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Pakistanis line up for American burgers

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 7:46 p.m.

KARACHI, Pakistan — On a Saturday afternoon in Pakistan, dozens of teenagers and young families stand in line at an upmarket Karachi mall, waiting to order burgers at the latest fast-food store in town.

“I've been coming here every alternate day for the past month to see if it's opened yet or not,” Hana Khan, consultant for restaurant delivery website foodpanda, said at the Jan. 5 launch of Fatburger, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based chain that operates in 14 countries outside the United States.

Within two hours of the doors opening, all 130 seats inside were taken.

Local and overseas business groups are lining up to buy franchise rights in Pakistan for an array of popular food sold from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, driven by rising demand from a booming middle class in South Asia's second-biggest economy after India. Pakistanis increasingly flock to American food outlets, even as ties between the two nations are strained by U.S. drone strikes in the northwest of the country.

“Food is universal; it transcends politics,” Don Berchtold, president and chief operating officer of Fatburger North America Inc., said at the Karachi opening. “In food, people don't look at relations between countries. They just want to eat.”

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