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The Economy Is Free in Hong Kong. Running a Food Truck Isn’t

HK-food-trucks-superJumbo.jpg HONG KONG — Michael Forsythe reports: For the 23rd year runningHong Kong is, in the opinion of the conservative Heritage Foundation, the freest economy in the world. With low taxes, an efficient government and private businesses running the city buses and its spotless subways, this place is a libertarian dream come true. So the story goes. Many people who live in Hong Kong beg to differ. This has long been a city of tycoons, with a few families holding sway over the supermarkets, drugstores and real estate market, limiting competition and keeping prices high. And in the past few weeks, four words have further shaken the story line that this former British colony is a free-market nirvana. Food Truck Pilot Scheme. Hong Kong, a culinary paradise that is arguably the dim sum capital of the world, was, until this month, sorely lacking in something that other financial capitals, like New York and London, have in spades: food trucks. Something had to be done to close the yawning food truck gap. Enter the Hong Kong government, keen to draw in more tourists.


Lam Yik Fei for the New York Times

After more than a year of preparation, and even cook-offs to pick the lucky few, the food trucks are finally here. Eight for a city of 7.2 million. There are plans for eight more.

[Read the full story here, at the New York Times]

The trucks are sights to behold. Gleaming and new, they are brightly and imaginatively painted, with names like Ma Ma’s Dumplings and Mein by Maureen. One is emblazoned with a panda that bears a striking resemblance to Po of “Kung Fu Panda” fame.
And the food — in the opinion of this hearty eater — is fabulous. The Shanghai barbecue pork bun from the Book Brothers truck melts in your mouth. The “five colored dumplings” at Ma Ma’s are delicious — an authentic taste of northern China. Just one ingredient seems to be missing: customers.

Food trucks in most cities are mobile. They can move from place to place. They are, after all, trucks. In New York, one might hit the lunch crowd in Midtown, then head uptown to Columbia University to catch hungry students in late afternoon.


Lam Yik Fei for the New York Times

In Hong Kong, the government agency that devised the Food Truck Pilot Scheme had a new, bold and innovative idea: stationary food trucks that don’t park on the street. A spokesman for the city’s Tourism Commission explained why in an email:

“Since the urban area of Hong Kong is already saturated with traffic, it would not be desirable from the traffic management and road safety angles to allow food trucks to park and operate on public roads. Moreover, as many locations in Hong Kong have already got a number of food establishments, it would thus be desirable to introduce food trucks away from those areas.”

It’s all explained in a raft of guidelines. There are seven annexes in all, including licensing requirements (Annex D), special government loan programs (Annex B) and fixed venues (Annex F).

Then there is Annex C — “Mandatory Requirements for a Food Truck” — that lists in painstaking detail what each truck must have. Some examples: The kitchen floor space must be at least 65 square feet. Each truck must have … (read more)


via New York Times

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