Thousands of Hong Kong restaurants will offer discounts of 30 per cent from next month in a bid to get the millions of recipients of a HK$10,000 (US$1,290) government handout to spend locally and revive the flagging economy.
Revealing on Thursday an unprecedented campaign to boost consumer spending, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said special deals would also be announced from retailers and the travel sector in the coming days.
It is hoped that about 6,000 restaurants will join the price-slashing initiative for evening menus that the industry is launching on July 15, to coincide with the distribution of the one-off cash support to about 7 million Hongkongers.
“I hope Hong Kong people will spend happily locally and boost the economy,” Chan said.
“We have seen some workers going on unpaid leave, or even laid off, so we hope the food and beverage initiatives will stimulate local consumption and help keep jobs in the industry.”
Lawmaker Tommy Cheung Yu-yan, who coordinates the scheme as the representative of the food and beverage sector in the city’s legislature, said participating restaurants would offer a 30 per cent discount every day of the week on their dinner menus from mid-July, falling to 20 per cent in August.
The list of restaurants taking part and more details on the offers would be revealed on July 8, Cheung said.
“The offer will apply to dinner, or after 6pm each day, so diners can stay longer in a restaurant,” Cheung said. “Lunch hours are too busy, and it is not financially viable to apply the discount throughout the day.”
Simon Wong Kit-lung, chairman of Hong Kong Japanese Food and Cuisine Association, said the industry hoped at least half of the city’s 12,000 licensed eateries would sign up.
“We encourage our 400 members to take part in the offer to create a joyful dining experience,” he said. “Hongkongers deserve to chill after months of ups and downs.”
Wong, also an executive director of listed food and catering management firm LH Group, said the venues in its 38-strong portfolio would throw themselves into the scheme, on top of the cash-coupon rewards it already offered customers.
Financial chief Chan urged restaurants to come up with their own offers as well and called for shopping centres to join the wider campaign to boost spending.
“I encourage our colleagues [government officials] to apply for the cash handout and spend the money at social enterprises or for buying gifts for the needy,” he said.
Eligible Hongkongers could receive the HK$10,000 as early as July 8 with applications opening on Sunday.
About 7 million people are in line for the sum, which will cost HK$71 billion in total and is part of the government’s relief package to ease the financial burden on residents during the economic downturn.
Hong Kong’s recession deepened in the first quarter of the year under the triple whammy of anti-government protests that erupted in June last year, the US-China trade war and the coronavirus pandemic.
The city’s economy contracted 8.9 per cent year on year in the first three months of 2020, the steepest quarterly drop since records began in 1974.
Tourism has been battered, with arrivals down 99.9 per cent, to 8,100 people in May, from the same period last year.
It was revealed earlier this week that unemployment was at a 15-year high of 5.9 per cent for March to May, up from 5.2 per cent in the three months ending in April.
Over the same period, the unemployment rate for food and beverage services jumped from 12 per cent to 14.8 per cent.
In the first three months of this year, restaurant receipts slumped 31.2 per cent to HK$21.67 billion year on year.
Lawmaker Cheung said he was hopeful of a quick recovery for the restaurant sector due to the government’s wage subsidy scheme and the imminent arrival of the peak season for eating out.
“We expect the unemployment rate for the industry will come down to single digits, and the banquet season is coming back in a couple of months,” he said.
The HK$81 billion wage subsidy scheme supports employers by paying 50 per cent of workers’ salaries for six months, capped at HK$9,000 per month.
It forms part of the government’s relief measures during the coronavirus crisis worth HK$290 billion in total.
Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority.