Kyochon, the latest fried-chicken restaurant chain to open in the capital, finds itself in an increasingly competitive market, but its operators are confident the popular South Korean franchise can carve out a share.
Kouch Sokly, managing director of CBM Corporation, which operates the Kyochon franchise in Cambodia, said it’s no secret that Cambodians love fried chicken and the market has room for a tasty new recipe.
He said Kyochon distinguishes itself from fast-food fried-chicken chains like KFC and fellow South Korean franchise BBQ Chicken in that it is a slow-food dine-in restaurant in which each order of chicken takes about 25 minutes to prepare.
“The waiting time is because they prepare everything fresh, and because of the way of cooking,” Sokly said.
“Other brands fry the chicken one time, but Kyochon chicken is fried two times.”
Sounds similar to Bonchon, the upmarket South Korean-style fried-chicken chain that rolled into Phnom Penh earlier this year? It is, Sokly admits, though he insists that Kyochon wins on quality.
The rival franchises have co-existed in other markets for years – each with their own dedicated followers. Kyochon has more than 1,000 locations in South Korea, Asia and the US, compared to about 200 Bonchon stores worldwide.
Kyochon first entered the Southeast Asian market in partnership with Evolution Capital, a listed Thai food and beverage operator. Their joint venture holds the master franchise rights to Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.
CBM Corp, which first partnered with Evolution to open Domino’s Pizza last year, purchased Kyochon’s franchise rights for Cambodia and opened its first restaurant in the capital’s Boeung Keng Kang 1 commune late last month.
Sokly said CBM Corp invested $250,000 in the outlet, including six months of staff and supplier training. The food and beverage company – which already operates South Korean brands Lotteria and Tous les Jours – plans to open a second Kyochon branch sometime next year.
“We’re looking to open 10 to 15 stores within five years,” he said.
Bonchon, which opened its first restaurant in Phnom Penh in February and now has two outlets, plans to open four more locations in Cambodia next year, according to Sarina Eang, the manager of chain’s Phnom Penh restaurants.
Relying on its unique taste, Bonchon is not intimidated by Kyochon’s arrival, she said.
“I don’t think that Kyochon will affect our business because we have a different recipe and a different flavour,” Eang said.
“Our customers come back to Bonchon after trying Kyochon because they say the flavours cannot compare.”
Loic Amiot, marketing manager of Meas Development Holding, a leading food and beverage operator in Cambodia, said that while his company’s portfolio does not include any chicken specialty chains, the demand is there and Kyochon’s debut will enhance Cambodia’s food and beverage market.
“The more brands you have the better,” he said.
“This is a quality brand. We don’t have the same kind of restaurants so it complements our brands as it is something different.”