Saturday, 22 April 2017

Food Trucks Prove a Tough Business

Food truck locations focus on tourists than locals for business
Looks like food trucks in Hong Kong aren't working out as well as the government had hoped.

The 12 food trucks -- one dropped out before it even started -- were not allowed to stray from its location, were not allowed to adjust the menu, and had to draw a lottery for where they would next be, which meant they could be back in the same place due to their own bad luck instead of being evenly rotated around eight sites.

But now it seems there is an easing of the food truck restrictions with two more locations, Science Park in Sha Tin and AsiaWorld-Expo near the airport when there are events held there.

Yesterday Greg So sampled some food truck dishes
"Some of these venues, in certain time periods, have very little business. So we want to enrich the program, by giving them [the operators] more choices," says commerce minister Greg So Kam-leung, who was sampling food at the most popular food truck destination just outside Disneyland. It's popular because people don't want to pay the exorbitant prices inside the theme park.

The least popular sites are at Ocean Park, Salisbury Garden in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central Harbourfront and Energizing Kowloon East in Kwun Tong.

So reported that daily revenue from the 12 food trucks ranged from HK$3,000 to HK$25,000. As a result, the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau decided to allow operators in locations with slow business to go to other locations for a short period of time. In addition, food trucks at Kowloon East could go to Tsim Sha Tsui in the evenings.

Science Park is expected to have 250,000 visitors next year, while AsiaWorld-Expo is booked for 66 days a year.

"We think these two locations are worth a try," So said.

Is this grilled squid a dish that can be eaten as a street food?
But lawmaker Kwok Wai-keung, of the Federation of Trade Unions, said adding new tourist sites just repeated previous mistakes.

"The scheme should focus on residents and encourage small businesses instead of giving tourists priority," he said.

Last month, Capital Cafe quit the food truck business before it even started, citing concerns over the profitability of the scheme, blaming costs and government requirements.

We tend to agree with Kwok. Having visited many of the food trucks myself for a story and seen the situation, the food trucks are just a gimmick, instead of what they are really meant to be -- a platform for chefs to try new culinary ideas and create snacks or food that are easy to eat while standing on the street.

Some dishes were hard to eat standing up or consume using one hand, or they were just too bizarre like fish maw soup. Who buys such a product from a food truck? Many featured pineapple buns made into hamburgers. It's novel, but does it actually taste good? (not really). And price-wise they were hardly value for money.

It's another government scheme that has no imagination and not well thought-out either, as the restrictions are just ridiculous. The whole point of food trucks is having several together in one spot for consumers to choose what they want to eat. And the food trucks should be able to move around to whatever locations will bring them business.

Why not food trucks in Causeway Bay like Victoria Park or on a pedestrian-only street in Central to catch the office crowd?

But the government doesn't seem to understand that...

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