Restaurants fear World Cup slump as Hong Kong fans become night owls

Businesses fear matches in the early hours will cause sleep-deprived fans to shun nights out

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 4:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 11 June, 2014, 9:52am

The soccer World Cup may be starting with a bang for restaurants and bars in Brazil but the Hong Kong trade expects no such bonanza.

In fact, some operators say the once-in-four-years tournament may cause business to drop.

The problem is that the time difference of 11 to 12 hours between Hong Kong and the 12 hosting Brazilian cities means the matches will take place after midnight, local time. This is unlike the last World Cup in South Africa when the time difference was only six hours.

"There is nothing we can do. The matches are taking place at midnight or even 4am. We can't stay open this late," Simon Wong Kit-lung, executive director of restaurant chain LHGroup said.

During previous World Cups, many restaurants subscribed to pay-television channels to attract more customers but few had done so this year, he said.

"But it's not like we have missed a business opportunity," Wong said. "After all, it only takes place once every four years. If we had to rely on it to survive, we would be in big trouble."

In fact, he is worried the event may hamper his business because Hongkongers who have sat up all night to watch the matches will be too tired to eat out.

"If they don't get enough sleep, they won't go out as much as usual," he said.

In Lan Kwai Fong, a popular hangout for night owls, the story is similar. Lan Kwai Fong Association director Tommy Fong said some bars were not bothering to subscribe to pay-television channels showing the games this year.

Bar owners feared the cost of subscription might not be justified by the amount of custom generated, said Fong, whose group includes more than 100 bars, restaurants and clubs.

He said there had been fewer corporate bookings this year.

"There were a lot of corporate bookings during the last World Cup," he said. "For example, many banks booked bars for their staff to watch the soccer games. This is not the case this time."

Fong said the association expected a business boost of 5 per cent during games compared to the 10 per cent experienced during the last World Cup.

The association has arranged Brazilian dancing and freestyle football for tomorrow night, before the first match between Brazil and Croatia at 4am on Friday.

Shopping malls are also getting in on the act. The city's biggest indoor television screen - 430 inches - has been installed at the Olympian City mall in West Kowloon. It will show live broadcasts of all 64 matches.