If the opening of new restaurants is a sign of optimism about the future and an improved economy, then Hong Kong is slowly coming out of the doldrums that marked the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic (we’re all hoping there aren’t more waves in the future). In the past month we’ve seen several openings, including Chaat at the Rosewood; Crown Super Deluxe, the teppanyaki restaurant operated by the Black Sheep Group; Yakinikumafia from Japan; and Basehall, the upmarket food court in Jardine House. But those places didn’t spring into being overnight. There are millions of details, large and small, that go into the opening of a new restaurant – deciding on the concept, finding investors, renting (or buying) the space, designing it, buying equipment, fitting out the kitchen and dining area, composing the menu, testing and tweaking the recipes, hiring staff, ordering supplies, and getting the proper licences. The processes began months ago. Because of the coronavirus, some openings were delayed – because what’s the point of starting a new restaurant when few people were going out? Of course “few people going out” is far better than “nobody going out at all”, which is the situation in parts of the world that are still under lockdown. Hong Kong was never in that situation, because there were relatively few cases of the coronavirus, and even though there were fewer people out on the streets, it was by choice, rather than government order to stay at home. But during that time, restaurants and other businesses were nowhere near as busy as they had been pre-coronavirus. We could get tables as walk-in customers at restaurants that we previously had to book weeks in advance, and many establishments added takeaway or delivery services, for those who preferred to eat at home. And unfortunately, some restaurants were forced to close, due to lack of business. But the fact that these new places have finally opened gives us hope – and hope for other places that were hit far worse than Hong Kong. Social media feeds have been full of posts by my fellow foodies, lamenting the fact that this place or that in their city has closed. Everyone is asking “what is the future of restaurants?” as if the closure of a few places means the entire industry is doomed. When one place closes, another will open in its empty space. That is small comfort for those that have had to close their restaurants, for investors who have lost their money, and for suppliers who have extended credit to the business, but might not get their money back. Let’s not forget all the employees of the business, who are now out of a job. But hope springs eternal. With each new restaurant that opens, the players might be different, but no matter who they are, they all want to make a living and (we hope) want to serve up good food with good service. Whether they succeed doesn’t necessarily depend on the quality of food or service – sometimes, circumstances far beyond their control can step in and completely ruin their plans.