By Hans Ebert

“There maybe many new choices, but few of these are very good. It’s why businesses keep opening and closing in Hong Kong plus many here really don’t know good from bad and usually settle for the average and are disappointed.”

It was an open ended conversation with someone in the F&B industry who felt that unless something drastic is done very soon by the government, this city is heading quickly down a very slippery slope.

Blame it on bad mentors, all those who took but never gave back, a social media seduced generation brought up on dollops of entitlement, but what Hong Kong really needs is not to get its “mojo” back, because that’s gone forever. It must reinvent itself. And this is something the government cannot do because it’s lost touch with regards as to what Hong Kong needs. It’s simply not in touch with its people. Sorry, Carrie.

Yeah, you can’t always get what you want, but sometimes, you get what you need. Does Hong Kong know what it needs? Probably yes, but mainly, no. It’s possibly why Wanchai today is a giant wasteland, Lan Kwai Fong has deteriorated into a Fight Club for ethnic minorities new to Hong Kong whereas the drawing power of those new areas that quickly mushroomed, perhaps too quickly and with not much thought, have lost their footing and have very quickly become flavours of the past months. Hong Kong is looking for something, but gawd knows what? Maybe a pulse?

Where the government CAN help is by unshackling some of the daft laws that have crippled entrepreneurial thinking- the various licenses needed to open a restaurant, club or bar, being held to blackmail in order to get these without hurdles being put in front to slow down the process, the red tape surrounding work visas, especially for musicians from the Philippines versus the number of rubbish allowed into Hong Kong under a “Refugee Status” and just a lethargy to improve anything.

Simply put, there’s been a lowering of standards. What’s happened to the new generation of hoteliers? Are there any around today within sniffing distance of Ken Moss, James Smith or Felix Beiger and in more fairly recent times, Gordon Fuller, below?

There’s a hospitality and service industry with precious little hospitality or service. Or loyalty. For myself, I have been frequenting one particular “grand” five-star hotel in Wanchai for decades only because of its convenience but seeing just how shockingly it has let standards fall from its halcyon days- service, management and, most dangerous of all, taking the loyal customer for granted.

Lose a customer once and they’re lost forever. One doesn’t pay five star prices to be treated like second class citizens.

When was the last time one received a simple Thank You note for your patronage? Or was given a free round after spending an average of $3,000 in the same venue ten to twelve times a month? Do the maths, Basil.

Same goes for the smaller and supposedly “funkier” restaurants. If there’s a postage stamp space to open one of these, don’t bother. No one today has the time to show up and be turned away. Who needs it? Is the cuisine that good? Of course not. Plus there’s the convenience of Deliveroo. Or some of the best cuisine around by taking a flight to Sri Lanka. Or listen to the girlfriend and have her enjoy serving up some healthy home cooking.

Away from dining out, in almost every industry, there’s the feeling that it’s easier to say No, because it means less work. And too many No’s lead nowhere except for there being way too many know-it-alls.

I come across it all the time- when trying to discuss music, education, mental health issues, the pros and cons of horse racing, new business opportunities. Anything. So you listen and those doing all the pontificating can be divided into oldsters trying to recreate the past and live in it and those “startups” talking in millions and billions with almost always, everything tied to something where the art of the deal is skating very close to the sun and the wrong side of the law.

Think the government doesn’t know this? It’s all out there with legs spread open like online porn and where even the Scarecrow who wished he had a brain can see the money laundering that’s going on, and how, with the right amount of money and connections, it’s fine because everyone belonging to this elite club are doing it.

Daddy says it’s okay and mummy doesn’t care, because she’s in la la land and knows what and who daddy is up to. As long as mummy is looked after to keep up false pretences and there’s never any loss of “face”, keep the Chinese or Eastern European mistress who needs Hong Kong residency in the 5-star furnished apartment, daddy, and let’s pretend that everything is fine.

Everything in Hong Kong is not fine. The Peter Principle of promoting incompetence is everywhere. It’s why most industries have very poor senior executives in management- symptomatic of this aforementioned lowering of standards. Either that or there’s been a brain drain. Or a brain freeze.

Must one really name those executives in Hong Kong being paid the big bucks to pretend that they’re worth their value? The con jobs are nauseating. It would make an interesting book on how much Hong Kong has slithered down that pole of being an international city. Again, sorry, Carrie.

Sadly, it’s mainly fools responsible for this situation- fools trying to prove that they’re not fools by doing as little work as possible and counting down the years before becoming eligible for that corporate pension fund.

The rest? Desperate to be something that they’re not and grab a ride on the gravy train, but not good enough and not prepared to make something work without looking at scams, but not Machiavellian enough to even be the dumb brother of Keyser Soze.

#HongKong #Hongkongserviceindustry #standards #HKGovernment #CarrieLam #lost #thegravytrain