Hong Kong's $82 billion food-catering market, one of the biggest in the Asia-Pacific region, will continue to propel the economy for the next two years, a study shows. The study by Australia-based research firm BIS Shrapnel, found that, on average, $60 of every $100 spent by Hong Kong people was on eating out. This was way above the average in Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand and the Philippines, it said. 'Fascinating findings,' BIS food and beverage consultant Sandro Mangosi said. 'Although Hong Kong is a smaller place with a smaller population, its food-service market is surprisingly big.' Hong Kong has a 6.8 million population, compared with 18 million in Australia, where expenditure on food accounts only for 25 per cent of spending. In Singapore, 55 per cent of total expenditure was on eating, he said. In Hong Kong, the study's poll of diners at 200 restaurants showed the fast-food sector, especially Chinese specialty restaurants, would be the biggest winner. It found the sector grew at 4.5 per cent annually, largely at the expense of clubs and bars. The sector's fast growth also meant soaring competition. Cafe de Coral Holdings' decision to shrink its Chinese specialty restaurants chain Ah Yee Leng Tong underlined the situation. Ah Yee Leng Tong shut one outlet last summer, retaining six, as a result of competition fuelled by a punishing price war. Cafe de Coral chairman Michael Chan Yue-kwong a fortnight ago said competition in the Chinese specialty restaurants had reached a crescendo. 'It's like dogs eat dogs,' he said. 'We won't rule out further shrinking of Ah Yee Leng Tong.' Provision of meals and snacks at the SAR's clubs and bars would grow at about 1.5 per cent this year, which was likely to lag behind gross domestic product growth. High-end restaurants would continue to suffer and many weaker performers would go under or be forced to merge, it said. Growth of Western fast-food outlets had slowed following massive expansion in recent years and declining numbers of expatriates.