You may not know of Winnie and Anthea Li directly, but you will have seen their contribution to Tung Chung.
Owners of some of Hong Kong's best restaurants and bars, the Amante Group is synonymous with Tung Chung. I sit with owners Winne and daughter Anthea, over a glass of Swiss experience water(!) on a very windy Monday, in their newest venture The Next Chapter. We chat about holding a family business together during a pandemic, saving the world - one bottle at a time, and their plans for the future.
The Next Chapter? Why the name?
Anthea: The Next Chapter is an ode to Amante; the original restaurant that opened in 2009 in Sheung Wan at Bonham Strand, and later moved to Tung Chung. We didn't want to forget that as our original venture. The Next Chapter is also located at a venue that has been through a series of changes before we took it over, so that combined with covid - this is The Next Chapter! Onwards and upwards.
How did you decide on the look and feel for The Next Chapter?
Anthea: We found we were always asking how can we be different, but then realised actually it's nice to be nostalgic. We instead asked what brings people comfort? Whether it's sitting down with family for dinner or catching up with close friends for a drink. It's about people and ambience.
Why do you keep opening establishments in Tung Chung?
Anthea: It's the mixture of nature and city. You've got the MTR and busses for the convenience, but also the hills right there. The pace is different. You slow down a bit when you come home to Tung Chung. We've noticed people who move away tend to move back. Tung Chung has a special something. Also Tung Chung is coming to life now. When we first moved here there were very few restaurant choices. The options were very limited and the menu items were very similar. Now there are far more great places to go, and a bit of friendly competition only strives to make us better.
Who are your customers now?
Anthea: When The Tavern closed due to the restrictions (they've only been able to finally open again in June 2022) we'd obviously see a lot of Tavern customers come over here.
That's great you have such a brand loyalty...
Yes, totally. It really is. We're also seeing more locals come in now, but the biggest rise is in married couples, no kids, but with dogs!
Winnie: Being next to the vet helps!People pop to the vet, then pop in for a bite to eat.
Anthea: Tung Chung is getting busier. Covid actually helped that as Lantau became really popular with hikers and people trying to escape crowds. Most people head to the mall to eat, so now we're tapping into Instagram to lure those people out of the mall and into our restaurants and bars.
How did it work with staffing, having to keep closing venues...
Winnie: We had to move people to other venues at the beginning. You'll notice the Tavern and the My Thai team are practically interchangeable. They get along so well. They known each other's groove. So through the last few closures, we moved staff to other venues, to ensure we could retain staff. We really learn about our staffs' lives and we have such a low staff turnover.
Anthea: As much as we wanted to be corporate, and make difficult financial choices, you can't as at the end of the day, you go 'I know you have responsibilities - elderly parents to take care of', or 'you have young kids'. That was especially important to mum (Winnie). We had to ensure no lay-offs and that the full-time team got to keep a job.
Everywhere has paper straws now! What's The Next Chapter's contribution to the environment?
Anthea: We have to be sustainable. It used to be quite hard to find decent and reasonable but sustainable takeaway suppliers, but now the world is more environmentally focused, that's becoming easier. We've recently adopted a filtration system developed by a chef at The Mandarin Oriental. This saves countless bottles as we can now produce still and sparkling water on tap. As fresh as a Swiss spring! We're always working on the next way to give back to the environment, and the community.
So what's the future of The Amante Group? Any more exciting plans?
Winnie:Well, yes, actually. It's all very exciting but we don't want to release the information just yet. We promise The Islander can have the scoop when we're ready.
Haha. Thanks very much for that, and for your time. Show this post to receive 10% off food and drinks at The Next Chapter. Thanks guys!
Watch this space for the exciting new venture from Winnie and Anthea Li, and be sure to head to The Next Chapter, whether you have a dog or not!