Dark side of booming restaurant culture in Dhaka

Restaurants are mushrooming around the Dhaka city scenario at lightning speed. Even a decade ago, we had very limited number of restaurants to go and enjoy a decent meal. Now, there are hundreds if not thousand. However delicious their foods are, we cannot brush aside the health effects of such dining habit. Zaara Zareen explores different aspects of the changed Dhaka dining trend.

110923_102_1160_OTc3Mjk0NzUxMjEyNzcxMjkyMAI still remember the days when there were only a handful number of restaurants in Dhaka. Helvetia was the go to choice for fast food for almost every alternate family.  Their fried chicken meal with a side of their signature coleslaw is still reminisced about even today. As for Bengali and Indian cuisine, Shwad Tehari Ghar and Star Kabab were popular among the limited available options. Fast forward to today, and there are restaurants in every other lane. As progressive as this is, the question is how healthy are the meals offered by all these restaurants?

An evident change has taken place in the restaurant scenario and food consumption of Dhaka since the past decade. People are more oriented towards Western, Thai, Chinese cuisines now. An addition of Japanese cuisine has also turned into a new favourite. People who would cringe at the thought of raw fish are more open about their food choices now. Most of these restaurants are mainly located in areas namely Dhanmondi, Banani and Gulshan, thus covering neighborhood with upper income tire people or university students. In addition to restaurants, coffee places have also increased largely in number to meet the demand of people’s increasing coffee intake.

With a limitation of fun activities around, most people also opt to go to these restaurants and cafés to spend quality time with their loved ones. Common customers are usually amongst the younger generation. Restaurants are not too far behind in making full use of this dependency. From time to time they keep coming up with attractive offers to lure more and more customers. As much as these offers might seem like a win, how healthy they actually are, is a matter of much speculation.

Similar offers about set meals consisting of fried rice, fried chicken, curries, pasta et cetera included within a range of 250 taka are seen everywhere. As enticing as these meals might seem, how so many things are included within a limited budget as such are quite questionable. Based on this a raid carried out in a well known mall’s food court led to the discovery of these set meals being cooked in unhygienic kitchen environments. Many places also go as far as to using chickens which die of diseases to reduce the production cost. I personally have been a witness to a van carrying dead chickens once. After much persistent questioning, the driver had named a few known restaurants around town which they would supply the dead chickens to.

Another ongoing trend includes challenges about finishing a burger in three bites, finishing a 12 inch pizza in five minutes and so on. The prize of winning these challenges being, not having to pay. An alarming number of videos of people carrying out these challenges have been floating around social media. From teenagers to people in their mid 20s are the usual participants. This gives a whole new meaning to the act of going out to eat at a restaurant. The choking hazards of these kinds of challenges are also not given priority to at all.

Another new trend includes pouring steaming hot, molten cheese in layers on top of pasta right in front of the customer.  These are all gimmicks being used to attract customers, specifically the younger generation, while bluntly ignoring all the hazards they are giving rise to.

The United States has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults at a 13%. Their fast food chains are mainly to blame for this. Sadly, at the rate our restaurants are going, it might not take us too long to catch up.

Including cardio vascular diseases and spiking the blood sugar level, fast food can lead to depression, hormone disruption and low fertility rate. We are heading towards doom at such a dangerous rate. The younger generation has a whole life ahead. If matters are not taken in hand seriously, the worst kind of disaster will be led to in the upcoming years. About time these restaurants stop thinking about their profit and more about the people. Mostly,  about time the hyped young generation became slightly bit more concerned about their own good.

Zaara Zareen is a student of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.



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