Long and meaningful life

Long and meaningful life

Restaurant chain offers retired citizens an opportunity to make use of their time and contribute to the community

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Photos: Gingko House
Photos: Gingko House
Indigenous to China and Japan, the gingko tree is famous for being one of the oldest species of trees in the world - it's a living fossil. So it's no surprise that a restaurant run mostly by Hong Kong's senior citizens would choose this symbol of longevity as a name.

Gingko House is a restaurant chain with three branches across Hong Kong - Jordan, Prince Edward and Central, the first branch. The restaurants in Jordan and Central serve French-Italian cuisine while the one in Prince Edward serves Chinese dishes.

The restaurant was founded by Roger Li Ming-hui and his business partner Kwok Tung-wah. In 1998, they ran homes and rehabilitative services for the elderly that provided them with the experience and income for this expanding business. Li says their main intention when setting up the restaurant was to give retired Hongkongers something to do. 'Our idea was to give seniors older than 60 an opportunity to work.'

At first many people doubted their business concept would work. They told Li that his business would not succeed because the elderly are not capable of doing a good job. Others questioned Li's intentions - they thought he wanted to hire seniors as cheap labour.

Leung Kwok-kan, 71, has worked as a waiter at Gingko House for nine months, and he loves his job. 'Although I am retired, it's still possible for me to work and earn a bit of money,' says Leung, who worked at a bank before he retired. 'If seniors have energy, are in good health and want to work, Gingko House is the place for them.'

Although Hong Kong is known as a food haven, a lot of people complain about bad service. But that's not the case at Gingko House.

'We have a good attitude and provide great service. We take our jobs seriously and we serve people with our heart," Leung says. "I work hard and I'm happy with what I do.'

Li and his team have put a lot of thought into how to make a job as pleasant as possible for the seniors. They work five-hour shifts, six days a week. Their ages range from 60 to 75, but younger staff are there to help them.

In terms of marketing, 'We promote ourselves at elderly centres, in radio broadcasts and on television,' says Li.

The chain has expanded to include a farm in Sheung Shui to supply organic vegetables to the restaurants. It is also involved in charity work, like donating to the Sichuan earthquake relief efforts.

Gingko House doesn't only offer a bright future for the grey-haired, but for the city as well.

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