Venerable eateries look to McDonald's for guidance

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2005, 12:00am

Famous restaurants usually do not need to do much to retain their popularity, but it's a different story for those running less-well-known establishments or those that have been around a long time.

One such restaurateur believes he needs to update his management practices - and he's looking to the success of the world's largest fast-food chain for guidance.

Dicken Wong Lap-yan, who helps run his family's Sang Kee Restaurant in Wan Chai, a favourite with celebrities, said yesterday older restaurants needed to learn new management skills.

'I used to pay more than $10,000 for a staffer and I still couldn't keep them for long - and sometimes all you could see was staffers reading horse-racing news at work,' he said.

'But you look at these young kids working for McDonald's and other fast-food chains - even though they are paid much less, they still work their hearts out for their jobs.'

He said this might have to do with the fact modern restaurants had a promotion system so staff members felt they had prospects - and that was not the case in older restaurants.

To develop his management skills for modern challenges, Mr Wong joined the Chinese Cuisine Culture Development Programme, which held an orientation day for him and his 39 classmates yesterday in Chai Wan. Organised by The Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education and funded by Chinese restaurant chain Tao Heung Holdings, the free, one-year, part-time programme aims to teach restaurateurs and newcomers how to run a Chinese restaurant with modern management skills.

'If we could figure out how McDonald's and other fast-food chains manage their people, we would know how to manage ours,' he said.

Mr Wong said problems with staff were not mere human resource issues. They also affected the restaurant's quality as a whole.

'It can be very difficult to make staff in older restaurants be more polite to customers and to have control over how chefs maintain their food quality every day,' he said. 'This all comes down to internal management - and yet it affects whether the customers feel good in your restaurant.'

Mr Wong was not alone yesterday. Managers of other restaurants, including the popular roast-goose eatery Yue Kee in Sham Tsang and the legendary Shanghai Three Six Nine Restaurant in Wan Chai, have also joined as students of the programme.