WE caught the usually ebullient Max Schnallinger of China Max fame in reflective mood the other day. Recovering from a meeting of shareholders in a private dining room at the Hilton, he let it be known that Times Square was perhaps not the best location for what he refers to as his 'upmarket cafe'. He also rued the downturn in the economy which he said was having a damaging effect on the restaurant business. 'The economy is such that people go out less now,' he mused. 'The newspapers have been filled with the fact that the restaurant business has suffered in the last quarter by more than 20 per cent.' It is a little bit of an uphill battle to have a smart cafe in Causeway Bay because the consumer is not naturally in this neighbourhood. 'People are concerned about what they are spending,' he said. 'It's perhaps $45 by taxi here as opposed to $13 to Lan Kwai Fong.' Max revealed he was also keen to attract more of the workers and shoppers in the glitzy mall but fears they may have been deterred by the restaurant's upmarket appearance. 'It might have been wiser to look less exclusive from the outside with the bamboo curtains and so on,' he said. 'Some people may think it looks too expensive.' Despite its widely acclaimed quality and attractive, if rather bewildering design, China Max is obviously not the whirlwind financial success its shareholders hoped for. However, Max said no further changes were envisaged as it approaches the anniversary of its first year in business. Just three months after its high-profile March opening, most of the team brought in to run the restaurant were sacked and Max himself was unceremoniously ousted in a boardroom coup - despite owning 43 per cent of the shares - after allegations of over-spending. Despite reservations in some quarters that he was turning the place into too much of a one-man show and that insufficient numbers of Chinese people were dining there, his obvious flare enabled him to bounce back to the helm just days later. Last November, the $30 million establishment revamped its menu in a bid to attract more custom.