THE Association of Restaurant managers plays an important role in the Restaurant Hygiene Competition. Not only do all their restaurants take part with enthusiasm, but the managers themselves are heavily involved in the judging process. ''The competition is actively supported by our members,'' said association chairman Ng Tak-leung. ''The Urban Council invites opinions from all relevant organisations, and we have put forward several points which we think have improved the competition, and made it fairer.'' Twelve of the association's members acted as judges, having previously declared any conflict of interest to ensure impartiality. Although three or four judges, including councillors and district board members, visit a restaurant together, they each mark independently. However, Mr Ng said that there was open discussion between judges and his members offered advice based on their experience. Factors, such as the type of restaurant and its location, were taken into account, said Mr Ng. ''The effort required by a large Chinese restaurant and a noodle shop are different,'' he said. ''A noodle shop does not have to put so much effort into hygiene. ''It has fewer products to be stored and fewer staff. ''These factors are taken into account.'' Some people may consider the competition is unfair. There are always restaurants which feel however hard they try, they will never win. But Mr Ng emphasised that the competition was open to all. ''The competition has never been dominated by large quality restaurants or chains,'' he said. ''And there are a considerable number of small, simple restaurants which want to take part. ''In general, the standards of hygiene are very good in Hong Kong, but there is always room for improvement. ''Win or not, restaurants - even top class ones - must prove themselves. ''Five-star hotel restaurants do not necessarily maintain better hygiene standards than four-star establishments. ''It depends on the management and their internal system of inspections.'' Mr Ng said that his association was more than satisfied with the competition, and was pleased to take part. The association members also learned from the competition by observing different styles of operation in restaurants, he added.