Hong Kong doesn’t need complicated economic indicators: Fishballs do the trick just fine.
Causeway Bay is notorious for being one of the most expensive retail areas in the world, but nothing tells the story better than fishballs. Back in 2008, Singaporean pork jerky chain Bee Cheng Hiang forced a street food vendor out of its prime location on Causeway Bay’s Sogo intersection by forking out about $330,000 per month for the tiny space, around three times what the fishball stall was paying. If the fishball sellers had stuck to that location, they would have had to sell around 1,571 fishball skewers a day to cover the rent.
This year, at the Lunar New Year Fair in Victoria Park, wedding banquet and restaurant group ClubOne paid a record $630,000 for a 392-square-foot stall to sell abalone and fishballs during the week-long event. Two other snack vendors paid $450,000 or more for their stalls. With rent like this, ClubOne would have to sell 9,000 fishball skewers a day, at $10 each, for the seven days of the festival, just to break even—and that’s before considering other overhead costs.
So much for cheap eats.