iftaar. When ten fine dining restaurants were considered, this average went up to Rs. 1900 plus tax per head. A sample of 24 restaurants was chosen, as limited places offer suhoor buffet, and the average price came out to be Rs.990 plus tax per head. Furthermore, if we were to compare sahoor buffets with regular breakfast buffets, or compare iftaar buffets with dinner buffets, we will see a huge difference in the prices, yet not much in the menu items, ignoring the khajoor and one glass of Tang. (Here iftaar is not compared to hi-tea, as the menu items offered in both differ considerably, which defeats the purpose of the comparison.) For example, Verandra Bistro’s dinner buffet is Rs.1250 per tax per head during regular days, and their iftaar buffet price is Rs.2250 plus tax per head, almost double the amount. Similarly, La Atrium’s dinner buffet costs Rs.1099, and iftaar buffet costs Rs.1499. Perhaps these seem exceptions, however ten restaurants which offer dinner buffets regularly and iftaar buffets in Ramazan, have a difference, on average, of Rs.250. Even if these restaurants are offering some samosas and fruit salads with the dinner, they do reduce the number of main courses, which should balance the total. For example, the menu items on the dinner buffet at Veranda are forty-one while the menu items offered at their iftaar totals thirty-six (including the dates); why, then, is there such difference between prices is beyond reason.

These rising prices are escorted by diminishing quality of food items. There are stories that restaurants in Ramazan just recycle their food every day in order to cater to customers coming for buffets continuously (a source says advanced bookings start a month before). Since quality is a subjective matter, it is complicated to find evidence by measuring pre and post Ramazan food quality. The most we can rely on are reviews, and most of the bad reviews on food forums just mention how fresh the food was not. I myself have a few really bad reviews of places I adore during the other eleven months.

Despite these issues people continue to go eat out, which is why there is absolutely no sitting area at most restaurants, during iftaar specially; people seem to have accepted these rising prices. This time, however, the search for “a la carte options” shows that the problem is not too subtle anymore. Since this restaurant business has grown so rapidly, and continues to, perhaps a proper authority should be developed to take control of issues such as these – or can I just mail Ayesha Mumtaz about this too? Nevertheless, I suppose, Ramazan does show the ‘true faces’ of restaurants too.

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