Curse of the Michelin star? Award may lead to increased rent in Hong Kong

Restaurateurs fear the often-revered accolade may give landlords reason to increase rent and ultimately put them out of business

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 December, 2012, 12:36pm

A Michelin recommendation, one of the highest accolades in catering, is usually seen as a boon for recipients. But some cheaper Hong Kong restaurants honoured in the French guide's latest edition fear there could be a downside.

With rents already hard to afford, they hope landlords will not use the awards as an excuse to push them even higher.

Pang Pak-sheung said that when he learned that Pang's Kitchen, his Cantonese restaurant in Happy Valley, had received one star in the 2013 Michelin Guide, his reaction was, "Keep me out of this".

"Rent has already doubled compared to 10 years ago when I started this restaurant here," Pang said. "If it goes up again, I may as well just retire."

His restaurant, which can seat 40 people, charges about HK$100 for signature dishes such as sweet and sour pork with strawberry.

He said the restaurant was already very full throughout the week and might not be able handle more people attracted to it by the star.

Pang said he wanted to open another branch but the high rent, rising food costs and staff salaries made it impracticable.

"It's hard to compete with big companies and hotels to get good cooks," he said. "As you can see, many restaurants out there belong to the big corporations. There may come a day when small restaurants no longer exist in Hong Kong," he said.

Suen Cheung-yu, wife of the owner of Yat Lok Restaurant in Central, also said rent had doubled in recent years.

"I am concerned that it will go up further but what can I do?" she asked.

This restaurant, specialising in roast goose, was recommended in the guide under the Bib Gourmand category for restaurants that are the Michelin inspectors' favourites for good value.

Sixty-one Hong Kong restaurants are starred in the latest guide, down from 62 last year. Of these, four were given three stars, 13 were given two stars and 44 were given one star.

Meanwhile, public relations company Headman & Partners, which represents Michelin, confirmed that copies of the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2013 were put on sale at City'super supermarkets on Monday night by mistake.

A spokeswoman said the retail launch was planned for today and the distributor had advised all retailers about the date.

The guides were retrieved yesterday after the South China Morning Post inquired about their presence in City'super.

They will be put back on shelves today.

The Michelin Guide spokeswoman said it was a "disappointing incident".



Restaurants with three stars:

Caprice, Central

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Central

Lung King Heen, Central

8 ½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana, Central


New restaurants with two stars:

RyuGin , Kowloon

Sushi Yoshitake, Sheung Wan


New restaurants with one star

Pang's Kitchen, Happy Valley

L'altro, Central

Zhejiang Heen, Wan Chai


New eateries recommended under Bib Gourmand category

Yat Lok Restaurant, Central

AMMO, Admiralty

JoJo, Sai Kung