Image credit: CEO
Disappearing Stores – Every storm is just the last straw
(SOURCE: CEO, 24th March 2020)
In Shum Wan Pier, Dr Wong Chuk Hang, Hong Kong, who owns two conjoined giant seafood farms – one is the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, and the other is the Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, has come to an end.
The two floating restaurants were in operation for more than 40 years and are important parts of ‘Jumbo Kingdom’, also known as hot places on social media.
However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, the kingdom has come to the end.
Recently, the holding company of this restaurant – Jumbo Kingdom, announced on its official website:
‘Based on the current COVID-19 pressure, Jumbo Kingdom will cease business from 3rd March until further notice.’
For this, the largest shareholder of Jumbo Floating Restaurant – Melco International Development (HK.0200) announced, ‘In view of the significant impact of the COVID-19 on the business of Jumbo Kingdom, the decision to close the business was made, and the Group will continue to pay attention to the operating environment of Jumbo Kingdom and give an update on the latest situation.’
As soon as the news came out, there was a lot of disappointment. It is reported that the 1st March is the last business day of Jumbo Kingdom.
If you open Dianpin, you will find that the Jumbo Floating Restaurant is listed as ‘Closed’.
This also means the end of this ship which was once the world’s largest ‘sea restaurant’.
COVID-19 Crisis, from layoff to end
Since last July, the overall number of visitors to Hong Kong began to decrease sharply. The total number of visitors to Hong Kong in the second half of the year was 21.04 million, down 39.1% year-on-year.
Due to the impact of COVID-19 this year, the number of visitors to Hong Kong has further decreased. According to data from the Hong Kong Tourism Board on March 16, preliminary statistics showed that visitor arrivals in Hong Kong fell 96% to 199,000 in February this year.
Since the implementation of the customs closure policy on February 8, Hong Kong’s average daily visitors reached 3,300, 20% are mainland visitors, and it is expected that the number of visitors to Hong Kong in March may be further reduced.
The rapid decrease in tourist traffic and the impact of the epidemic have caused double blows to the retail and catering industries in Hong Kong, and they have experienced unprecedented pressure.
According to the Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao, there are currently about 28,000 restaurants in Hong Kong, and more than 1,000 restaurants have been closed. As the “world’s largest restaurant on the sea”, a 40-year-old Jumbo Floating Restaurant has not been spared.
In early January 2020, to respond to the downturn in its performance, Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s parent company, Jumbo Kingdom, has laid off more than 60 employees (nearly half of the employees) and started a new business model, including setting a new seasonal menu and it has shortened business hours.
A spokesperson for Melco International said, “In the severely operating catering industry, the new operating model will help Jumbo Kingdom continue to provide great services to guests while retaining the unique experience of traditional maritime restaurants in this Hong Kong landmark.”
But the new business model could not withstand the pressure of the environment after all. Jumbo Kingdom announced its closure on March 3, and at the same time dismissed all its employees.
It is reported that Melco International decided to terminate the lease and return the land to government. The lease term will end in June this year. The lessee will clear the building and restore the appearance of the pedestrian road before returning the land as required by the license.
Accounting to this, the COVID-19 suffered a setback for the Jumbo Kingdom far beyond the 2003 SARS outbreak.
As early as 2003, the turnover of Treasure Kingdom once dropped by 75% due to SARS. After a period of bleak operation, it became a mess.
But in the same year, the storyline turned around. In 2003, Hong Kong officially opened for free travel to mainland visitors by the China Central Government. The arrival of a large number of mainland tourists drove the development of Hong Kong’s tourism industry to a small peak. With the classic Hong Kong movie “Infernal Affairs 2” being framed and released here, Jumbo Kingdom became a hot place for mainland tourists.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong and its catering industry that once survived SARS, this time failed to survive COVID-19.
The “Jumbo Floating Restaurant”, which has 44 years of entrepreneurial history, it is not just a restaurant!
As we all know, the 44-year-old Jumbo Floating Restaurant is not only a pearl on the sea representing Hong Kong’s tourism industry, but also an internationally renowned tourist attraction.
The Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s total area is 45,000 square feet and can accommodate 2,300 people dining at the same time. In design, it imitates the decoration of the palace building in Ming Dynasty, and the interior is full of traditional Chinese handicrafts and murals. The famous dragon chair took 2 years to complete.
Since its opening, many classic films such as ‘The God of Cookery’, ” Enter the Dragon “, ‘Infernal Affairs 2’, ” The Thieves “, ” Gen-X Cops ” have been filmed here, and the venue has received many politicians, business leaders and movie stars, including Queen Elizabeth II, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, etc., and has hosted more than 30 million guests.
But its success story starts in the 1920s.
At that time, there was a boom in opening restaurants on the sea in Hong Kong, and seafood business was popular. By the heyday of the 1950s, there were more than ten seafood ships berthed in the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter.
Businessman Wang Laoji found business opportunities and raised funds to build the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in the late 1960s. Unexpectedly, he encountered a four-level fire and it was severely damaged. In 1971, Stanley Ho, CEO of Macao Lottery Group took over this restaurant from Wang Laoji.
At a cost of 30 million Hong Kong dollars and 4 years to rebuild, Jumbo Floating Restaurant officially opened in 1976. From opening to 2013, Stanley Ho himself will have a feast here to celebrate his birthday.
By 1980, Jumbo Floating Restaurant, Tai Pak Floating Restaurant and Cape Palace (later renamed “Jumbo Palace”), which had been competing for many years, reached mergers and acquisitions. Aberdeen Catering Enterprises Limited is responsible for the operation.
However, Jumbo Floating Restaurant was transferred to Melco International in 1993 and is under the control of Lawrence Ho, the son of Stanley Ho with his second wife. This is the only catering project of this company.
After the most glorious 20 years from 1976 to 1996, under the Asian financial turmoil in 1997, the operation of Jumbo Floating Restaurant began to worsen. Lawrence Ho spent tens of millions of Hong Kong dollars to implement reforms and renovations, and officially renamed Hong Kong Jumbo Floating Restaurant as “Jumbo Kingdom”, while improving the quality of meals to increase competitiveness to attract more tourists.
Although Jumbo Kingdom ’s catering business recorded a loss of HK $ 9.8 million in 2003, after the reform, the company’s sales in 2004 increased by 37% year-on-year. Lawrence Ho rescued this maritime catering kingdom and entered the 31st place in the Hong Kong rich list with a $ 3.4 billion net worth.
After Melco International established its headquarters in Macau, China, it began to enter the entertainment business. Jumbo Kingdom has gradually expanded from a single restaurant to a marine theme park that integrates leisure, sightseeing and food, and has become a “six-star distinguished restaurant”.
Jumbo Seafood is famous for its seafood cuisine, and more than 70% of its dishes are cooked with seafood.
The giant seafood pond in the store has more than 60 kinds of fresh seafood, named after the fish watching water pavilion, and is equipped with the largest ultraviolet seawater disinfection system in Hong Kong. It also provides dim sum, Cantonese cuisine, Beijing roast duck and so on.
However, the high prices are often complained about by netizens. From the official website of “Jumbo Kingdom”, they can see the price of their dishes.
The high price of vegetables, the rapidly changing word of mouth, superimposing economic turmoil and the impact of COVID-19, the “Hong Kong business card” of Jumbo Kingdom finally fell.
Once Jumbo Kingdom, which depends on tourists for a booming business, is hard hit by tourism, it is difficult to maintain normal operations. After all, there are many time-honoured restaurants in Hong Kong to choose from, such as the Luk Yu Tea House founded in 86 years, the Regal Canteen founded in 72 years, ‘Fook lam moon’ in Hong Kong, Tim Ho Wan and so on.
Stopping business to stop losses may be a forced decision. Although Hong Kong Jumbo Floating Restaurant covers many people’s collective memories, under the “double blow”, it is not the only one injured …
Just like an actress’ line in ‘The God of Cookery’: ‘You can’t eat such a delicious barbecued pork rice anymore.’