Last year in May, it was reported that Tim Hortons was planning to open an outlet in Pakistan.
In May, Tim Hortons posted on its official LinkedIn account that it would open a store in Pakistan this year.
Inflation was at 13.8% at the time, and the US dollar was worth Rs 200 in the interbank market.
In less than 9 months, the rupee is around 270; inflation is at 27.6% and is even set to increase further.
It hasn’t stopped Pakistanis from queuing for hours for coffee and pastries at the chain, which is owned by Restaurant Brands International Inc (RBI), a Toronto-based company that also owns Burger King and Popeyes. The chain just opened its first outlet in the South Asian country, just as the country’s economic crisis worsened.
Pakistanis have flocked to the cafe at an upmarket mall in Lahore since it opened on Saturday.
Fuel prices have also risen by almost a fifth in less than a month as the government implemented fiscal measures required to unlock funds from a bailout by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Meanwhile, the government has only enough foreign reserves to cover imports for just over three weeks.
The phenomenon reveals the dark side of Pakistan’s economy: the divide between the different socioeconomic groups.
In an interview with the press, Ahmad Javed, a medical student who used to go to Tim Hortons while living in Canada, said that higher prices don’t really matter for the class of people coming here. The rich in Pakistan are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer while the middle class is struggling.
In its online menu, a small brewed coffee costs 350 rupees ($1.30), while a large flavored coffee costs twice as much.
With 230 million people and a $350-billion economy, Pakistan remains a growth market for fast-food restaurants. The average government-mandated minimum wage is 25000 rupees or 95 USD a month.
Tim Hortons is set to open two more outlets in Lahore, RBI said in a statement. McDonald’s, Retail Food Group-owned Gloria Jean’s Coffee, and Yum Brands Inc-owned Pizza Hut are among the international brands with outlets in Pakistan.
Blue Foods operates the franchise. Both companies declined to give details about the outlet’s first week’s sales.
Among students social media traction trumps price. “I’m here to taste the coffee that’s the top social media trend. I don’t care what the price is.” said a student to our correspondent.
Meanwhile, Islamabad is currently engaged in virtual talks with the IMF to unlock a bailout program that was stalled last September.
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