More and more, I find myself wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to invest in the food and beverage industry in Hong Kong. It’s a tough and risky business at the best of times. With the coronavirus in 2020 and the political protests in 2019, the last two years have been brutal to say the least. However, there are still hospitality entrepreneurs eager to enter the fray. I guess there’s a certain prestige to proprietorship – to be able to say you’re the boss, host friends for drinks and food, and have bragging rights if you’re behind a trendy establishment. But I’m not sure many investors really know what they’re getting into. Some self-styled impresarios have never cooked on a line, got their hands dirty with washing dishes, or had to close a dining room late one night and be back a few hours later to prep the early morning breakfast shift. The more successful restaurateurs actually have a background in catering and cooking. They’ve been around kitchens all their life or worked in enough of them to know the nuts and bolts of sourcing produce, handling temperamental chefs, juggling cash flow and payroll, and appeasing picky patrons who complain if a steak is medium instead of medium-rare. This amazing food art gets picky kids to eat new and healthy dishes You can’t expect to be a successful Premier League team manager if you’ve never played football. But some restaurateurs think they just need a cool concept and a branding plan. Things like execution, strategy and hard work they leave up to someone they hire to deal with – which is not just a bad mistake but a great way to lose your shirt. There are a lot of stories of bankers and lawyers who tire of being workaholics and switch careers, opening a small cafe or a hobby-driven bakery. Occasionally, someone will bite off more than they can chew and open a big-time restaurant. Chefs have been known to take advantage of such gullible investors. An MBA is not insurance from a big-ego chef ordering a boatload of the best seafood fresh from Japan and then having to throw it all away because nobody ordered his overpriced sashimi platter. Plenty of wealthy family scions launch vanity restaurant empires, too, and they have the advantage of profitability not being a priority. Chefs with name-recognition status love these guys because they’ll pay handsomely for the instant cred. My cynicism for the business, however, is tempered by the other end of the spectrum. The food and restaurant business is also an economic ladder anyone can use to climb up. That’s what generations of immigrant families have done when they arrived in strange new lands with just the clothes on their back. Chinese restaurants (plus launderettes and convenience stores) are the fallback option for lots of ex-Hongkongers in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. She quit her job to pursue her passion, growing edible flowers I recently learned of an enterprising but poor mainland Chinese family who are new arrivals to Hong Kong. With their young son, they share a tiny sub-divided flat. The mum worked in a bakery but their dream is to have their own business. Recently they took her cheesecake-making knowledge and opened their own small shop. The story is inspiring but the reality has been challenging. On their own, they have no retail experience. They also don’t know about marketing or promoting their cakes. Worse, a competing, better-known brand has a shop quite close, on the opposite side of the road. I have little sympathy for trust-fund heirs losing their shirt on a failing hipster bar, but I wished this family did a little more planning before sinking all their money in a risky bet. This is about the only thing I can do to help them: if you like Basque burnt cheesecakes, Yummy Castella Cake is at 124 Wan Chai Road.