Tue, Nov 25, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Burger craze takes off in Hong Kong

Bloomberg

Neil Tomes, Beef & Liberty executive chef.

Photo: Bloomberg

It is a weeknight in Hong Kong and gaggles of guys from the finance world are gathering to tuck into the latest food craze: juicy bacon cheeseburgers.

“It’s typical Hong Kong. You get these fads where people latch on and everyone seems to adopt it,” said Greg Smith, a managing partner at Hong Kong-based wealth-management firm Taylor Brunswick Group, as he finished feasting on a bunless mound of beef, bacon and cheese at the 11-month-old Beef & Liberty restaurant.

The craze sparked by Shake Shack and its ilk in New York and the likes of Byron Hamburgers in London has spread to Asia. The past year has seen at least four gourmet burger joints open in Hong Kong, with some so popular that there is often an after-work mob or a 90-minute limit at tables.

The trend has been embraced by the financial community in the former British colony, with its large numbers of North American, UK and Australian expatriates. Smith said he now seeks out burgers at least once a week, compared with almost never a year ago.

“There’s definitely a path from hunter-gatherer, meat, ‘O’ blood type, to bankers — the new hunter-gatherers,” UK native and executive chef at Beef & Liberty Neil Tomes said. “I do find that the whole thing of sitting down and eating a burger with a group of your colleagues in finance is disarming. You’re not sitting there with knives and forks and trying to show table etiquette or understanding of the menu.”

Burger sales in Hong Kong grew 6.4 percent last year, more than double the US rate, and are expected to increase 6 percent this year, to US$787 million, compared with 4.3 percent growth in the US, according to research firm Euromonitor International. Burger consumption in all of Asia grew 5.8 percent last year, higher than the 5 percent global rate, the data showed.

“It’s a good time for burgers worldwide,” said Aarik Persaud, 31, a Canadian co-owner and executive chef of Butcher’s Club Burgers, which debuted its open-air, hip-hop-blasting outlet near Beef & Liberty in June and plans a second location in Hong Kong and an outpost in Bali next month.

Brokers began seeking quick lunches following the halving of Hong Kong’s trading break to one hour as of 2012, said Andrew Sullivan, 52, a trader formerly with Banco Espirito Santo SA who completed a recent lunch run to CaliBurger within 30 minutes.

While hamburgers have caught on as quickly as previous “finance world” trends such as Red Bull, they have staying power, he said.

“Burgers have got more wings,” Sullivan said, referring to the drink’s former advertising campaign. “There will always be a place for the burger.”

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