Hong Kong restaurant sales plunged 31.2 per cent in the first quarter of this year – the largest decline on record – as consumers practised social distancing and the government restricted occupancy.
Significant growth in home deliveries of restaurant meals was insufficient to stem the dramatic fall in patronage.
According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong restaurant sales were down by 10.8 per cent in January, at the time the coronavirus began to affect inbound visitors from Mainland China. Sales in February plunged 42.1 per cent and in March by 41.7 per cent.
Full-quarter restaurant receipts were estimated at HK$21.7 billion (US$2.8 billion), while purchases by restaurants fell 29.1 per cent to $7 billion.
Chinese restaurants appear to have been hit hardest, perhaps reflecting the disappearance of mainland tourists. Sales for the quarter fell by 39.6 per cent in value and 40.9 per cent in volume.
Turnover at non-Chinese restaurants were down by 29 per cent in value and 29.9 per cent in volume, while fast-food shops experienced a decline of 17.1 per cent in value and 18.2 per cent in volume.
Bars – worst affected by social-distancing measures – saw receipts down by 37.5 per cent in value and 40.8 per cent in volume.
A government spokesman said that while there have been some signs of relative improvement in Hong Kong restaurant sales recently from the very austere situation earlier, the business environment of the food and beverage sector will remain difficult in the near term amid the economic recession.