After Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah raised the idea of introducing food trucks in Hong Kong, many young people have expressed interest in the concept.
Vicky, who runs a little shop that sells fish and chips in Sai Kung, is one of them. Her concern, though, is that the business could be monopolized by fast-food or restaurant chains.
“There is no way for small shops like us to compete with big restaurant groups if the government grants the licenses through open tender,” Vicky tells the Hong Kong Economic Journal.
If Hong Kong is to take a leaf from established food truck businesses elsewhere, which model should it follow?
It’s not easy to bring the Western-style food truck concept to the city, she says.
“Take Britain as an example. Their food trucks are tailor-made for different kinds of food. There are burger food trucks and food trucks that sell fish and chips, for example. All the equipment inside the truck are specially designed, and that makes them very costly. If we import them, it would cost around HK$400,000 (US$51,580) to get one,” Vicky notes.
“Maintenance is another problem. Does Hong Kong have any technician who knows how to maintain and repair those trucks?”
Some suggest Hong Kong can learn from Taiwan, as it has developed its own food truck culture—the PunCar.
PunCar could be modified from any van. These cutely decorated vans are designed to sell anything from food items like egg puffs, donuts and fried chicken to beverages such as coffee.
Kwai Yum-sum is a PunCar operator that sells egg puffs. She has invested NT$500,000 (US$16,000) to set up her van for business, according to Taiwan media reports.
PunCars are mostly locally modified, and modifying PunCars has already evolved into an industry of its own in Taiwan.
But PunCars cannot just do business anytime or anywhere on the island. They can only operate in specific places.
For example, PunCars will cooperate with event organizers to provide on-spot catering services. Others are allowed to sell food and drinks during holidays at specific tourist spots.
“Our truck and food are clean and hygienic,” says Kwai. “We won’t leave any garbage behind and many companies, schools and event organizers are happy to work with us.”
In Hong Kong, a lot of events are taking place at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and the West Kowloon Cultural District during weekends. There’s also the AIA Great European Carnival held at the Central harbor-front last month. All these could be ideal venues for food trucks.
If the government really wants to help young people and small entrepreneurs run food businesses, it should let the market take its course rather than choke it with too many rules and guidelines.
After all, operators know where the demand is and what kinds of food and drinks people like most, enterprise consultant Ho Wah tells the newspaper.
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