As the long-awaited food trucks finally hit the streets of Hong Kong on Friday, here are five things you need to know.
It’s a two-year scheme, announced by former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah in 2015. These 16 food trucks will be allowed to operate in eight tourist districts as a way to diversify the city’s tourism industry, which has relied too heavily on shoppers from the mainland.
Tsang said the idea was inspired by a feel-good Hollywood film about a frustrated restaurant cook who ultimately finds success with a food truck venture.
A total of 192 applications were received, and 51 remained after the first stage of selection on their business proposals. They later showcased their signature dishes at a cook-off challenge, and the top 16 were selected by a panel of judges comprising tourism industry practitioners, gastronomes and government officials.
They will be staged at eight locations on a rotation basis: Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai; Salisbury Garden and Art Square in Tsim Sha Tsui; the Central harbourfront; Ocean Park; Hong Kong Disneyland, the Energizing Kowloon East harbourfront; and the square next to Wong Tai Sin Temple.
Eight will offer Chinese dishes, four will serve up Western options, and the others will lure customers with a variety of international offerings.
The government initially estimated at least HK$600,000 would be needed to install a food truck that would meet its requirements – an “unattainable” threshold, according to many small businesses.
This led to criticism that the project would be dominated by large food groups, and critics said it could easily become a promotional channel for established restaurant chains.
The government later decided to give extra bonus points to start-ups and micro-enterprises in the selection process, which eventually allowed seven smaller businesses to get selected.
It has been almost two years since the scheme was announced. Many operators have complained the restrictions set by the government and its instructions were hard to follow. Several licences from different departments are needed in order to run a food truck, including vehicle registration, the vehicle licence and the food factory licence. Operators also need to sign agreements with the venues at which the trucks operate.
While the government looks at boosting tourism with the Hollywood-inspired food trucks, street hawkers who sell cheap local snacks from stalls still cannot get licences from the authorities – a factor, allegedly, behind the Mong Kok riot during Lunar New Year in 2016.
A ban on new licences and limits on their transfers imposed in the 1970s has shrunk the number of legal hawkers from 50,000 in 1974 to about 6,000 today.