Lee Ka Ding (李家鼎), actor-turned-celebrity chef, was once a myth in HK FB scene. His second restaurant Ding’s Club (鼎·會館) in H Queen’s Central closed down today. Why?
Lee Ka Ding (李家鼎), Kong Fu actor in Hong Kong, has been a miracle in Hong Kong F&B scene in recent two years!
His TV cooking program got overwhelming feedback two years ago. Riding on his popularity, Lee opened his first restaurant Ding’s Kitchen (鼎爺私房菜) in Causeway Bay and shortly then Ding’s Club (鼎·會館) in Central. His empire behind was actually planning to open more eateries and eventually go for public listing. But the plan is now on hold. What’s happened?
Story behind Ding’s Restaurant Empire
Emerging from a kung fu star and actor in Hong Kong 70’s, Lee surprisingly builds his name as an authentic Chinese chef in a television’s cooking show since 2017.
The show – Grandpa Kitchen 阿爺廚房 highlights a classic Chinese menu with solid cooking skills has earned positive comments and now takes Lee Ka Ting further to open his first restaurant for private dining in Causeway Bay.
One year after, he has reached the next height to open a fine dining Chinese Restaurant – Ding’s Club (鼎·會館). It’s conveniently situated in the core of Central called H Queen’s.
Sadly, Ding’s Club will close down today after one year of operation only. What are the possible reasons behind?
Why Ding’s Club closed down so quick?
Lacrucci have witnessed the opening till closure of Ding’s Club. It’s a shame that it have operated for 12 months only. It’s also the first restaurant in H Queen’s to . Why?
1) Protest’s impact on HK F&B industry
Firstly, protests and violence have continued for almost 6 months in Hong Kong. Undoubtedly, prolonged social unrest has hard hit F&B industry, especially fine dining industry. So happened, Ding’s Club is a fine dining Chinese restaurant, which targets the high-spending local customers and tourists.
Obviously, restaurant business has dropped substantially in recent few months and it has no sign to go better soon.
2) High rental outgoings
Lee Ka Ding has selected H Queen’s in Central for the venue of Ding’s Club. Needless to say, H Queen’s is not only in the core of Central, but also a new building with good views and facilities. However, its rental is one of the highest for upstairs F&B spaces in Hong Kong.
When the F&B business is suffering a sudden downturn, it’s hard to keep the sales to pay all the outgoings. Even though Landlord might consider a rental reduction, the restaurant revenue has slided far more than rental reduction. Under the circumstances that other outgoings are the same, how can the restaurant survive?
3) Highly competitive market
Without a doubt, Hong Kong is a food paradise. The density of restaurants is one of the highest in the world. Even so, a number of restaurants are still interested to open new venues in Hong Kong, especially in Central where the spending power is the highest in town.
However, the market is highly competitive with a number of renowned Chinese restaurants in Central. It’s tough for new comers like Ding’s Club to share a piece of pie.
To name a few:
- Yung Kee (鏞記) – one of the oldest restaurants in Hong Kong for more than 80 years. Yung Kee is the most famous for its roast goose.
- Lung King Heen (龍景軒) – Michelin starred and fine dining Chinese restaurant in Four Seasons Hotel in Central. Celebrity chef Chan Yan-tak is helming Lung King Heen. Absolutely, it’s one of the best Chinese restaurants in town.
- Mott 32 – The restaurant has won awards for its interior design. It’s in the basement of Standard Chartered Bank Building in Central.
- Duddell’s (都爹利會館) – Michelin starred restaurant on Duddell’s Street in Central. It’s a popular Chinese eatery for tourists and expatriates.
- The Chairman (大班樓) – one of the Asia Best 50’s restaurants. Its focus is more on food than restaurant decor.
4) High menu price
Unlike other Asian countries, Hong Kong people are more affordable for expensive restaurants. But still, we are going to pay which is value for money.
The menu price of Ding’s Club is comparatively high for traditional Chinese cuisines. It’s comparable to that of Lung King Hee, a Michelin 3 starred restaurant in Hong Kong. Did Ding’s Club price too high for the dishes?
What’s Next to HK Fine Dining Restaurants?
Indeed, it’s really the hard time now for all fine dining restaurants in Hong Kong. It has never happened and even worse than the SARs period in 2003.
Cutting costs while maintaining the food and service quality might be the only way to ride over this tough tide in Hong Kong. Best wishes to all restaurant operators!