Soaring inflation and a stuttering economy hasn’t gotten in the way of a bumper opening for Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons’ maiden Pakistan outlet.
The Lahore branch has seen long queues since its launch Feb. 11, marking the biggest opening for “Tim Hortons outside of Canada and the US in the last decade” said a spokesperson for Restaurant Brands International Inc., which owns the chain. Pakistan is “one of the fastest-growing markets for coffee chains,” she said.
Tim Hortons plans to open two more branches in the city this month. The success of the coffee shop, where a cappuccino costs 550 Pakistani rupees ($2), comes even as the nation is skating on the verge of bankruptcy. The economic pain is visible in fuel and medicine shortage as the government takes tough measures, including raising taxes, to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund.
The crisis has pushed millions into poverty in the South Asian nation as inflation soared to nearly five-decade high and the currency plunged sharply, making imports costlier. The queues outside Tim Hortons underscore the sharpening inequality in the nation.
Karachi’s Rashid Seafood, which reported a 50% drop in sales this winter as middle class customers stayed away, is mostly serving the higher income segment now. In another sign of the widening rich-poor divide, Pakistan’s car sales dropped to the lowest in almost three years last month, while luxury car sales jumped.
The elite are able to ward off the impact of such events everywhere, said Saad Khan, head of research at Karachi-based IGI Securities Ltd. “When we talk about the masses, obviously they are impacted by one of the biggest crisis that nation has ever seen.”