Wages boost for diner staff
After the Statutory Minimum Wage came into force on 1 May last year, many restaurants, especially small and medium-sized ones, found themselves under pressure. Increases in prices of food materials and rents, plus the rise in salaries, saw running costs jump by up to 13 per cent, making it even more difficult for many to run their business.
The new law has also seen an exodus of workers. Since the law does not clearly state whether or not lunch hours and rest days should be paid, many restaurants prefer them to be unpaid. Many staff have therefore quit to work in comparatively more comfortable industries, making the manpower shortage even more acute.
Luckily, the law did not lead to many restaurant closures or massive layoffs, as many in the industry had feared. Some low-income workers, such as dishwashers, have indeed benefited, with salaries rising substantially, from around HK$6,000 to almost HK$9,000. It seldom seems difficult to find a job in the industry.
This is the Year of the Dragon when, according to tradition, parents prefer their children to be born. This may help restaurants, although those on housing estates, and small outfits like cha chaan teng, may not benefit.
The food and beverage industry's future prospects depend on external factors such as the viability of tourism and whether the mainland continues to tighten the flow of money.
Simon Wong Ka-wo, chairman, Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades