Anti-American sentiment may have reached historical highs in this country, but for many Pakistanis the indignation does not extend to their bellies.
Over the past few days, Islamabad inaugurated its first Hardee’s restaurant and its first US-style sports bar. Recently, McDonald’s not only reopened its only restaurant in the capital but added a home-delivery outlet. These join existing burger joints and other American fast-food restaurants such as Pizza Hut, KFC and Domino’s Pizza.
The proliferation of American food options in Pakistan stands in stark contrast to the growing resentment most Pakistanis feel toward the US According to an opinion survey released last month by the Pew Research Center, only 12% of Pakistanis have a favourable opinion of the US, and 69% see US as more of an enemy than a partner.
Mohammad Nouman, a businessman from Peshawar, said he likes to stop by McDonald’s because his daughters enjoy the food and the attached playground.
He said he had misgivings about the US policy in the region, but he said these feelings and visits to McDonald’s are not incompatible.
“I don’t see things like, ‘this is an American brand so I shouldn’t go there’,” he said.
After opening its first restaurant in Lahore in 1998, McDonald’s now counts 21 outlets across Pakistan. Hardee’s launched the first of its four restaurants a year and a half ago and plans to open a total of 25 in five years.
Nowhere is Pakistanis’ love of US fast food more apparent these days than at the chain’s newest outlet. A few days after a much-hyped opening attended by US Ambassador Cameron Munter and his wife, lines of customers still extend outside the doors. Nawaz Sadiq, Hardee’s manager for development, said the branch has served an average of 6,000 customers a day so far.
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