KARACHI: The pavement tables are out again. Parking around restaurants and eateries is hard to find again. Once again, the waiters with menus in hand are seen racing towards cars looking for a parking spot.
During the day, they can be seen taking care of other minor arrangements, folding paper napkins, etc, in anticipation of the evening rush. But for now, as outdoor dining has been allowed at eateries again, the expectations seem to be exceeding reality.
There are the delivery boy motorbikes with boxes parked there also to pick up orders and deliver. The waiters don’t pay any heed to them. They won’t be getting any tip from that source. “I would only be making parcels for them during the lockdown and get nothing in return for myself from them as they would pay the restaurant and leave,” Muneer at Boat Basin, Clifton, told Dawn.
Aamir, chasing cars alongside Muneer, says that all the waiters who were still retained by their bosses would leave for home early. “There would be no demand for us. We were just grateful to still keep our jobs as we only had our meagre salaries to live on, no tips in the evening as no restaurant was allowed to entertain customers in person then,” he shrugged.
‘All of us vendors and eating places have disposable masks and sanitisers for our customers’
“We made tips during the day as people would give orders from their cars to us for the food we would pack for them to take home,” said Fayyaz, a little before the popular Boat Basin area, where the famous chaat house and snack bar Flamingo is located.
“Many waiters who could ride bikes or owned bikes, were turned into delivery boys and they were able to make a good amount in tips that way, but not all of us were that lucky so we wrapped up early,” he added.
At Karachi’s other famous food street, Burnes Road, the roads are once again closed for traffic as the tables are set for customers. The vendors, from chaat-wallahs, to seafood sellers, the kheer and rabri-wallah, the gulab jamun-wallah all have smiles on their faces.
“The splendour and brilliance will return to Burnes Road soon. Making takeaway packages for customers was no fun as we missed the people enjoying the food we prepared for them here only,” said Mohammad Khaliq of Babu Special Fish Fry. “Now we are also to close precisely at 12am and we will. The place will again turn into Cinderella’s pumpkin,” he laughed.
Adnan of Adnan Chaat House said that he was pretty much out of business after they imposed a ban on open dining due to the pandemic. “But thank God that the government allowed it now. But we are also not taking things lightly. All of us vendors and eating places have disposable masks and sanitisers for our customers. We need to make sure that proper SOPs are observed or else there will be another ban on dining out,” he said.
Irfan Illahi, the owner of Waheed Hotel, said that he was happy to not just see open dining allowed again, he was also glad to see the waiters busy again. “They themselves seemed bored of sitting idle. We seemed like we were overstaffed, yet we retained our waiters because we had faith that sooner or later things would improve,” he said.
“Even though there was and still is the option of takeaway or ordering from home and home delivery, there are certain things such as barbeque that is best when eaten fresh, hot and right there. Food that has to be re-warmed doesn’t taste the same after all,” he said.
“Still,” he said looking around, “we are hoping to see more people here as they learn that dining out is allowed. Things will get better and better from now on, especially during weekends.”
Tabish Ismail, a diner, was there at a table at Burnes Road with his young better half and two toddlers waiting for their order. “It was a rather spontaneous gesture, or rather an impulsive one, on our part to come here today. We saw on the news that open dining was allowed again and just decided to have an evening out. We are glad we came here. We were in desperate need of an outing,” he smiled.
Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021