Advisory Council on Food and Environmental Hygiene

 

Regulatory Control of ��Private Kitchens��

 

 

PURPOSE 

                   This paper seeks Members�� comments on the regulatory control of ��private kitchens��. 

 

BACKGROUND 

2.                                         The operation of ��private kitchens�� is growing in recent years.  These premises are usually different from conventional restaurants in terms of location, mode of operation and size.  In view of the unique nature of ��private kitchens��, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) has been looking into the feasibility of regularising this new type of food business. 

 

CONSIDERATIONS 

3.                                         In considering the regularisation of ��private kitchens��, we have taken into account the following factors �V 

(a)              Economic and consumer benefits 

The regularisation of ��private kitchens�� would bring several economic and consumer benefits.  First, ��private kitchens�� are mainly small and easy-to-set-up businesses.  Their regularisation will not only allow existing operations to continue, but also enable newcomers to enter the trade, providing more business and employment opportunities.  Second, dining in ��private kitchens�� is gaining popularity.  Suitably regulated ��private kitchens�� will provide consumers with more choices of dining places.  Third, regularisation will help foster the growth of this form of dining experience, consolidating Hong Kong��s status as a culinary capital. 

(b)             Food hygiene 

      At present, operators of food premises are required to meet certain hygiene requirements relating to food preparation area and storage space, sanitary fitments, grease trap and ventilation system.  In the interest of public health, we must ensure that the health risk to the community posed by ��private kitchens�� is no higher than by other food premises. 

(c)              Public safety 

While recognising that building and fire requirements may be suitably adjusted to take account of the lesser scale of operation of ��private kitchens��, public safety must be ensured in devising any proposed regularisation scheme.  Proper requirements in respect of means of escape and fire safety measures must be in place to protect the patrons as well as the neighbours. 

(d)             Possible nuisances to neighbours 

The operation of a food business within a multi-storey building can potentially give rise to environmental nuisances such as smell, fume and noise to the displeasure of the neighbours.  This would be more so if, after regularisation, several more ��private kitchens�� are set up in the same building.  This concern needs to be taken into account to keep possible nuisances to a minimum. 

(e)              Planning and land use issues 

Unless with the approval of the Town Planning Board, commercial activities (including the operation of ��private kitchens��) are normally not allowed in domestic portion of buildings located in areas designated for residential use under outline zoning plans.  Likewise, the land lease and the deed of mutual covenant of the building concerned may not allow the operation of ��private kitchens��.  While there are advantages in facilitating the operation of ��private kitchens��, planning/land lease requirements and the rights of the property owners concerned should also be respected and catered for in any regularisation scheme.  

 

VIEWS EXPRESSED

 

4.                   In the process of devising the regulatory framework for ��private kitchens��, we have also consulted stakeholders and partie   concerned.  The views expressed so far on the regularisation of ��private kitchens�� are summarised as follows �V

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(a)              Restaurant operators

 

The restaurant trade felt strongly that ��private kitchens�� should be subject to licensing control.  They considered that ��private kitchens�� were operating on a lower cost base and posing unfair competition to licensed food operators.  These kitchens were taking business away from them.  Some doubted if ��private kitchens�� had helped in promoting tourism as claimed. 

 

(b)             ��Private kitchen�� operators

 

��Private kitchen�� operators believed that their kitchens offered an alternative to consumers and contributed to the development of tourism in Hong Kong.  Most operators agreed that private kitchens should also be subject to regulatory control.  However, they pointed out that existing regulatory requirements had been designed with conventional restaurants in mind and did not suit the development of small-scale operations such as private kitchens.   

 

(c)              LegCo Panel Members

 

Panel Members expressed divergent views on the subject.  Some Members observed that ��private kitchens�� were popularly received overseas and agreed that ��private kitchens�� would provide new business and employment opportunities and would offer consumers more choices.  The Government should offer a conducive environment for the operation of ��private kitchens�� by providing a less stringent regulatory regime for such establishments.  On the other hand, some Members were concerned that any regulatory regime for ��private kitchens�� should not compromise food hygiene and other safety standards, and that the Government should provide a level playing field for all food business operators.

 

 

PROPOSED REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

 

5.                                         Taking into account the above considerations and views gathered from parties concerned, we now propose that ��private kitchens�� be placed within a licensing regime under section 31 of the Food Business Regulation (Cap 132 sub. leg.), as with other food business operations such as restaurants, food factories and fresh provision shops.  This will also allow ��private kitchen�� operators to apply for a liquor licence in respect of their premises.

 

6.                                         Under the new licensing regime, we will require ��private kitchens�� to meet the following criteria �V

 

(a)              to prevent ��private kitchens�� from causing nuisances to nearby residents, they will not be allowed to operate in pure residential premises.  The premises used for ��private kitchens�� shall be housed in commercial buildings or composite commercial/residential buildings; 

(b)             the maximum seating capacity will be 24 persons at any one time; 

(c)              the operation of ��private kitchens�� shall be confined to the provision of dinner and the business hours shall be no more than three and a half hours per day; and 

(d)             the operation of food factories, i.e. providing meals for consumption off the premises, shall not be allowed unless the food premises obtain the necessary food factory licences.

 

7.                                         Fitting-out for food room and toilets are among the most important works involved in setting up a restaurant.  Given the much smaller and confined scale of operation as set out in paragraph 6 (b) to (d), we consider it fair and reasonable to require ��private kitchens�� to provide smaller food rooms and fewer sanitary fitments and ablution facilities than traditional restaurants.  This would help reduce the initial capital investment of ��private kitchen�� operators, without compromising food safety and hygiene standards. 

 

8.                                         Operators of ��private kitchens�� should, however, comply with building and fire safety requirements imposed by the relevant authorities, i.e. the Buildings Department and the Fire Services Department, as with applicants for other food business licences.  The planning and land use issues involved would also be handled in a similar manner as that for restaurant licence applications.

 

 

WAY FORWARD 

9.                                         Subject to Members�� views, we will work out the detailed requirements mentioned in paragraphs 7 and 8 with relevant Government departments.  We will then proceed to amend the law to effect the implementation of the new licensing scheme.

 

ADVICE SOUGHT 

10.                                     Members are invited to comment on the proposed regulatory framework for ��private kitchens��.

 

 

 

Health, Welfare and Food Bureau

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department

January 2004

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