Why a Hong Kong beachside restaurant is closing – Mavericks chef and company that sublets it space put their sides of story
Boss of Lantau outdoor activities company says agreement couldn’t be reached with Mavericks over catering to its core business; restaurant’s co-owner says he wanted to raise food quality, but couldn’t meet demand for steep rent increase
Mavericks, a restaurant in Pui O, Lantau, popular with weekend hikers, beach-goers and surfers and South Lantau residents is being forced to close in mid-May. The restaurant’s owner says it’s because of a jump in rent, but the operator that sublets the space to Mavericks says the restaurant on Pui O Beach was not interested in catering to its core business.
Adrienne Ng is the founder and managing director of Treasure Island Group (TIG), which runs outdoor camps for children and companies doing corporate team-building through activities such as camping, paddle boarding, raft building, and orienteering. Mavericks caters meals for these groups on weekdays, and from Friday to Sunday runs as a restaurant.
“The restaurant is not our core business, though the weekend business is starting to thrive now and it’s one of the most successful restaurants on Lantau,” Ng says. “Our core business is outdoor education.
“We are subcontracted by international schools to provide outdoor activities for students. Treasure Island caters to over 5,000 clients per year.” Her company provides breakfast, lunch, dinner and two snacks each day to groups of up to 150 people for courses that can last three days.
The food provided includes spaghetti bolognese, barbecued meats, continental breakfast, and a sandwich buffet.
Ng sent a written statement to the Post explaining that, according to Treasure Island’s agreement with Mavericks, the restaurant would be charged rent at half the market rate for the first year, and be given three months rent-free, to help it start up the weekend business as long as it catered for the training camps during the week.
However, Neil Tomes, chef and co-owner of Mavericks, says the restaurant has been operating at a loss and considered this the cost of doing business. This year he wanted to raise the quality of the food served, and says he suggested reducing costs by having it prepared by a factory elsewhere in Hong Kong.
Ng says this would not be practical, citing the possibility of adverse weather such as black rainstorms preventing deliveries, and that in any case Treasure Island wanted meals prepared on site so that it knew what was going into them.
“We give a selected menu to the schools and we have to give it to them a year in advance because students may have allergies and such.
“I don’t believe in changing the kids’ menu. I think what we have is suitable for them.
“I was open for him to improve the food quality, but we have to keep the food quality to where the market is reasonable.”
The Chinese Canadian said that, when students write reviews of the camp, one of the first things they say is that they enjoyed it as well as the food.
Tomes says that, after several proposals and counterproposals regarding a way forward for the venture, Treasure Island sought a rent increase of around 80 per cent. Tomes says this would make it impossible to operate, and so the restaurant was given 30 days’ notice to vacate the premises.
Asked for his reaction to its impending closure, Tomes said he was all right. “I stand by my principles. I offered them the standard and level of quality I could stand by. This group is very cost-conscious, eking the last dollar out of the camps.”
On Mavericks’ Facebook page, hundreds of comments have been posted mourning its impending closure, which Mavericks earlier announced in an email and a post on the page that begins: “This is not an email I expected to have to write.”
It goes on to say: “Despite surviving natural disasters, fires and typhoons, in the end our final nemesis was economics. Significantly changing financial circumstances mean that Mavericks can no longer do business at our current location, so with great sadness we announce that we have just four weekends left here on Pui O Beach.”