New York Fries, the latest Canadian flavour in town - Ventures - Hong Kong

Hong Kong - French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy … aaahhhh … poutine, a Canadian classic.  And now available in Hong Kong thanks to a Canadian company and four ambitious Canadians.

Despite what its name may suggest, New York Fries is 100% Canadian.  With the head office in Toronto, the company has franchise locations throughout malls in Canada, as well as in Korea and the U.A.E.

Partners Ricky Takasu, Thomas Lau, Ray Fung (on Right) and Ricky Lau have high hopes for their first store and big plans for the region.  The maiden store is in Harbour City, a posh shopping mall in Kowloon which caters to tourists and ten attached office towers.  Located just down the hall from a Roots store, New York Fries offers a view of the harbour, a private seating area, and poutine that looks and tastes just like the poutine at home.

Ricky and Thomas told me that they expect many of their customers will be like them:  return immigrants from Canada who enjoyed New York Fries in places like Vancouver and Toronto, and who will be excited to have a taste from home right here in Hong Kong.  In their 30’s, they explain that many people in their generation left Hong Kong, the place of their birth, before the handover to China in 1997, but have since returned.  As a cross-Canada brand, no matter where they lived, they’ll know New York Fries.

“Canadian products mean a sense of quality to people in Hong Kong,” adds Ricky.  With the economic growth in Hong Kong and mainland China, people here have raised their expectations for food according to Ricky and Thomas.  They want western style food and are willing to pay for it.  The origin of ingredients then is a fair question.  The cheese curds make the trip from Quebec while the potatoes are grown in the United States.  Ricky and Thomas explain that they tried to source Canadian potatoes but were not able to achieve the volumes they require.  They plan to try again. 

Ricky and Thomas add that for them, still Canadian passport holders, it’s “nice to have a connection to home” in their business.

Plans for the company are ambitious.  They expect to open two or three more locations in 2009, and up to 10 in five years.  The stores will serve the 7 million Hong Kongers as well as the 29.5 million visitors to Hong Kong each year, mostly from mainland China according to figures from Invest HK.  Having succeeded in a bid for the franchise over roughly 6 other groups, Ricky and Thomas are confident they have the skills and commitment to meet these targets.  The partners also have the rights to Macau and the option for China and Taiwan.