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Founder of Café de Coral, Hong Kong’s largest fast-food restaurant chain, dies at 101

Victor Lo Tang-seong opened first of city’s 330 outlets when he was 54

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 7:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 July, 2016, 7:09pm

Victor Lo Tang-seong, founder of Café de Coral – Hong Kong’s largest fast-food restaurant chain – died last Thursday at the age of 101.

Lo, also known to Hongkongers as “Uncle Eight”, founded the chain in 1968 with the idea of offering affordable meals for working-class wage earners. He was the first to introduce burgers to Hong Kong, even before American giant McDonald’s sold its first burger in the city in 1975.

Born in a small Guangdong province village in 1915 and the eighth child of a poor Hakka family, Lo moved to Kong Kong and enrolled at King’s College with the help of an uncle.

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But the start of the Sino-Japanese War interrupted his student life shortly after he arrived in the city.

Following a brief stint of training, Lo joined the Kuomintang army as an aircraft mechanic. He was responsible for looking after the “Flying Tigers”, a special American army unit of pilots sent to the mainland to fight the Japanese.

He was a kind-hearted, open-minded, persevering and humorous man
Sunny Lo Hoi-kwong, on his father

After the war, he was sent to the US for additional military training and sampled an American burger for the first time.

After returning to Hong Kong, Lo worked as a teacher at the Far East Flying and Technical School and then joined his brother Lo Kwee Seong at Hong Kong Soya Bean Products Company, now Vitasoy, where he worked for 17 years.

His first Café de Coral restaurant did not open until he was 54.

The tiny, home-grown enterprise eventually became one of Asia’s largest publicly listed restaurant groups, operating 330 outlets in Hong Kong and 120 on the mainland. It serves 300,000 customers daily.

The restaurant group went public in 1986, making it the first local catering firm to be listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

As news of Lo’s death circulated, tributes came in.

Sunny Lo Hoi-kwong, Lo’s son and now chairman of Café de Coral, said his father would always be a role model for him and those following in his footsteps. He described him as a “kind-hearted, open-minded, persevering and humorous man”.

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Peter Lo Tak-shing, Lo’s nephew and chief executive officer of the group, said he and the company’s management would continue the founder’s spirit by making affordable meals for working-class Hongkongers.

In addition to its signature brand Café de Coral, the group has developed other mid-range restaurants in recent years, including Oliver’s Super Sandwiches and Spaghetti House.

Restaurant chain success in the Lo family is not unique. His younger brother Lo Fong Seong founded Fairwood, the city’s second-largest fast food chain.