Five Tips for Opening a Successful F&B Outlet in Hong Kong

Maximise your chances of establishing a successful F&B outlet in Hong Kong by gathering the right retail advice and support. Here are some tips based on our specialist F&B team's experience.  

April 26, 2017

It's tough for a newcomer to open a Food and Beverage (F&B) venture in Hong Kong. Yet, with the right concept, location, research, planning and advice, your chances of establishing a successful F&B outlet increase considerably. Here are some tips based on our specialist F&B team's experience.  

1. Identify a contemporary concept

The right concept in line with current trends – for example Southeast Asian cuisine – helps define the premises and cuisine, and positions your brand as a market leader. But be prepared to be flexible – you may need to adapt your ideas to win over Hong Kong's sophisticated foodies.

2. Study other F&B outlets

Start with market research. Learn what your competitors offer, and what works well and where. "Find one dish that will really differentiate you from your competition," advises advises Michelle Chiu, Head of JLL’s F&B and Lifestyle Retail team in Hong Kong​. Don't be afraid to position your premises in an F&B cluster—it may prove a blessing in disguise if there is plenty of foot traffic.

3. Make a splash!

Seek out social media opportunities. People love to share photographs of a restaurant's signature dishes. Consider retaining experienced consultants to help improve your plating and turn out contemporary and colourful menus for maximum Instagram appeal. 

Use hashtags to move up the search engine rankings. Consider collaborating with food bloggers, influencers, and well-known public figures—even other chefs!

In 2016, Hong Kong-based F&B consultancy Forks and Spoons hosted the "Battle of the (Meat) Balls," in which six chefs from different restaurants competed, and the event created a media buzz for all involved. Discounts, complimentary food, hot models and PR events can all pull in the crowds. 

4. Location, location, location!

"In Hong Kong we often refer to streets as 'yin-yang streets,'" explains Chiu. "The rentals on different sides of the road can be vastly different. Even setting up shop a couple of streets down from your first choice of location can make a difference." 

Identify your target customers and select the right neighbourhood or street. Are you hoping to lure in families, business executives or a happy hour office crowd?

5. Think about licenses and logistics

Once you've signed your lease, you can apply for a provisional license to operate your establishment for one year.

The qualification process for a liquor license, held under an individual's name, takes longer time than acquiring a food license in a company name. That application procedure also involves personal background checks. 

It is not uncommon for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) to changes the licensing requirements every few years, according to Chiu, so getting expert advice can help. "Working with a professional consultancy can definitely increase the options on the table and save a lot of time. Someone who knows the local regulations and are familiar with the FEHD processes can give you the upper hand." 

You also need to think about the technical specifications of your chosen space. "Ask yourself: Does it have a back door? Enough electricity to run a kitchen? Good water supply and drainage?" says Chiu. "It sounds simple, but it's all important to ensure a smooth start to your culinary journey in Hong Kong."​

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