Food trucks a welcome addition to local culinary scene

A long, drawn-out process has finally seen 16 operators approved, but meals on wheels alone will not be enough to boost tourism sector

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 12:47am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 August, 2016, 12:47am

The much-touted food truck scheme is a step closer to reality. Sixteen winners specialising in a wide range of delicacies have cleared another hurdle following a cook-off held last week. They can now proceed to apply for the licences to operate in eight designated tourist areas. Food lovers can, hopefully, tuck in as early as the end of the year.

There appears to be a variety of choices on the menu, ranging from halal-certified Cantonese pastries and dumplings to pork sandwiches and waffles. As mouth-watering as they seem, the winning dishes may not appear to be so special to many who are already spoiled by the local food scene. The project could have taken off much earlier had it not been packaged as a government-led tourism initiative. It has been 17 months since Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah made the announcement about food trucks in his budget. But the signature dishes of the winners will not be available until the end of this year.

Hong Kong’s new food trucks: wonton noodles, halal Cantonese pastries, egg tarts and pork rolls soon on offer among 16 winning operators

The long duration owes much to government red tape. Officials first had to sort out which bureau would take the lead, followed by an overseas study tour and a culinary contest. The scheme also comes with a thicket of rigid requirements, meaning only 51 of the 192 applicants were shortlisted for consideration.

Whether the businesses will become financially viable remains to be seen. If overseas experience is any guide, such ventures thrive on creativity and flexibility. The situation here is apparently different. Some applicants said they were already weighed down by the licensing bureaucracy and lamented that it was more challenging than running a restaurant.

Hong Kong has a well-deserved reputation as one of Asia’s food capitals. It is to be hoped that food truck operators can run their businesses successfully and help enrich the local culinary scene. But officials should realise that it will take more than caterers on wheels to attract tourists to come here. More tourism attractions are needed to help put the industry back on track towards healthy growth.