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Slow start for Hong Kong restaurants offering National Day deals as residents lament they were unaware of discounts

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Some Hong Kong restaurants offering National Day promotions got off to a slow start as discounts failed to draw crowds on Sunday and minimal in-store advertising left many unaware of the deals, but an industry leader chalked it up to consumers waiting until after the fireworks to start spending.

Around 1,750 dining spots around the city were providing discounts and other deals to commemorate National Day, with some slashing prices by as much as 30 per cent for certain dishes.

Industry leaders had previously predicted that the long weekend including the Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day could generate as much as HK$1.2 billion (US$153 million) for the city’s struggling restaurant sector, with some hoping the discounts would boost sales by 20 per cent.

Half of the seats at the Chai Wan branch of local fast-food chain Fairwood were empty around noon. Photo: Connor Mycroft

The industry-wide promotions followed a similar campaign in July to celebrate the 26th anniversary of the city’s return to Chinese rule, in which nearly 1,400 restaurants participated.

But a Post visit during lunchtime to eateries taking part in the campaign found that many residents were unaware of the deals and some restaurants had forgone in-store advertising altogether.

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At the Chai Wan branch of local fast-food chain Fairwood, the Post observed a steady stream of residents queuing around 12.30pm on Sunday, but about half of the seats remained empty.

Fairwood offered its “Ah Wood Sweet Corn and Diced Pork with Rice” dish for HK$29, down from the usual price of HK$42. But a Post check found that while the menu had indicated a price change for the item, there was no other in-store advertising for the promotion. The menu also made no mention of National Day.

Customers line up at fast-food chain Fairwood, which is offering a discount on one of its meals on National Day. Photo: Connor Mycroft

“I had no idea there were discounts today,” said 19-year old University of Hong Kong student Neptune Lo Lok-ching.

Residents queuing at a nearby Maxim’s MX, another locally-owned fast-food chain, were also unaware of the deals.

The chain had slashed 30 per cent off some of its noodle soups and its Hainanese Chicken. The markdowns were shown inside the eatery, which was advertising its Thai dishes outside.

“I always love a good deal, but we did not actually know about them,” said a 26-year-old resident who only gave the surname Hon. She was in a queue of about six people with her mother around noon.

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At a Chai Wan branch of fast food chain KFC, there were no advertisements for its National Day special allowing customers to add a piece of chicken to any meal for HK$10.

An employee said the details of the promotion had been shared on the company’s Facebook page. The terms of the deal posted online on Sunday noon said patrons must ask for the extra chicken in person at the restaurants.

Simon Wong ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, dismissed concerns over the slow start and said it was “obvious” residents were holding back until the evening to dine out.

“People are just waiting for the fireworks,” Wong said, referring to the National Day event set to make its return after a five-year hiatus.

“Restaurants on both sides of the harbour are expected to do good business [on Sunday night] … The bookings are just tremendous,” he said.

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While Hong Kong restaurant receipts in the second quarter jumped by 24.3 per cent year on year, many operators previously said they experienced a massive summer slump as residents flocked to nearby Shenzhen on the weekends.

The restaurant discounts are among a series of perks being offered to commemorate National Day. Other deals include half-priced film tickets and free rides on trams, light rail trains, buses run by the MTR Corporation and Star Ferry services between Tsim Sha Tsui and Wan Chai.

Hong Kong’s major cinemas also failed to attract film-goers with their discounted tickets.

At an Emperor Cinemas branch in Times Square in Causeway Bay, screenings on Sunday afternoon were half to two-thirds full, with tickets selling for between HK$60 and HK$68.

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Most patrons said they were not aware of the reduced rates.

A man in his 50s, who only gave the surname Tse, said that he and his wife had planned to watch The Volunteers: To The War, a Chinese movie about the Korean war and were pleasantly surprised by the discount.

“At first, I was afraid of heading to the cinema [on Sunday] because I was concerned about there being a crowd, but turns out there are fewer people than expected,” he said.

A retiree, who only gave the surname Cheng, said he was encouraged by the lower price to watch the special screening of Hong Kong film Ready or Knot 2.

“Usually ticket prices at Emperor Cinemas are so expensive, at about HK$130. So I especially came to the cinema today to watch the film,” he said, adding that he would avoid the free tram rides and events, such as the fireworks, as he was concerned about crowds.

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