I am constantly approached by international chains who want to set up their business first in Asia by finding partners in Hong Kong and Singapore. For some reason, these companies think that the populations of these city states are more cosmopolitan and therefore more receptive to these brands. This may be the case for fashion or cosmetics but not for restaurants. Dining out is very close to a country’s culture and palate preferences and a success in either city may not translate very well to neighboring countries.

Both Singapore and Hong Kong are small city states with primarily Chinese populations. The market is not very large and unlikely to be very material to a global business.

Hong Kong is a very Cantonese city and the international part is very small and concentrated in Central and Soho. Once you get over to Kowloon and the New Territories you are basically in China. Rents are crazy and malls are forcing out restaurant chains in favor of luxury products favored by Mainland Chinese.

Singapore is actually more open to many types of dining compared to Hong Kong and rents there are less expensive especially in suburban areas but it is still a small market with some spillover to Malaysia.

My advice is to target the emerging markets of the Philippines, Indonesia, China and India where the big opportunities are, assuming you have an affordable concept targeted at the broad middle class.

I love Hong Kong and Singapore as resident and visitor but not sure it makes too much sense to base an Asian market entry strategy on either location.

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