And they’re just getting started.
Run to the Moon.
That was the simple, perhaps easier-said-than-done, year-end goal when the F&B Run Club launched this past April; a 384,000 kilometre journey kicking off from Sai Wan’s West District Public Cargo Depot (better known as the “Instagram Pier”). It wasn’t a burden for one individual alone to bear, but rather a collective effort among restaurateurs, chefs, bartenders, cooks, DJs, doormen and more — even a few of our favourite local food writers dusted off their cleats to contribute KMs to the mission. Using the Strava app to log their distance, participants were helping to raise money and awareness for the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, an organisation devoted to finding a cure for FA, a rare disease that attacks the nervous system.
Metabev chairman and founder Roger Chan is Mission Commander for this journey to the moon. For him, the cause is personal — his own wife suffers from the progressive genetic disease.
“Having a beautiful wife who has been in a wheelchair for 13 years, suffering from a rare disease with no cure, is a reminder how important it is to value and cherish the simple luxuries we enjoy,” says Chan.
The Club has expanded its remit to support a couple of other extremely worthy causes as well: The Inspiring HK Sports Foundation, which provides sports training, social inclusion, and healthy lifestyle development for underprivileged and impoverished youth; and the Lifewire Foundation, a local charity that provides equipment and services for patients with rare and life-threatening conditions, who often have a harder time sourcing available, affordable care.
“We have seen with Covid-19 how the world has been equalised,” says Chan. “We have seen how a vaccine can be developed and fast tracked. Rare diseases get very little attention, nor draw the interest from large pharmaceutical companies. Hence if we can make an impact on a child’s life suffering from rare diseases, the depth of our support will go a long way.”
With a variety of committed sponsors including restaurant groups, property developers and brands, the F&B Run Club has already raised over HK$400,000 for local charities. And as a way of giving back to the community itself, who has faced its own share of difficulties in recent years, the club offers some serious incentives to active runners, ranging from luxury staycations to gym memberships to meals at popular local restaurants.
The idea has even caught on beyond our own borders: A group of restaurateurs and beverage owners in India were so inspired by Hong Kong’s efforts that they launched a new F&B Run Club chapter in Goa — the first satellite club, and likely not the last — to join in this ambitious mission to the moon.
With a growing list of members from inside and outside the community (all are welcome to join and support), that 384,000 km goal is looking a little less daunting each day — but there’s still a long way to go.
Lifestyle Asia reached out to Chan to talk about the mission, the support the Club has received so far, and what lies ahead for the future.
What has the F&B Run Club shown you about Hong Kong’s F&B community?
We are a tightly integrated supportive hospitality ecosystem. We are a brother and sisterhood. We live and enjoy life, and when we say ‘we are committed,’ we are.
Talk about some of the partners who have joined forces with the mission. Who’s gotten involved and what has their support meant to you?
We have been overwhelmed with generosity and love from and to the F&B industry. From hotel staycations, meals and experience vouchers, event sponsorships, PR management, earphones, apparel, gym memberships, et cetera, all of which has gone back to the F&B workers in the industry who have all been through challenging times over the last two years. Furthermore, we have been really humbled and grateful for our corporate donors who have contributed HK$400,000 thus far to our two charities, of which 100% has gone directly to the local NGOs.
Who have been your biggest supporters through this project?
Everyone. We can’t single anyone out. Be it something tangible like a sponsorship, or hours and hours of mileage contribution, we have received overwhelming support from the community for those in need, and benevolence for the F&B ecosystem. Clearly, the key objective is to raise money for charity, so an extra special ‘thank you’ to our corporate partners who have donated to the charities.
How did the F&B Run Club catch on in India?
A beautiful craft gin distillery in Goa, India called NAO Spirits heard what we are doing, and has assembled like-minded F&B personalities and leaders in India to replicate the F&B Run Club. Famous beverage brands owners, F&B entrepreneurs and pioneers, and other industry leaders will be part of this. We are humbled by their support and the initiative belongs to them and their local community.
Talk about Inspiring HK Sports and the Lifewire Foundation, what made them the right fit for the Club?
Inspiring HK Sports Foundation is a local charity with a vision of developing better youths through sports. Their mission is to promote social mobility, gender equality, social inclusion and healthy lifestyle through sports. In collaboration with the F&B Run Club, we will aim to raise at least HK$384,400 for two one-year running classes led by professional coaches for underprivileged youth whose parents work in the F&B industry. There will also be 200 indirect beneficiaries; two Sports Promotion Days will be held to promote the benefits of sports to the public. Having the opportunity to support young children, of those, whose parents work in the F&B industry, and are living in poverty, is an incredibly worthy cause.
The second is Lifewire Foundation Limited, another local charity providing relief from the life-threatening conditions rare disease patients face. Lifewire distributes funding to help patients purchase the necessary equipment and services. The required medical equipment is often imported and tailor-made for the patients, and is essential for their rehabilitation. We will aim to raise HK$384,400 to purchase specialised medical devices and clinical therapy services to improve patients’ quality of life.
What does the F&B Run Club need to make this moon mission happen?
We need more and more runners, it’s simple mathematics. Individual heroics won’t be enough. We implore the F&B community and F&B friends to join our Strava F&B Run Club and contribute KMs.
Have you always been a runner?
I have always loved the gym, general wellness and short runs. Before the F&B Run Club, I would do around five to ten kilometre runs; now I only feel truly satisfied if I smash out 21-plus! Strange how it’s all in the mind.
How can people who hate running get involved and support the cause?
Walk! Many of our top contributors don’t run. They walk! We emphasise this isn’t just for runners; it is also for walkers, hikers, joggers. It’s not about the speed, it’s about the distance.
Any other activations planned that we should know about for the future?
We have frequent runs, hikes and walks led by our industry friends. When social distancing allows, we hope to host F&B events to give more love back to the industry. We have seen firsthand from our initiative that wellness and exercise can truly change people’s lives. Like the incredible talent and innovation Hong Kong has in the F&B industry, the F&B Run Club welcomes any ideas to be inclusive and help the community through tailored activities, events or other collaborations to raise awareness and ultimately, charity donations. If you can improve your own mental and physical health, and at the same time support the local community, make that decision and commitment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.