More food truck operators under the government’s two-year pilot scheme are considering closing business, raising doubts on the feasibility of entire program, which is aimed at bolstering tourism through delicious street cuisine.
Of the of the 13 existing food truck operators, Creative Yummy, which opened only in late May, has not been operating since Monday, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
According to a source, four other food trucks are preparing to quit. One of the four is said to have sold the truck for about HK$600,000, although its original cost was more than HK$1 million.
A spokesperson for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau (CEDB) said it has received verbal communication that a food truck operator may exit the scheme, although there has been no formal notification yet.
Under the scheme, there are supposed to be six substitutes on the waiting list. But the spokesperson said if the current operator quits, there will be no substitute, but did not explain why.
Some of the operators are choosing to exit because they could not make ends meet as business is slower than expected.
The scheme, first announced by former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in 2015, aims to showcase the variety and uniqueness of Hong Kong’s street food, as well as its high standards of food hygiene and safety.
They are allowed to conduct business at eight designated locations at first before two more sites were added as location options in April.
The CEDB received 192 applications to join the scheme in April last year. Twelve of the 16 selected ones began operations in the eight designated locations in February.
But two of the food truck license winners, Chrisly Cafe and Xiao Tian Gu Dessert Kaffee, have chosen not to open for business and sent word that they wanted to exit the scheme.
Chrisly Cafe insisted that it should not pay rent for the business site and be allowed to move the truck to other venues, while Xiao Tian Gu said it “made a suitable commercial decision”.
They will be replaced by two substitutes that are expected to begin operation in the next one or two months.
Some operators said they found out later that actual costs were far more than their budgets and business income was lower than expected, and blamed the government for not giving them sufficient support.
The owner of Book Brothers, another food truck operator, admitted he has been trying to find ways to cut losses, such as finding another operator or cooperating with other food trucks and even other sectors.
He complained that the unlike in other cities, food trucks in Hong Kong are subject to too many rules. He also said details of the scheme were not disclosed until the actual launch so many of the operators had no choice but to pursue the business since they had already bought their trucks.
However, the owner of BunFun Van said he is convinced the government will learn from experience and make improvements as well as relax rules in the future. He suggested that food trucks be allowed to take part in major public events.
Although he was not issued a license last year, he said he is still eager to join the scheme if the government makes the quota available again.
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