Cafe de Coral seizes the day

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 October, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 October, 2008, 12:00am

While some restaurants in the city are struggling to survive in the economic downturn, one local fast-food chain is benefiting from the crisis and has ambitious expansion plans.

Cafe de Coral, one of Hong Kong's biggest fast-food chains, said revenue grew about 8 per cent in the first nine months of the year, thanks to more customers, higher prices and costs that had remained stable.

'We have many new customers. Even fund managers eat at our restaurants,' Michael Chan Yue-kwong, chairman of the company, said.

He expected the chain to achieve double-digit growth for the whole year.

Cafe de Coral, which has been operating for four decades, has 135 outlets in Hong Kong and on the mainland. It plans to open another 40 to 45 outlets in the coming year, compared to 30 to 35 opened annually over the past two years.

'[A bad economy] has proven to be an excellent opportunity for us to expand,' said Mr Chan, citing the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and the Sars outbreak in 2003. 'I believe history can be repeated.'

Fast-food chains McDonald's and Maxim's refused to comment on their businesses.

But unlike Cafe de Coral, some cha chaan tengs, or tea cafes, are having a tough time.

Tai Hing Roast Restaurant Group, which has 28 outlets across the city, said more customers were coming in but they were spending less.

Sophie Cheung, spokeswoman for Tai Hing Roast, said turnover dropped 5 per cent over the past two weeks.

'Although we have more new customers, some of our regular diners are turning to other cheaper tea cafes,' Ms Cheung said.

Another cha chaan teng to suffer is the decades-old Tai Fat Cafe in Wan Chai.

The operator, a man surnamed Lo, said: 'We have not seen a serious impact on our business so far. More people are coming in to have cheap meals in the afternoon, but fewer people are coming in for dinner.'