By Shahzad Raza:
Otherwise known as inhabitants of a ‘dead’ city, Islamabadites are waking up from their social hibernation – thanks to newly developed coffee corners which offer a quick escape from mid-day stress or welcome people for after-work intermingling.
And the monopoly of elite Kohsar Market that was the only stop for the evening socialites is no more. The Gol Market of sector F-7 was the first to make dent in Kohsar Market domination. Now a coffee, ice cream and deli corner in F-11 Markaz has pulled most of the young crowd.
These places are no teen-specific or gentlemen-only. Where college buddies puff ‘blue-mist’ Sheesha, the serious talkers discuss their future business plans over shots of espresso. They cater to everyone who just wants some fresh air or food or exchange banters with friends.
“I consider it a cultural change. Islamabad needed it. I hope our business so as this trend would flourish in the years to come” says Malik Sohail, owner of a food outlet “Locarno” in F-11 Markaz.
When he moved to Islamabad from Karachi a few years ago, he was dreaming of doing something unique and profitable. “Only profit making is not the point. Equally important is what difference you are making among all competitors,” he explains.
He named his restaurant after a beautiful city of Switzerland he often traveled to during his life of global wandering. So far the restaurant is coming out as a good hit with customers ranging from corporate executives of nearby multinationals corporations to teenage students from the surroundings.
“Though we welcome a large number of young customers everyday, our main source of earning is our corporate customers. We earn around 80 percent of our revenue from the people working in nearby offices,” he reveals.
Yet the young crowd is the lifeline of such places. They add energy, color and laughter to the atmosphere. As winter recedes the crowd is registering a pleasant increase. It is worth going there in the evening.
Coffee lovers in Islamabad were delighted when a famous Australian chain “Gloria Jean’s” kicked off its venture here. After getting tremendous response in Kohsar Market, it now established another franchise in F-11 Markaz next to creamy sweet delicacies of “Tutti Frutti.”
These coffee corners housing national and international chains of eateries are comparatively expensive. Those who spend here don’t solely pay for the coffee or snacks. Majority doesn’t mind “overcharging” given the leisurely atmosphere they would enjoy with each sip of coffee or with every bit of Panini.
In all three discussed places, the managements have been mindful of the modern tastes and trends. The seating arrangements are inspired from outdoor coffee and deli outlets in the West. Those who have lived or traveled abroad find them a decent alternate of Starbucks or Au Bon Pain or Caffe Nero.
“It’s a very healthy activity I believe. I come here everyday after work. Often, I start my day by buying coffee from here. It’s always relaxing out here,” comments a top corporate executive Imran Akhter Shah.
People from corporate world don’t mind spending a few thousands in each friendly rendezvous. A regular cup of coffee starts from Rs 350, a sandwich from Rs 500. For some eating here has become a status symbol.
The sudden popularity of F-11 Markaz compared to Kohsar Market was because of the former’s isolation from most of the developed sectors. Besides, F-11 Markaz is housing several multinationals including the headquarters of a cellphone company and cigarette manufacturers. Moreover, a luxury apartment-community has also flourished in F-11 in recent years.
The invasion of corporate executives to F-11 Markaz eateries during lunch time reminds one of the Wall Street (of New York City) culture where hundreds of barrows offer ready-made take-away food. The idea behind this eating culture of the Wall Street is to restrict bankers, stock brokers and other executives enjoy long lunches, as every second in world largest stock exchange counts.
Lunches at F-11 Markaz are also quick. There is a high rate of ordering take-away food and coffee.
“I feel good being here. Good coffee, good atmosphere, good people. I enjoy whenever I am here,” says Urooj Raza, a regular visitor. The place is simply amazing for social networking and to make new friends or just enjoy the company of old ones.
The food and coffee shops at F-11 Markaz are a buzzword among the young crowd. It is commonly believed the genes of emotions are found in abundance in young blood. And such people publically display their emotions every now and then.
At F-11 coffee corner where lovebirds commonly tweet, there is no dearth of jealousy-stricken rivals. Most recalcitrant scions of local ‘chieftains’ are fond of creating fuss when things don’t turn up according to their wishes and mood.
The other day, when a damsel refused to respond to meaningful vibes of a scion of a well-known politico-religious leader, he parked his SUV right behind her small 660 cc. More unfortunate sight was the presence of armed guards along with the young chap brandishing automatic weapons. The sorry incident ended quietly only after someone from the management intervened.
The growing influx of raucous scions of wealthy families at F-11 coffee corner is dangerous enough to tarnish the whole project. This may force people to revert to Kohsar Market, where the crowd still adheres to the norms of civility and decency.