In the restaurant business, how many dishes does one have to prepare and sell in order to reach HK$100 million?
A lot, you will say. And probably not even several lifetimes of hard work and the best cooks would be able to produce that amount.
But consider Yat Lok Barbecue Restaurant, once a hole in the wall in Tai Po but whose reputation has grown far and wide on the strength of its specialty – goose barbecue.
The people behind this famous eatery must have been shocked and saddened by the news of the death of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain: the place and its succulent dishes were once featured in his award-winning travel and food show No Reservations.
But the great news is that, as the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported, restaurant owner Chu Kin-wah has sold the 30-year-old shop and franchise for HK$82.8 million.
That values the two-storey outlet with 1,400 square feet of space at close to HK$30,000 psf. The transaction is definitely as juicy, crispy and fatty as its signature goose barbecue.
The deal came short of the original price tag of HK$100 million, but what the heck. It still amounts to a colossal profit for Chu, who bought the store for HK$11.75 million when the property market hit rock bottom amid the SARS crisis in 2003.
That’s a profit of more than HK$70 million in 15 years. That’s equivalent to making over HK$12,000 per day, and God knows how many geese to dress, cook and sell.
In 1957, Yat Lok was founded by Chu’s father in Fan Ling. Chu bought his first store in 1984, and sold it in 2000 before leasing it back to raise money for his medication. Three years later, Chu bought the store back for HK$11.75 million.
Chu also supported his brother to open a new outlet using the same brand on Stanley Street in Central, which was soon drawing long queues of customers outside and providing intense competition to its famous neighbor, Yung Kee Restaurant, which also serves goose barbecue and roast pork.
Two months ago, the 60-year-old Chu retired after failing to find a successor. He grumbled about how difficult it was to hire competent staff, a common problem among local restaurants despite their readiness to offer good salaries.
But who really cares? Not Chu, who is happily enjoying the fruit of his labor, and the fresh air outside the hot, stuffy kitchen where he spent his long career.
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