As you begin to drive down the two-way Merqab St., you smell noodles dipped in steaming soup of chicken, onions, carrots and celery. Driving further down the street, you can smell grilled chicken and meat ready to be mixed with cucumber pickles, lettuce, French fires and Arabian sauce wrapped in oil-soaked bread. As you reach the end of the busy street, the smell of deep fried chicken with seasoned crispy skin that rushes down your stomach.
Al Merqab St. is a one-stop shopping area to taste Asian, Arab, Eurasian and American cultures. There are approximately 30 restaurants on the street of which three are Asian, four are American and the remaining 23 are a mixture of Eurasian and Arabic restaurants.
Competition is rising among these restaurants as more restaurants have opened in Al Merqab St. for only weeks or months. City Candle Lights Lebanese Restaurant opened just a month ago.
“Business is light here,” said Shakib Ali, the owner of City Candle Lights Lebanese Restaurant. “You can see only a car every half an hour.” The restaurant has been on Al Merqab St. for approximately a month after the original restaurant burned in the Airport St. “We came to Al Merqab because it’s the most convenient place to be.” Ali doesn’t see the business picking up in the future neither does he see competition among his restaurant and other businesses. “We just sit in our restaurants and watch our own business, we don’t have time to pay attention to others.”
Like Ali, Hakan Kizilkaya, the owner of Turkey Central Restaurant, there’s no competition between restaurants in Al Merqab St. “The restaurants don’t see how other restaurants are successful, we just watch out for our own success.” The Turkey Central Restaurant has been on the street for 24 years and since has gained a reputation for the best chicken and meat grills. “You want to know why our restaurant is so popular? Try our food and you’ll get the answer,” added Kizilkaya.
“We haven’t tried anywhere else cause this is good,” said Adam George, a customer who made it a habit eating at the Turkey Central Restaurant, putting a slice of sesame bread with a piece of seasoned grilled chicken into his mouth.
But according to Joel Esteban, the chief manager of Mary Brown, competition is tough. “It’s difficult because there are now many restaurants,” said Esteban. For the two-year-old restaurant, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is the competition on Al Merqab St. as both restaurants specialize in fried chicken. KFC receives at least 200 orders a day whereas Mary Brown receives at least 100.
Some restaurants, which have been on Al Merqab for many years, are leaving the street in two months because the government told them to. Al Rawchee, which has been on the street for 27 years, is one of these restaurants.
Sameer Awani, the manager of Al Rawchee watched Al Merqab St. grow from a desert to one of Qatar’s most prominent streets in the last few years. “We’re not thinking of moving faraway from the area,” said Awani. “We want to stay close to Al Nasr.”
Like Awani, Laiad Mahamek, the manager of the Thai Snack and Thai Massage, is looking for a place to re-open the restaurant because the restaurant owner wants to demolish the restaurant to set-up his own business, except Mahamek has one to two years to do so.
“The set up looks like a Filipino set up,” said Kenworth Sicsic, a regular customer of Thai Snack and Thai Massage. “The food is fitting to our taste.” Sicsic finds that eating at the restaurant is better than eating at a fancy or shawerma restaurant. “Here you get to share your food with someone else,” said Sicsic. “With most Asian they like to share.”
Domino’s Pizza is approximately two-years-old, and the main branch on Al Merqab St. “We cater different kinds of businesses, we’re competitors but in a different kind of business,” said Vanessa Calusay, the manager of Domino’s Pizza, about the competition of restaurants on the street.