By Nik Adams | Life Style Asia
At the end of 2015, the Hong Kong government announced a pilot scheme to allow 12 food trucks to operate at six locations around the city for two years, slated to start operating at the end of 2016. While on the surface it could be seen as a great step forward for our growing food scene — particularly in the international context — the plan already poses more than a couple of problems.
Location is everything with food trucks, and the planned locations for the Hong Kong food trucks aren’t exactly inspiring: there will be two each at Wan Chai’s Golden Bauhinia Square, Salisbury Garden at the Hong Kong Museum of Art in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central Harbourfront, Ocean Park, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
As the list of locations makes abundantly clear, the trucks are aimed squarely at the tourist market (and, on that note, if anyone can tell us where Golden Bauhinia Square and Salisbury Garden are, that’d be swell). But food trucks aren’t supposed to be tourist attractions.
The fact that the locations are so out of the way also defeats the whole point of a food truck: grab-and-go nosh from an accessible location. And yes, while some cities have experimented — to varying degrees of success — with amassing food trucks in a single location to create “villages”, these are cities that already have a food truck culture.
Potential vendors will have to pay around HK$600,000 for a Hong Kong food truck licence. This is a figure that will price a lot of the smaller players out of contention right from the get go. Again, this goes against the nature of what a food truck should be — a way in for the little guy. What it also means is that those dollar tacos that you get on any given New York street probably won’t be a realistic proposition here.
Why can’t the introduction of food trucks just happen organically? Food (unless it’s aid) is not, nor should it ever be, a “scheme” — that would just take the fun and creativity out of it. The growing number of pop-ups, private kitchens, restaurant takeovers and new restaurants in Hong Kong over the past 12 or so months is testament to just how exciting and surprising an organically changing scene can be.
By every measure, food trucks certainly have a place in Hong Kong today. Indeed, they appear a logical next step for a food scene that’s taken a very welcome turn towards more casual, approachable settings. But instead of letting it just happen, the government seems to be making it more difficult than it needs to be.