12th February 2024 – (Hong Kong) A Mong Kok restaurant’s decision to implement a 30% service charge during the Lunar New Year celebrations has ignited a public outcry amidst the seasonal surge in dining out. The noodle establishment, which also enforced a 40-minute dining limit on its patrons during the festive evenings of 9th and 10th February, became the centre of a fiery debate regarding the appropriateness of such surcharges during a traditional time of celebration.
Leung Chun-wa, the chairperson of the Association for Hong Kong Catering Services Management, addressed the controversy on a radio broadcast, describing the hefty service charge as an isolated incident rather than an industry norm. According to Leung, the customary practice among local eateries during the Lunar festivities has been to maintain a standard 10 per cent service charge.
Despite the uproar over the Mong Kok restaurant’s pricing strategy, Leung clarified that the sector, on the whole, is wrestling with the balancing act of managing increased costs and higher staff wages, which inevitably translates into a modest 5 to 10 per cent uptick in menu prices during the Lunar New Year period.
The chairperson also provided a snapshot of the industry’s recovery, revealing that Chinese restaurants experienced full bookings on the eve and the initial days of the Lunar New Year, signalling a return to 95 per cent of their pre-pandemic business levels. This resurgence is a positive indicator for the catering sector, which has been navigating the challenges of economic fluctuations and a global health crisis.