I love Sai Kung. It’s home.
My wife and I came out to Hong Kong in 1991. It was the best thing we ever did.
I took a job working in a restaurant in Central for a year and then, spotting a void in the market, we decided to open our own place in Sai Kung. That was Pepperonis, 19 years ago.
When we started Pepperonis, we did it all ourselves. We used secondhand equipment, whatever we could throw together. In the first month we made $43,000 and I thought we were the richest people in the world.
Basically, we have taken Sai Kung’s casual lifestyle and packaged it in our restaurants. We try to take the country to the city. That’s been our business plan.
Today we have more than 2,000 staff.
Asia is easy for business. The Western world is over-governed. Everything is over-taxed and there is too much red tape. We are also in Australia and I sometimes wish we weren’t.
The secret of creating a great restaurant? Easy – great staff. Pick the right people from the start, give them ownership and make it fun to go to work. Our staff run the restaurants and we stay out their way. In Hong Kong, we have career people who have been with us for 20 years. Sing at Jaspas in the square, is a great example.I love the village atmosphere and the great beaches. We spend three to four days on the water each week. I would never leave. What we do is try to encourage our friends to move out here.
A new generation of Hong Kong people are waking up to the benefits of Sai Kung. The clean air, the space, the awesome landscape. It’s an amazing place to raise a family.
I am happy for Hiram’s Highway to be widened but I hope they never ever bring an MTR line here. We would lose everything. It’s the small businesses that make the town and give it character – the pharmacist, the veggie guys, the stationers. I don’t think people want to see the big chains here. If we don’t get an MTR, we can stay small and stay unique.My favourite restaurant in Sai Kung is May’s Sawaddee Thailand restaurant. Authentic food. Smiling service. Good atmosphere and great value. She’s done a fantastic job.
The boating in Sai Kung is world class. The islands are amazing. I have a 55-foot Sunseeker power boat. We are on it all the time.
Jaspas Party Junks started by accident. I bought a junk for the family 10 years ago, when the kids were starting to swim. We put a big barbecue with a big grill plate on the boat, brought along a chef and invited our friends. After three of four trips they said, “How cool is this? Can we rent it from you.” It grew from there.
Now we have six Jaspas Party Junks and are on the hunt for a bigger boat – an 80- or 100-footer – for the next level.
I don’t think I will quit. But when my kids (Wayne has a 20-year-old daughter and two teenage sons) are older, I plan on taking a back seat and letting them hold the reins.
We are busy as ever. We have just finished Oolaa in Central, which is going really, really well. And we have just developed a new brand – a steakhouse called Roccos – which we will bring to Sai Kung soon.
If I was advising the local authorities? I’d say encourage more outdoor dining in the square and the seafront.
There is a lot we could do to promote Sai Kung. We have a fantastic old town. We’ve got fantastic beaches and the best seafood restaurants in the territory. If that was all packaged properly it would be very cool. Local shops and businesses would benefit hugely.
I would love to see the old village grow and see the lovely boutique shops get more traffic.
Rents are a big factor in our business. The first rent I paid in Sai Kung for Pepperonis was $3,400. It’s not much more now. The landlord is the nicest guy in the world and he has looked after us well. Actually, rents in Sai Kung are reasonable. It’s Central that’s out of control.
The best advice I’ve been given? Never be scared to say, “I can’t afford it.”
I have no intention of ever leaving Sai Kung. They will have to cart me out of here in a pine box.