Why Hong Kong's F&B community plans to Run to the Moon in 2021

The Moon, our planet's only natural satellite, sits a cool 384,000 kilometres (give or take) from the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators, which, at press time, do not yet reach the lunar surface. But if you did have a path, a typical walking pace of 3 km per hour would get you there in a little over 83,000 hours, or somewhere in the ballpark of 9.5 years (ten, with breaks). 

Then again, if you had a community — say, one thousand or so of your closest friends — to help you hoof it, you could ring in 2022 with moondust on the cleats of your Nikes, impressively toned calves, and maybe even do a little good along the way. At least that's the plan for the F&B Run Club, a group of Hong Kong's service industry professionals who are coming together for charity, community and an ambitious 384,400 km goal by year's end.

Starting 1 April, with support from Nike Hong Kong, PURE Fitness, NOOD and others who've reached out to offer their support, this group of owners, bartenders, chefs, cooks, DJs, delivery companies and more are hitting the tracks and trails with their Strava apps to raise money for FARA, an organisation devoted to finding a cure for Friedreich's Ataxia, a rare progressive genetic disease that attacks the nervous system.

Leading the effort is METAGROUP chairman and F&B Run Club founder Roger Chan, whose wife suffers from FA. Despite the difficulties the local F&B community has faced in recent years, its members have come together to launch this moon mission and support others in need.

Chan spoke with MARKETING about the "Run to the Moon" effort, what it will take to reach the club's goal, and what the rest of us can do to support Hong Kong F&B at this challenging time.

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MARKETING: How did the idea for an F&B Run Club begin?

Chan: In the past few years, we all have been through some tough external challenges. This has taken its toll on our industry and also created pressure at home. We can't change the circumstances that are out of our hands, but wellness has helped me personally keep focused and positive at work and at home. Over the years, customers have become friends, and we see our F&B industry as an integrated eco-system. Often to take ourselves out of the day to day intensity, we would go for runs, gym sessions or hikes. It started with team building activities, but then we decided to channel our energy into worthy causes.

A lot of communications have been angled at the F&B industry being victims of this pandemic. Whilst there is no doubt hardship, a powerful message is for our industry to unite and raise awareness to give to others also in need, while keeping healthy and having a great time, too. Our first mission is to run to the Moon, which is 384,400 km from Earth. This is no easy feat, and individual heroics will not achieve this mission; we will only be able to achieve it with large numbers.

384,400 kilometres is quite the distance. What made you want to run to the Moon?

On a personal note, my wife suffers from a rare disease called Friedrich's Ataxia, which is a life-shortening, degenerative neurological disease. She has been in a wheelchair for nearly 15 years. We have seen how fast the world has approved vaccinations through clinical trials. With rare diseases, if researchers can get funding, clinical trials can take up to 15 years. Such diseases often don’t receive necessary funding or attention from pharmaceutical companies or researchers.

We often say the ‘glass is half full,’ and it is easy to succumb to the pressures we are all facing recently, but we prefer to take a stance and focus on the positive things in life. It is a simple luxury to do a hike in Lantau, a walk up to the Peak, a run along the harbour front. One of the charities we are passionate about is FARA, which raises money to find a cure for this disease and gives hopes to those affected and their loved ones. The F&B Run Club is a way to channel energy and positivity into good causes and inspire our community along the way. We are also finalizing selection of a second local charity to be another beneficiary.

What will it take to make it the entire way?

This is simple mathematics: we need numbers. Our target is over 500-1,000 people consistently contributing, clocking in mileage. Individual heroics will not move the needle; we need the entire eco-system and all stakeholders in the F&B industry to devote time.

You found a partner in Nike Hong Kong. How did that come together, and how have they supported?

Nike has been supportive when our idea was just in our minds. They kindly and generously powered our initiative, coinciding with the launch of their brand new Air Zoom Pegasus 37 from their Hong Kong-exclusive 2021 HKG PACK. The shoes have iconic Hong Kong elements and unique cultural codes melded in the design, including the symbols of bamboo scaffolding. Not dissimilar with our ethos, bamboo scaffolding requires the joint effort of workers to set the framework step-by-step. It glorifies the spirit of unity which Hong Kong people take pride in. And it is not just Nike; PURE Fitness has been a supportive partner, along with NOOD.

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It’s been a challenging couple of years for Hong Kong's F&B community, but it has stood strong. What does it mean for you to be a part of this group?

METAGROUP, our company, has taken a stance to thrive, not survive. We don’t want to tread water and wait for a rebound back to the old norms. We need to progress, adapt and find a way to succeed in this moment. As a leader of our company, I have always focused on people and employment, creating opportunities for my team. To do this, we don’t believe in luck, we believe in hustle and hard work.

During this time, we have also come together as an industry. Great organizations have been formed, from SAVEHKFNB to HKNIA — collective efforts have brought out the best of the industry. But we are far from out of the storm, and strength comes in numbers and unity. We stay humble and grateful for what we have, rather than what we do not.

What does the Hong Kong F&B scene need most right now?

Without people there would be no F&B scene, and we have always believed in securing employment and well-being for our own. Everybody has challenges, and some things are out of our control. For this reason, whatever benevolence initiatives we can do to add positivity, wellness and opportunities for the people in the F&B community helps. The one thing we reiterate is that it is an ecosystem. It isn’t just the restaurants, bars and clubs — it is all stakeholders which contribute, from DJs, to entertainers, musicians, suppliers, delivery companies, and so on.

What is the ultimate goal of the F&B Run Club?

Competition against others is finite. Self-competition is infinite. A part of our culture is to ‘raise the bar’ – which symbolizes that each day we can strive to do and be better. The same applies to our initiative. When we pass this year’s mission, we plan to have annual missions. That could be different challenges, additional territories, but ultimately staying focused on helping others in need and raising awareness for good causes and doing our best to constantly support our F&B industry and the people within. 

We just ask humbly for everyone’s support. As our mission launches, we plan to do acts of benevolence along the way, giving back to our fellow F&B industry workers with hotel staycations, spas, meal vouchers, rare bottles. We are also looking at sponsoring education for those within the eco-system. We are just beginning.

For more information on the F&B Run Club, click here. Special thanks to Francisco Ricafort, Christy Yung and Laura Prabowo.