Cover The Metagroup team are behind the F&B Run Club which launched this April 2021 (Photo: Metagroup)

The chairman of Metagroup, the organisation behind the charity initiative which launched earlier this year, delves deep into his motivations and goals for the industry

Whether it’s early morning sprints at Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park or a marathon taking in the trails of Hong Kong’s picturesque mountains, the runs that Roger Chan have clocked up over the past year have been nothing short of inspiring. As the founder of the F&B Run Club and the chairman of Metagroup, Chan is a man who leads by example. The initiative, which launched in April earlier this year, began with a few key objectives: to strengthen ties within the F&B community, to encourage fitness for mental as well as physical wellbeing, and to raise awareness of and fundraise for charity partners. Chan also set a lofty goal for the club—to run, hike or walk enough kilometres equivalent to the distance to the moon, or 384,000 kilometres.

See also: 3 Hong Kong Chefs Share Their Passion For Extreme Sports

The F&B Run Club community now has more than 530 members running, walking or hiking a collective average of 3,000-4,000 kilometres a week, even through an unrelenting summer of torrential rains and a record breaking number of days with hot weather warnings. Agung and Laura Prabowo, the power couple behind Penicillin bar, have racked up more than 4,000 kilometres between them since April, when the initiative began; on July 7, Metabev hosted its first awards ceremony celebrating the achievements of the community, with F&B icons such as Jay Khan of COA and Nikita Mavteev of The Old Man bagging accolades for their contributions.

To date, the initiative has raised HK$400,000 to benefit two of F&B Run Club’s selected charities: InspiringHK Sports Foundation, which aims to promote health, social mobility, gender equality and more through sport; and Lifewire Foundation, a local charity dedicated to providing urgent medical care to children with rare diseases. In July, HK$250,000 was donated by the ChinaChem group to benefit InspiringHK to support their work in developing sports programmes for underprivileged children from F&B industry families in Kwun Tong and Tsuen Wan.

As of July 25, the club have put in 60,296 kilometres, or 15.7 per cent of the target distance to the moon by the end of 2021. An overseas chapter of the F&B Run Club is also underway in India. With just under five months to go, we spoke to Chan about the mission, his motivations, and his best advice for runners.

We appreciate all you've done for the F&B industry over the last year. What is your primary motivator?

In the past few years, we all have been through some tough external challenges. This has taken its weight on our F&B industry and also pressures at home. We are limited to change things out of our hand, 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. Our first mission is to run to the moon which is 384,400 kilometres from earth. This is no easy feat, and individual heroics will not achieve this mission. Hence we will only be able to achieve it as a community.  The pandemic has equalised everyone in this world, and we view all our F&B industry community as an integrated ecosystem, and want to do our best to channel positivity and channel benevolence along the way.

Our industry is built around people. Without people there would be no brands, no experiences. 
Roger Chan

What do you think has been the impact Metagroup has had on the industry?

Our industry is built around people. Without people there would be no brands, no experiences. For this reason we place people above all else—and it doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant owner, a bartender, a waitress or chef. We are all equals and peers. We are a very small piece of a much larger puzzle, and like everyone we have felt the impact. We have an internal ethos and culture for which ‘if it is important to you, it is important to me.’ Our F&B friends have always supported us, and this should be reciprocated plus more. 

Tell us about your next goal.

As a community we hope to ‘raise the bar’ in terms of self and professional excellence. Self-betterment is infinite. We want to instil positivity through family and work balance, along with personal wellness, and channel this energy towards worthy charitable causes. Hong Kong and the moon is our first mission, but we all have friends within F&B in other countries, and there are longer distances we can cover. Why stop at this challenge when we can do greater things?

What has the response been from industry to the F&B Run Club campaign?

We have been overwhelmed with love and support, but in the most genuine and sincere way. Given the positions of some of our F&B Run Club committee, you can imagine they are flooded with requests all the time. However, everyone jumped to support when asked and we are so humbled by this. Another beautiful thing I have noticed is (rightfully so) an equalisation of the people supporting. It doesn’t matter if you are a restaurant group owner or a bartender or a waitress—everyone is on the same level field and there is an extremely healthy sense of competition and focus towards this better cause and wellness call. 

Why do you think fitness and wellness has resonated with the F&B industry?

There has been real mental duress on F&B workers. Some are still on non-paid leave or out of work. Many have worked through long shifts over the years and have struggled with finding a time to prioritise health and exercise. The industry has always been social and closely knitted, but this initiative has allowed everyone to channel their energy to a common cause and conveniently do it at their own time and pace. I know many like myself are also involving their children and discovering new found beauty in Hong Kong through our trails and walks and prioritising family time.

 

Please tell us about how you see the campaign evolving over the next few months to reach the goal of running to the moon.

It’s simple mathematics. Individual heroics are useful, but to achieve our mission we need communication and numbers. The earlier we start compounding mileage the better. For this reason, we will need the continued goodwill of everyone in the F&B Industry, along with all kind stakeholders to help push our rightful cause. My personal challenge is to along the way ensure we give as much as possible back to the industry. For this reason I will be asking for 360 support from hotels, restaurants, suppliers to give some treats to the industry workers whom are devoted to this. Nothing is more rewarding than giving and we hope we can make this an annual initiative and achieve more impressive feats each year. In the meantime we need to keep clocking in the mileage, and need everyone’s support!

How did you get into running yourself, and what would be your advice to the former you, who was just beginning?

Running or exercise in general has always been an escape for me. It is my selfish time. If you think about it, every day there is something more important than exercising—be it family, work, friends. For this reason, I will never skip it as objectively it will never be the most important thing that day and is the easiest thing to cancel. It all comes down to discipline and habits. I wouldn’t give any advice to the former me, as I love competing with myself as I get older! But if I was to be nice, I would tell myself to stretch and hang.

How To Get Involved

Participants need only download the Strava app and register, then request to join the F&B Run Club group. After being approved and added to the group, runners, walkers and hikers can start logging workouts using the app’s “RUN” setting to contribute toward the collective goal of 384,400 kilometres. Schedules for group activities will be posted on Strava, and updates will also be shared on Instagram and the official website. Those looking to contribute in other ways can make donations to InspiringHK Sports Foundation and Lifewire Foundation.