Posted November 27

Hong Kong Tastes Sweet Success

Long regarded as a culinary capital, Hong Kong is expanding its repertoire as Western and Eastern influenced dessert cafes offering mouthwatering creations race to set up shop in the bustling city.

Some of the world’s most seductive dessert sensations are now satisfying the collective sweet tooth of the city’s locals and tourists, with the market’s growth spurred on by a ravenous demand that sees customers queue for hours just for a slice of baked bliss in a swanky setting.

The long queues outside exclusive outlets such as Chanel and Hermes have now switched across to the fancy dessert shops both on high streets and malls.

Newly arrived from the Big Apple, gourmet cake shop Lady M is now treating Hong Kong locals to confections reportedly enjoyed by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart.

JLL’s Associate Director of Retail Leasing, Michelle Chiu, who specialises in F&B, said the dessert cafe’s mall location was a strategic decision to lure in the hundreds of shoppers who pass through each day.

“Since the economic slowdown, consumers may not be buying as many luxury brands when they go shopping, but they still have to eat,” Chiu said.

Just desserts for sugar cravers

Chefs from Japan, France, Canada, the US and other destinations are attracted to operating restaurants in Hong Kong not only because of the local obsession with trying new foods, but also as a future springboard for expansion into mainland China and beyond.

For now, they offer purpose-made cafes in Hong Kong for every taste, serving homemade donuts and cookie combinations, irresistible cupcakes, green tea parfaits and pastries, melt-in-the-mouth cheesecakes, ice cream sandwiches and more.

Another newcomer to the island, Nakamura Tokichi, created a frenzy when it opened. Modeled on a Japanese teahouse, customers are treated to a delectable range of green tea-based sweets. Waitresses dressed as geishas serve and seating is either at a table or Japanese-style with shoes off on a low-rise platform.

As evidence that dessert cafes are not just a whimsy, US franchise Auntie Anne’s has been voted by Entrepreneur magazine as one of the 50 best franchises in the US for the past five years. Auntie’s toffee-covered, handrolled pretzels are a favourite in Hong Kong.

Chiu said that just a few years ago, leasing deals to food outlets comprised about 10 per cent of all retail leases signed off by JLL, but lately cafes are making up close to 40 per cent of new deals.

Cake makers well catered

“The demand for space to set up a dessert shop is growing so quickly that JLL has a dedicated food and beverage unit to look after these clients’ unique needs,” Chiu said.

“It will be like a one-stop service provider to cover all of our new clients’ needs. We will help them with things like licensing all the way through to interior design by putting them in touch with businesses that can be trusted to deliver.”
JLL can also advise proprietors who have tested the waters through a Hong Kong outlet and are interested in launching into other Asian markets.

InvestHK1 reports that catering services in China have seen double-digit growth in the past decade. The trend has been driven by the increased spending power of a growing middle class who see eating out in style as a key leisure activity.

The director of Japanese patisserie Mon Cher, Haneda Shu, told InvestHK that Hong Kong was “the best stepping stone for us to expand our business.”

Shu said the company planned to bring other brands to Hong Kong and the island city would be the “regional headquarters after we have opened more shops in Asia.”