The missing element in city's fledgling food trucks

Updated: 2017-06-16 08:02

(HK Edition)

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Food trucks are a great idea that has gone flat. It came from former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, who's no longer in office and has left it to his successor to find out exactly what the project is trying to achieve.

Is it supposed to be just another tourist draw? Or, are there other lofty goals, such as reviving the street culture that many Hong Kong people sorely miss, while creating fresh opportunities for the city's ambitious young entrepreneurs?

Some food-truck operators who passed the government's strict screening process have complained that the long and tedious list of restrictions imposed on them, including the choice of locations and equipment, have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to make a decent profit.

In fact, many of those who have won licenses to run these food trucks are not novices in the trade, but rather operators of offshoots of established eateries that can afford the high cost of entry. Amateurs with startup ambitions need not apply.

Those food-truck operators who have remained in business despite the initial lukewarm response have little in common with the street culture Hong Kong people are familiar with. Instead of wonton noodles, stewed tripe and fried-fish cakes, these modern trucks are serving mainly Western-styled street foods like hamburgers, hot dogs and sandwiches.

Of course, Hong Kong people do like Western foods, and the city hosts some of the world's busiest McDonald's restaurants. But, with the gradual demise of the traditional cooked-food stalls and mobile kitchens on push carts, Hong Kong has lost that special smell and sound which cannot be revived by these modern food vehicles built and operated in accordance with government specifications.

There's talk in the hallow halls of the Legislative Council of organizing regular street fares in various parts of the city. But, the idea, which is backed by legislators on both sides of the aisle, has failed to make any headway.

There's no doubt that food trucks are a brilliant idea. But spontaneity on the part of the operators and the public is the missing element that can make it work.

The missing element in city's fledgling food trucks

(HK Edition 06/16/2017 page1)