Date
18 August 2017
Many restaurant operators have chosen to move up to higher-priced categories, instead of charging more for dim sum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Many restaurant operators have chosen to move up to higher-priced categories, instead of charging more for dim sum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why dim sum is becoming more expensive

Small means more expensive in Hong Kong.

We are not talking about housing; we’re talking about food – dim sum, in particular.

Like residential flats, there are different ways of pricing Chinese delicacies. Prices are mainly determined by the amount of kitchen work and cost of ingredients involved.

Roughly, they fall under these categories: siu dim (small), chung dim (medium), dai dim (large), duc dim (special) and – the ones that fetch the highest prices – ting dim (peak) and chiu dim (super).

So BBQ pork bun is small, chicken feet is medium, cheung fan (rice noodle roll) is large, har kau (shrimp dumpling) is special, and the most expensive ones are either fusion or those with seafood such as abalone.

This brings me to my next point: many restaurants no longer bother so much about dim sum, which is running opposite to the trend in the housing market.

This observation was also made by a local news portal hk01.com, which said bite-sized dim sum has dropped to below 5 percent on the typical restaurant menu.

Given that the price of dim sum starts at HK$13, it is easy to understand why restaurants are moving to more expensive items amid the ever-increasing rentals as well as labor and food costs.

Because most dim sum lovers are also price-sensitive consumers, restaurant operators have chosen to move up to higher-priced categories, instead of charging more for dim sum.

According to a recent study of seven restaurant chains in Hong Kong, four of them have decided to cut dim sum offerings to less than 10 percent of the menu.

Surprisingly, the larger groups such as Maxim, Ho Choi and Tao Heung still devote a quarter of the menu to small-sized dim sum, which are mostly priced between HK$14 and HK$18.

But Maxim, the largest restaurant group in the city, sells small-sized dim sum at between HK$15 and HK$24 per plate, same as the average cost of medium-sized dim sum.

It depends on the location, actually. Maxim Palace still offers 17 dim sum items under the small category, and those are mostly buns, fried delicacies like spring roll, and dessert.

But dim sum prices vary. Medium dim sum is priced between HK$15 and HK$30 per plate, big dim sum between HK$18 and HK$35, and special or super dim sum between HK$21 and HK$44.

Like we have seen at McDonald’s and Café de Coral, further price hikes are looming. That is especially true after Tao Heung, a listed Chinese restaurant operator which charges the lowest yum cha rates in town, issued a profit warning last month.

Tao Heung, which is famous for offering HK$1 chicken in a bid to boost dinner attendance, said it expects to record a more than 50 percent drop in interim profits because of the weaker consumption sentiment, higher staff costs and rentals, and closure of underperforming shops.

Sigh, that means dim sum will get more expensive. So eat more dim sum if you can – now.

– Contact us at [email protected]

CG

EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter

Please click here to unsubscribe