Why can't we have Luckin, Hema and Pop Pop Pot in Hong Kong?

January 11, 2019 14:11
You'll be spoiled for choice with food on the mainland – more delicious and very affordable food. Photo: EJ Insight/ Bloomberg

You may not like it in China because there's no Google or Facebook, unless you have access to virtual private networks, which, although banned, are still available from some clandestine providers – or so we were told. 

But you've been spending too much time on the internet, anyway. So just think of your time across the border as a healthy break. 

Besides, you'll be spoiled for choice with food on the mainland – more delicious and very affordable food. 

During a brief visit to the Greater Bay Area this week, I had a chance to sample some of their fast-food outlets, and I wish they would also be available in Hong Kong. 

First stop was Luckin Coffee. This is operated by a very ambitious and aggressive startup. It took them just a year to open 3,600 coffee shops, and they plan to add 2,500 more outlets this year.

Their goal is to snatch the crown from Starbucks as the number-one coffee shop in China. The way they are expanding in the country, that goal may not be so far-fetched.

Ten yuan per cup of coffee? Forget it. Two popular malls I've been to in Guangzhou have Luckin Coffee shops where the smallest cup costs at least 21 yuan.

Unlike in Starbucks, chairs and tables are very scarce items in Luckin Coffee stores. They take orders for takeout or delivery to your office. On the plus side, coffee is cheaper. You can order and pay online.

You won't see at Luckin Coffee the familiar sights at Starbucks, where students order a drink or two and occupy an entire table with their homework, where bookworms finish an entire novel on Kindle while taking their time to sip on their mug of coffee.

Anyway, I can declare that Lickin Coffee is not my cup of coffee.

Next, I visited Hema, Alibaba's high-tech fresh food supermarket, where you scan barcodes to gain product information and even recipes, and your goods go through a conveyor belt to the packing area.

Everything is done fast and efficiently so that you can have your seafood or steak ready for cooking right away. You won't complain that you spend so much time shopping that you end up starved.

Prices, of course, are cheaper. All items, including fruit and vegetables, are well-packed. You can also order for home delivery, which often takes only about 30 minutes.

Hema doesn't take away the fun of shopping because it provides you with all the convenience. 

Then, hotpot! I tried an outlet called Pop Pop Pot in Foshan. Ah, the sounds of meat sizzling on the hot plate and mussels popping open really whet the appetite.

In Hong Kong, I tend to be selective in picking ingredients because I don't want to overpay. But at this restaurant, nobody cares about the bill.

We just hauled in all the ingredients and even left a lot of unconsumed items behind. There were three of us, and we ate and drank for two hours. When we left, we could hardly walk. Our bill: around HK$300.

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EJ Insight writer