There was an article this week in the South China Morning Post discussing the latest victim from escalating rents in Hong Kong. The Press Room bar and restaurant on Hollywood Road will close this Friday. Food critic and restaurateur, Lau Kin-Wai, was quoted as saying that running a food and beverage business in Hong Kong was getting tougher not only because of increasing rent , but also because of rising labour costs. “You can’t hire staff even if you are willing to pay.” He further noted that young people did not want to get into the business today because of its tough nature.
I had a temporary lax of judgment this week when I invited a friend to eat dim sum with me at the Heichinrou Chinese restaurant in Central, right in the ground floor of my office building. I was a fan of their former Tsim Sha Tsui location and ate there often, admiring the good food and relatively affordable prices. I knew that the new location was far more elegant and expensive but was attracted by the tea time menu that started at 2pm. We arrived at the restaurant at 2:30 pm and were advised by a very unpleasant staff member that the tea sets were already sold out. Considering that the restaurant was virtually empty at this hour and that the tea set merely consisted of ordinary dim sum items available all the time, we questioned whether this was correct or not. After sitting down and sipping our tea we were finally able to order the sets after going through two more servers. We were hungry when we left (such small portions!) and vowed not to return. I often wonder why any restaurant owner would want to operate such a business when he could not even serve food he was proud of.
I still get many inquiries from USA restaurant chains wanting to franchise their concepts in Hong Kong. They always seem surprised that there are few takers. I guess I should take them to tea time at the restaurant in my building and hopefully they would understand!