Fast-food chains starved for customers during Ramadan

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Updated 04 June 2017
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Fast-food chains starved for customers during Ramadan

JEDDAH: Let’s face it. Saudis love their fast food. McDonald’s, Hardee’s and KFC are all wildly successful in the Middle East market, but are American fast food chains compatible with the very Middle Eastern rituals of Ramadan?
Not so much. For reasons only Arabs can explain, American fast food is not a good fit when it comes to traditional Middle Eastern food during Ramadan and other cultural and religious rituals.
Fast-food chains entice observers of the fast during the holy month of Ramadan with lower prices and all-you-can-eat offers. But is that enough to replace home-cooked meals with fried chicken and pizza?
Fast-food chains provide instant gratification for families on the go, and especially commuters on the way home from work as they try to get their takeaway before the restaurants close for prayer. But during Ramadan it is a far different story. Families breaking fast at sunset prefer home-cooked meals at home and reserve eating out for special occasions.
Ramadan is celebrated annually by Muslims who fast for about 30 days as the fourth pillar of Islam. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking beverages and smoking from sunrise — at Fajr prayer — until sunset when they break the fast for iftar.
Naif Al-Jabally, a supervisor for one of the McDonald’s restaurants in Jeddah, told Arab News that fast-food chains take a huge hit in food sales during Ramadan. Nearly every restaurant in the Kingdom is closed until after Asr prayer around 4 p.m.
Most fast food chains attempt to attract customers during Ramadan by offering special meals that include dates and with affordable prices as they remain closed during the day and open only in the evening.
McDonald’s, which has a delivery service year-round, offers deliveries during Ramadan from 9 p.m. to dawn. Yet marketing fast food during the holy month does not always work.
“There are way more customers during normal days (the rest of the year) than during Ramadan,” Al-Jabally said. “During Ramadan, we open at 5:30 p.m.”
And when customers do order a Ramadan meal, it is usually from the regular menu.
“There is no noticeable demand for the Ramadan meal,” Al-Jabally said.
Maha Nasir, 45, told Arab News that she likes to enjoy iftar outside the home, but at a restaurant that serves quality food. “We love to have iftar outside with the family once a week,” she said. “We like to go to the open buffet of any restaurant.”
Al-Baik, a Saudi favorite with a reputation for attracting crowds of patrons, also struggles during Ramadan.
“Customers are usually much more in number during the year than in Ramadan,” said a cashier at a Jeddah Al-Baik branch, who noted that the number of customers drop by nearly half during Ramadan.
In fact, Al-Baik makes no attempt to market Ramadan meals to its customers, preferring to stand by its main menu of roasted chicken and deep-fried shrimp.
Al-Tazaj jumps on the Ramadan bandwagon with a SR6 meal that includes dates, Laban, sambosa, soup, water, green salad and Arabic coffee.
Pizza Hut has a special Ramadan Box offer for SR89 that throws in sambosa with its regular pizza selections.
Restaurant operators, however, generally recognize that a fast-food meal defeats the purpose of iftar, which should be a light meal with perhaps something heavier later in the evening.
Maha Nasir makes it a point to avoid all fast-food establishments.
“My kids and I avoid fast-food during Ramadan as the meal because it will be full of fat and that is not good for our stomach. Iftar should be healthy. It can be grilled and contains salad or soup.”
For most families, Ramadan means home, family, fresh and home-cooked food.
Nora Al-Sabea, 29, and the mother of five, told Arab News that it is all about being at home.
“I don’t prefer iftar outside unless there is a family gathering,” she said.
But then, like every parent who is outnumbered by the children, they sometimes cave in to pressure.
“I prefer the food I cook myself. No way will there be fast-food unless the kids are insisting.”


GCC, global parliamentary groups warn Iran of consequences

GCC Secretary-General Abdullateef Al-Zayani
Updated 18 min 35 sec ago
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GCC, global parliamentary groups warn Iran of consequences

  • Maintaining security and stability in the region is the first priority of the Gulf states
  • Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of UNSC resolution 2216, as a UN panel has already identified missile remnants

RIYADH: A number of parliamentarians from different countries including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have warned Iran of grave consequences if it continues to indulge in proxy wars with neighboring Arab countries that threaten the peace and stability in the Middle East.

In statements issued on the 37th anniversary of the GCC’s establishment, parliamentarian criticized Iranian role in the Yemen conflict and Tehran’s continued support to the Houthi militias that have so far fired more than 100 ballistic missiles on Saudi Arabia.
“Maintaining security and stability in the region is the first priority of the Gulf states,” said GCC Secretary-General Abdullateef Al-Zayani.
Al-Zayani appreciated “the pivotal role of the Saudi leadership in backing the GCC General Secretariat to achieve the collective goals and implement the resolutions of the Supreme Council.”
He called on Iran “to refrain from meddling in the affairs of Arab nations, and stop supplying arms and ammunition to its Houthi militants to save Yemen from the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
The “All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Yemen” in the British Parliament last Wednesday released its annual report on the situation in the war-stricken country, warning, for the first time, of “Iran’s hand in the civil war and its attempt to project power on the Arabian peninsula.”
The APPG observed that “cooperation with non-state actors is an integral part of Iran’s foreign policy through which it seeks to consolidate power across the region.” As examples of this strategy, the group named Iran’s support for the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah, as well as Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq.
It further noted that “Iran’s stance against the war must be judged in the context of its desire to undermine the Western and Saudi influence in Yemen.”
The British group has warned that Tehran’s arming of the Houthi rebels has led to a “major escalation” in the conflict.
Commenting on these reports, Mohammed Al-Khunaizi, a Saudi Shoura Council member, said that “Iran has had complicity in most of the regional conflicts, and the involvement of Tehran has been hampering all efforts to restore peace and security in the Middle East.”
He said: “Iran is in non-compliance with paragraph 14 of UNSC resolution 2216, as a UN panel has already identified missile remnants, related military equipment that are of Iranian origin and were/are being used in Yemen.”
“The growing involvement of Iran in the affairs of the Arab nations has led many of its Arab neighbors to distance itself from Tehran,” said Dr. Ibrahim Al-Qayid, the founding member of the National Society of Human Rights (NSHR).
In fact, the Arab League has recently supported Morocco’s decision to sever ties with Iran over its support for the Polisario Front, he said.