I still remember my childhood days when my parents would wake me up on weekends.
When they said Café de Coral, I would jump out of bed. The price of a double egg and ham breakfast was HK$6 in the first Café de Coral restaurant in Jordan.
Then it was egg sandwich during high school until I skipped breakfast whenever I was late for school. When I became a journalist, I rarely had breakfast because I would wake up late in the day.
Fast forward 20 years and breakfast is a must. I have turned into a believer in the saying that the early bird gets the worm.
Breakfast also happens to be the most affordable meal of the day.
But I cannot help feeling I am now paying a lunch price for breakfast and a dinner price for lunch as prices keep rising.
A decent standard Hong Kong-style breakfast (double egg + ham + macaroni + coffee) in a major fast food outlet costs an average of HK$35, higher than the average working hour wage of HK$32.50.
A light breakfast with cereal or sandwich together with coffee is also an option but sometimes it can be near HK$25. Plus, one breakfast is not enough for me.
It’s no surprise that Tsui Wah restaurant, a listed fast food chain whose headquarters are just across from the offices of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, has quietly raised its menu prices.
It’s generally a HK$2 to HK$3 increase but in terms of percentage, it’s between 3 per cent and 10 per cent.
Three breakfast sets are between HK$34 and HK$35 in the Year of the Rooster compared with between HK$31 and HK$32 in the Year of the Monkey.
I’m not sure if many employees who work near Tsui Wah would receive any kind of salary increase but I also understand Tsui Wah is struggling to make a profit in this tough retail environment. Some of its founders want to cash out which could lead to a change in shareholding control.
But I’m sure its rivals — Maxim, Café de Coral and Fairwood, for example — will follow the price hike, if they have not already done so.
Usually, these outlets would at least offer a lunch set priced below HK$30 but the set would usually sell out before 12:30 p.m.
I was privileged to have a Fujian fried rice with a drink last month but the portion was a little bit too small for me so I ended up grabbing a sandwich.
Dinner is even worse. There is virtually nothing available below HK$50 (which I understand because a tenderloin noodle dish in two famous shops in Tin Hau is selling at HK$55). A Vietnamese noodle dish costs HK$73 – but I reckon it’s not worth the price.
McDonald’s still offers affordable choices but it is very hard to imagine CITIC, the new Chinese owner of the Hong Kong and China franchise, would not consider a price hike, especially that the cost of money has gone up because of the fall in the Chinese currency.
Friends who live in major mainland cities say it’s much cheaper to have fast food in Hong Kong than in China.
So where can we get a cheap breakfast?
I recently went to a dim sum place downstairs from where I live and surprisingly found that two dishes of dim sum cost HK$25 and HK$30 including tip.
I’m sure Chinese dim sum restaurants, open as early as 7 a.m., dutifully serve traditional delicacies for the aging population at a price below those in fast food outlets.
One catch though — the price is higher on non-school days such as the Lunar New Year holiday but guess what? it’s is back to normal prices the next day.
A pot of puer, anyone?
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