You Get What You Pay For

When it comes to sourcing and pricing, the biggest issue is that different people bring completely different sets of expectations to the party of what constitutes value. In particular, people who haven’t run restaurants before have far higher expectations of costs; experienced operators tend to have a better idea of the likely price range, and try to drive prices down starting within those parameters.

In the past 20 years in Hong Kong, the expectations of customers, particularly the older demographic, have steadily risen; these days everyone expects the very highest quality of decor, even from mid-range restuarants. It’s quite a challenge for independent restaurant operators in particular to meet these expectations.

The keys to sourcing are understanding what works in Asia and what doesn’t, and knowing where the best places are to buy. If you’re sourcing furniture, you need to find suppliers who are used to taking on projects that require them to work to a tight timeframe: you need to be able to trust your source.

I’d never suggest that a restaurant go for the cheapest possible furniture option. You’ll either end up spending a lot of time, money and effort repeatedly fixing it, or you won’t, in which case your customers will soon start to notice.

The good news is that high-quality furniture is now far easier to obtain. Mainland China might have a reputation for producing cheap, low-quality goods, but that reputation is severely outdated; the industry is waking up to the fact that Chinese factories are now capable of producing international-quality furniture, provided you’re prepared to pay for it.

When it comes to lighting, unfortunately it isn’t quite so simple; you’re just not going to be able to get the same quality in Asia as Europe. You can make any light you like here, though – as long as it uses simple materials. It’s probably best not to buy anything from mainland China that’s new to the market; wait at least five years for a product to prove that it works well.

Always remember to factor in labour costs. Everyone loves copper fittings, for example, but metalworkers are the best-paid tradesmen in Hong Kong; they’re going to cost you about HK$2,500 a day each, which can soon mount up – plus they’re all over 50, and they have the market cornered. So even if you use cheap materials, you can still end up paying a fortune for the installation.

High-quality floors have become far easier to source over the past five years, with the widespread availability of low-cost reconditioned reclaimed wood. You no longer need go overseas to find beautiful reclaimed wood, which can be used for other areas such as countertops as well as floors.

You also have more point of sale options these days, in the form of new wireless systems, often cloud-based, from local companies. There can be a few problems with reliability, but the savings over traditional systems can be up to 50 per cent, and the new systems also allow you to access data more easily through CRM software, allowing you to improve the guest experience.

Ivan – 28/01/2018



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