Tony Ma is a Hong Kong business man who has built up a chain of successful Vietnamese restaurants in the city. He has now expanded his restaurants to London.
Voice 1: Good morning, Tony. Thanks for your time. Let's talk about your Hong Kong venture first. When did you open your first restaurant here?
Tony: Oh, quite a long time ago. It will be ten years next month since the first one opened. I didn’t know if it would be a success or not. It really was a stab in the dark, and I didn’t have much money to play around with. My friends and business advisers warned me against putting my money into a restaurant because the competition was so great. Even ten years ago, there was a good choice of restaurants in Hong Kong. Not as many as today, obviously, but the choice was still good. Only my girlfriend - who I married soon after the first restaurant opened - supported me and encouraged me to go ahead with my dream. I couldn’t persuade any banks to lend me the money I needed so I had to use my personal savings and open on a smaller scale than I wanted. I took a very big risk.
Voice 1: What was your first restaurant like?
Tony: It was in a tiny unit in Mong Kok. There was only room for five tables. A friend from Vietnam had agreed to come join me for a short while to do the cooking. She wasn’t a professional chef but she certainly knew how to cook and her food was delicious. We opened at the beginning of April, and that first week we had very few customers. It was a nervous time. But the second week, business picked up and the third week we were turning customers away at lunch times. It was definitely word of mouth that made that first restaurant successful at the start. We had no money to spend on publicity, or advertising, or anything like that. Within the next two years, I had opened another three restaurants, and I have never looked back. Now, it’s London, here we come!
Voice 1: Yes, you recently opened your first restaurant in London. How are things going?
Tony: It’s early days but all seems to be going well. I couldn’t get a unit right in the centre of London where I wanted because the rents were sky-high and landlords wanted to let to established businesses. The unit I finally chose is in the business district out of the main tourist areas, but there is a museum nearby so we do get a few tourists. We open from ten in the morning until seven at night. At first we stayed open until nine at night but there were few customers in the evening so we changed our closing time. I am planning to open a second place by the end of the year. There is definitely a market for good Vietnamese food in London. There are lots of Chinese and Indian places, but not many Vietnamese or Japanese. I have some excellent people working for me who are very enthusiastic. If you are ever in London, pop in and you will taste the best bowl of pho in town. This is our address.
Voice 1: Thank you. And all the best with your London restaurants. I’ll take you up on your offer and call in the next time I’m in Britian.