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Saturday, Feb 24, 2024

Eating out back on menu for Hong Kong’s unvaccinated as restaurants enjoy boost

Eating out back on menu for Hong Kong’s unvaccinated as restaurants enjoy boost

Some restaurants have added tables to boost business following the cancellation of capacity limits.

Restaurant operators said they had recorded at least 10 per cent growth in business on Thursday after Hong Kong lifted most pandemic restrictions, with unvaccinated diners back among their clientele.

Some restaurants chose to retain infection-control measures such as using partitions to reassure customers amid the continued coronavirus outbreak even though the government no longer requires a 1.5-metre space between tables.

The Post visited restaurants in Wan Chai, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay and found that some restaurants had added tables to boost business following the cancellation of capacity limits. The vaccine pass scheme was scrapped, too. But people must still wear masks in public and on transport.

Thomas Woo Chu, director of Hsin Kuang Restaurant Group that operates more than 20 Chinese restaurants, said he welcomed back many unvaccinated elderly patrons on Thursday morning and saw a 10 per cent uptick in revenue.


London Restaurant in Mong Kok, where dividers remain for some diners to give a sense of security.

His chain had been fined about a dozen times in the past eight to nine months, he recalled, and the lifting of social-distancing rules would not only save compliance costs, but also avoid conflicts between frontline staff and less tech-savvy elderly customers.

“Customers are always right, aren’t they? When we asked them to show their smartphones and scan the QR code [for the vaccine pass] … they would yell at us for making many demands and we could only accept it,” he said.

With the vaccine pass checkpoint history, Woo planned to also store the table dividers so diners could better interact in reunions, while air purifiers would remain in place.

William So Man-sing, general manager of a dim sum house called London Restaurant in Mong Kok, said he believed that keeping the dividers would help to maintain an appropriate social distance between customers and give them a sense of security, while the removal of the vaccine pass benefited some elderly customers who had not been vaccinated.

“I saw many familiar customers who haven’t been vaccinated come back again today – they used to order delivery for so long but now they can dine in,” he said.

A customer in his 70s who has not been inoculated said the vaccine pass requirement still left him feeling angry and the government should have removed it earlier.

“My freedom has been limited for so long, the relaxation is giving me back my rights, why should I feel happy and grateful?” said the man, who did not give his name.

Diner Cheng Kai-cheung, a 71-year-old retired engineer, said he was more willing to ask friends out for dim sum. “For us retired people, we want to be happy and healthy, now the relaxation makes restaurants more lively, I feel much better than before during friends’ gathering,” he said.

Wong Ngai, a 50-year-old manager of Chinese restaurant Qi Lu Jia Yan in Wan Chai, said they had added tables to rooms to welcome more guests.

“Now there are no restrictions, so the more people in a room, the more interest we can have, we have doubled the capacity of a room from 12 people to 24.”

Ray Chui Man-wai, chairman of Kam Kee Holdings that operates a chain of cha chaan teng, said the group’s restaurants saw a 10 per cent increase in business on Thursday, and he anticipated a further rise of up to 30 per cent when mainland Chinese visitors returned to the city. The Hong Kong government aims to restore quarantine-free travel with the mainland from mid-January.

Chui said dividers would remain in his restaurants for at least a short while because his patrons often shared a table at the denser dining rooms.

“As we still have to wear masks, customers feel a higher risk when they remove them to eat,” he said. “They want to have these dividers for a stronger sense of security.”
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