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An early adopter of plant-based and zero waste eating in Hong Kong, vegetarian fast-casual chain Mana! closed its doors permanently this week after a decade of operation. The final location to close was in the city’s SoHo district. In a social media post, the management team cited ‘extremely challenging’ operating conditions as the reason for closure.
Mana! rose to popularity thanks to its planet-friendly approach. Restaurants were kitted out with reclaimed materials and customers understood the extra costs for biodegradable utensils and packaging. Ingredients were locally sourced from organic farms and food waste was minimised. News of the chain’s final closure comes after the SoHo restaurant opened just two years ago.
End of an era
Mana! announced its closure in an Instagram message, alluding to difficulties that started three years ago due to challenging business and social conditions. As conditions have continued to be challenging, operating a restaurant grew increasingly tough. With added complications due to several bouts of Covid-19 restrictions that saw restaurants either shut or operate during restricted business hours, the situation became untenable.
“Our beloved city has been going through extremely challenging times since June 2019, and this has made it almost impossible for us to operate Mana! under such conditions…,” read the social media post.
Mana! rose to popularity for its mostly plant-based and entirely vegetarian dishes. Their zero-waste ethos saw ingredients sourced from local organic farms, food waste composted, and sent to farmers for usage and sustainable, fossil-fuel-free packaging.
A consumer shift still in progress
Mana! did not close due to a lack of interest in plant-based and sustainable eating.
There are a growing number of plant-based restaurants and options to discover in Hong Kong, with major F&B chains jumping on the veggie wagon. Just last month, Starbucks announced a new partnership with OmniFoods to bring out a plant-based fish sandwich ahead of the lunar new year following the successful debut of a crabless cake salad the previous year.
Earlier this month, Singaporean frozen food manufacturer Tee Yih Jia expanded into Hong Kong, having identified growth in the plant-based sector. It is making its ALTN brand easy to find in ParknShop supermarkets. ALTN was launched in May 2021 and is already eyeing global expansion outside of Asia.
A plant-forward menu was not the only secret to Mana!’s success. The company helped to popularise zero waste policies across the industry, a pertinent topic in light of a recently-released report calling for radical food packaging change in the city.
Hong Kong has been described as “drowning in waste”. The takeaway food culture has led to a vast sea of single-use plastic being sent to landfills and littering the streets. Practical solutions to the problem have been suggested, all of which Mana! was actively promoting already. They include consumers bringing their own storage vessels, making recycling easy, composting and using loaned, reusable items.
All photos by Mana!