We didn’t see a single McDonald’s between Zhengzhou in China and Lahore in Pakistan and we traveled more than 5,000km in between. That’s partly explained by the seemingly greater love for KFC in these parts of the world, but more so by the under development of Western fast food brands.
And then there it was, off the six lane highway between Islamabad and Lahore: the golden arches. So, Pakistan can’t be a stage one as it has some Western fast food brands. In fact, spending more time in Lahore, the country’s second largest city, we’ve seen a handful of McDs, KFCs and even Subway (no Starbucks though, much to Fiona’s chagrin). Still, the fact that there is none of that outside the biggest of cities puts Pakistan squarely in Stage 2: Western fast food is available in major cities (or tourist traps) but is prohibitively expensive for all but the richest.
As for prohibitively expensive, the concentration of fast food outlets in the parts of Lahore where not every woman is wearing a headscarf is instructive. Fast food cuisine is only really accessible to the richer, more cosmopolitan Pakistani. That’s not because, by our standards at least, the food is expensive. You can get yourself a decent looking spicy chicken burger and a drink for less than $2NZD. But Pakistan is dirt poor. Its PPP per capita s a shade over $3,000USD/year. That’s less than India, right next to Papua New Guinea, and just a little higher than the point in the list where almost everything becomes sub-Saharan African. It is the poorest place we have been on our travels this year. We estimate that travel here is about five times cheaper than at home.