By Hans Ebert


Sometimes small is good. Actually, often, small is best. Some women I know might be mortified to hear that, but, know what? Whatever. Read on…

After seeing in the New Year with those we chose to be with including dropping by a fledgling restaurant run by a friend called Salt And Barrel- it specialises in kebabs of all sorts and beers and well worth checking out-it was one of those SnapChat decisions to have one for the road at the hugely expensive bubbly five star cantina next door to where I live. Mistake. A huge difference to seeing in 2019 at Salt And Barrel with friends.

Celebrating the new year seems to be an excuse for many to just behave badly. It’s a weird “tradition”. And so here I was sitting next to a group of happy drunks proud to announce that they were passing wind. They must have dined on burritos.

Anything else happening? Apart from boredom? Nothing. The ‘live’ music had stopped for the night and, apparently, I hadn’t missed much either here or at another venue in the hotel. Hong Kong is not short of venues. It’s woefully short of good talent. And if we’re to get into ageism, performers under 45.

So what does a customer receive as a return on their investment? Diddley squat. How many who manage these venues understand this? What’s in it for customers? Other than a huge bill. Make any sense? Not to this customer. Often, a night out at a 5-star hotel is more expensive than flying out to Sri Lanka.

There’s an ill wind blowing through the F&B industry in Hong Kong for the very simple reason that creative entrepreneurs have been replaced by simpletons more interested in what everyone else is doing and about who’s closed shop and who’s cashed in rather than looking after their own business. There’s often no focus.

Add to this, more and more from bankrupt Europe jumping off that lumpy gravy train over there and hoping Hong Kong will give them shelter from the storm and a new start.

Not being a racist, just a realist, but the restaurant and hotel business is an easy pass for foreigners from the West.

Often, there’s no need to be good at knowing anything about the hospitality trade. It’s about the gift of the gab. And picking one’s mark. It’s about selling an idea. Is this being an entrepreneur? In this social media driven world of Wikipedia knowledge, maybe.

When in advertising, Hong Kong during the Eighties was overrun by what were known as FILTHs- Failed In London Try Hong Kong. Some are still hanging about having made more than something out of being nothing. Where’s there for them to go? Back home? To what?Meanwhile…

Say you’re Spanish or Greek or Italian or French and, sure, can cook every type of food needed, and doors open along with cheque books from either gullible Chinese investors or money launderers. But there are also many who have been burned so much, they’re no longer prepared to be another slice of crispy bacon.

This is why a one time celebrity chef is now in Pattaya. Instead of thinking one time Gold thoughts, he’s found his way into being involved in a hamburger joint in Mongkok.

Still, he exited Hong Kong having taken many for a ride for millions of dollars. But people never learn. It’s like a Lionel Rifchie song about being once, twice, three times a sucker. There’s a new one born every day.

This New Year’s Eve/night came messages from friends deciding to spend big money to enjoy themselves at five star hotels before discovering that the entertainment fare being served was what could be seen any day of the week in a bar in Wanchai. Or Peel Fresco. For free.

This shows that many running these hotels can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. Why? They continue to work with oldsters in the booking agency business who are irrelevant.

They are also clueless about their customers. Or underestimate the intelligence of the customer. And the importance of respecting those who keep their businesses ticking over.

As The Who once sang, We Won’t Get Fooled Again. Sure, times change and nothing is forever. Though there have been efforts to bring back the good old days, if one cannot make even part of this “Vibe” happen again, DO NOT DO IT. It’s a con. People don’t pay big bucks to be conned. Or be served warmed over waffles. Especially not in this down economy.

So what’s the solution in this Deliveroo and Food Panda online everything world where often it’s more fun- and far more inexpensive- entertaining those one wishes to be with…at home?

Think differently. Follow trends and quickly become passé. It’s happened time and time again. So many playing Follow The Leader until everything looks, tastes and feels the same with there being a buffet of choices.

Think of the once popular bars, restaurants and clubs that are no more. Look at what has afflicted Lan Kwai Fong, SoHo, Wanchai and across the great waters, Macau. They’re dead. Their time was up. They didn’t know how to reinvent themselves.

Others continue on borrowed time and put up brave fronts. Deep down all of Hong Kong know they’re hurting and run away from anything to do with those who own these losing propositions. It’s a karmic thing.

Is the problem to do with over supply versus demand? Consumers being smarter with their investments- even if it’s paying for a char siu bao?

Maybe it’s Hong Kong’s big spenders having come down to earth? Those with the money to spend finally tired of being screwed over? Mediocre management? Lack of reasonably talented entertainers under forty? Paying top dollar for ho hum products in too many areas?

All of the above?

#hongkong #foodies #entertainment #F&B #restaurants #LKF #SoHo #Wanchai #Macau #SaltAndBarrel #Deliveroo #FoodPanda