Thursday, 23 February 2017

Food trucks

LETTER TO South China Morning Post:
There's been a lot of news lately about Hong Kong's food trucks. Not all of it good. 
The New York Times ran a full-page article yesterday by my namesake Michael Forsythe (no relation). The headline was that there are more regulations than customers. City's food truck rules outnumber patrons.
Today the BBC had a story about the high costs the truck owners had to bear because of onerous government regulation. 
A number of letter writers, including myself, have mocked the government's dead hand of regulation in getting the concept to reality. The elephant laboured mightily and produced a flea. After a year of labour, eight trucks!
The NYT article quoted an official of the Tourism Bureau as saying that the trucks should be in places where there were no restaurants. Obviously this anonymous official knows nothing of the concept of "clustering ". The reason restaurants cluster close to each other is because it generates more business for all.  That's why home furnishing shops in Causeway Bay or car repair shops in Mongkok are clustered: it's good for everyone. 
There are three major faults with the scheme as it stands. 
One: the approval process is onerous and expensive. Two: the trucks have to be in government determined fixed locations. Three: menus can change only with government approval (!) 
Rather than further mock the government let's suggest a simple solution. 
Since our now, sadly, infamous food trucks are subject to international attention could an adult please take charge? Simplify application. Allow the trucks to move freely to any legal spot. Allow them to change their menus freely.: they will soon sink or swim based on their popularity. Enough of the Tourism Bureau's dead hand over all these restrictions. 
It would be a morning's work for the Chief Executive to bang heads together and bring some sanity to what is, after all, a pretty simple concept. Simple, but currently reflecting badly on our reputation for freedom and efficiency . 
PF etc.