The story of Café Flo

“Be good to people, because when you are good to people, people are good to you.” says, Florence Villiers, owner of Café Flo – one of the most popular eateries for Karachi’s urban elite.

Florence has had an extraordinary life. Growing up in a conservative family in France, she admits to being a misfit to tradition, and eventually making her own way out into the world – the highlights of which include hitchhiking across several continents, being jailed in a Pakistani prison, travelling to Karachi without a train ticket, and making the city her new home to raise a family in. All before launching a highly successful French restaurant.

We sat down with Florence to talk about her journey to Pakistan as a hitchhiker (01:00); how she met the son of Noor Jehan (who would later become her husband) (03:00), settling down in Lahore and Karachi (05:52), staying in Pakistan, (06:47) establishing Café Flo (09:23), and helping her son out with Xander’s (10:58) .

Villiers recalls how a role in a Morven Gold advertisement connected her with Akbar Rizvi, the son of Madam Noor Jehan – the pair eventually fell in love, married and moved to Lahore.

After returning to Karachi, Florence started teaching French at an American School, and took her first steps as an entrepreneur by initially running a friend’s boutique, and subsequently creating her own.

Florence asserts that it was the familial nature of Pakistan’s society that compelled her to stay in the country following her divorce in 1988. “I decided to stay because I had two [children], and I [felt] it was better to raise kids in Pakistan.”

Villiers found the inspiration for Café Flo while she was visiting her parents in the South of France. It was her children’s love for French Crêpe during their visit that motivated her to start a crêperie in Karachi, which turned into a full-blown restaurant because of the feedback she received.

Florence attributes much of her success to the staff that has been working at Café Flo for years. As a firm advocate of kindness and support in the workplace, she asserts that respect is critical for ensuring employee satisfaction, which also reduces turnover, a critical factor in the restaurant industry.

The legacy of restaurateurship at Florence Villiers’ household is now being carried forward by her son, Sikander Rizvi who started Xander’s in Karachi after studying hotel management in Europe (but mostly because of his mother’s gentle ‘persuasion’).

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