One month after the city’s first batch of food trucks hit the roads, operators have expanded their menus to include traditional snacks such as fish balls and siu mai to boost business amid mixed fortunes.
Among the eight locations the mobile eateries operated in, Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui proved to be the most popular spot with more than 500 customers visiting daily, while the operators at Central’s harbourfront only served about 100 people, according to official statistics.
Book Brothers, a Los Angeles-based operator, experienced a roller-coaster month with its first Hong Kong food truck.
It earned more than HK$10,000 per day while parked at popular tourist attraction Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai during the Lunar New Year holiday, but revenue dropped to as low as HK$900 when it moved to Central harbourfront, according to Raymond Wong, the food truck’s manager.
“Central is a nightmare. We had a great loss,” Wong said, blaming the remote location and low customer traffic.
Despite the reputation of its signature American-style barbecued steamed buns, the US operator found that traditional snacks were still the darling of both tourists and locals. This prompted it to add fish balls and dim sum dish siu mai to its menu, Wong said.
Meanwhile catering group Hung Fook Tong also offered local fare at its food truck.
To tackle the unstable business, some operators urged the government to enhance the mobility of the food trucks. But the call was dismissed over concerns that the big vehicles would cause traffic problems and vicious competition for business space.
“If we allowed the food trucks to sell food by the streets, they would not only cause traffic congestion, but also invade the business of existing eateries which already need to bear the cost of rents,” a spokesman from the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said.
YP junior reporter Joy Lee, 14, from South Island School, said the government should allow the trucks to park in more places, given the varied business results in different locations.
“If Central’s harbourfront is experiencing low customer traffic, it’s hard for these people to run their businesses,” said Lee. “The government should review these designated places and offer other places for these trucks.”
Asked if she was willing to visit the food trucks, Lee said she would give it a try because of the lower prices they offer.
Another junior reporter, Clement O’Young, 15, from Sha Tin College, said these food trucks should try and differ from the local restaurants by offering something unique to customers. “Otherwise, it’s not easy to attract more tourists and maintain a successful business,” he said.
Chinese University’s business school assistant dean Simon Lee Siu-po told Young Post agrees. He said the trucks needed to “invent” something extraordinary if they want to continue their businesses. He cited Japanese ramen restaurant Ichiran as an example. “Although the ramen chain has opened its stores in the city, some people still fly to Japan to experience its ramen. Such ‘high-quality’ and ‘unique’ ramen has made a name in the world,” he says.
Food trucks in Hong Kong should learn from this example. “Our city is famous for its hybrid cuisine. But what the trucks offer is nothing different from the food in local restaurants. These trucks hardly attract tourists and give them typical Hong Kong experience,” he says.
Asked what the government could do to support these trucks, Simon Lee said they could give economic incentives. For instance, the government could waive the rent or management fee for two years.