Having established a foothold in the capital, Burger King is pushing into Cambodia’s provinces and will launch its first branch in Siem Reap next month, a company official said yesterday.
In all, the US fast-food giant plans to open four branches outside the capital by the end of 2016, with locations in Sihanoukville, Battambang and Poipet set to open after Siem Reap, according to Fin Sotheany, operations manager for Burger King Cambodia.
Cam F&B Services – a joint venture between Vietnamese conglomerate Pan-Pacific Group Inc (IPP) and local partner HSC Group – operates Burger King in Cambodia.
The company currently manages five outlets in Phnom Penh. A sixth outlet will open on Mao Tse-tung Boulevard in the capital next month, Sotheany said.
The new Siem Reap branch is being constructed in a high-traffic tourist area, tucked between Pub Street and the Night Market. It is scheduled to open by mid-October.
“Siem Reap has a lot of potential, and a lot of tourists, and that’s why we’re going there before the other provinces,” said Sotheany.
Burger King is only the second international fast-food chain to open in Siem Reap after KFC, which opened a restaurant there in 2009.
Local burger chain Lucky Burger also has a branch in the city, which is the gateway to Southeast Asia’s biggest tourist attraction, Angkor Wat.
Sotheany said Cambodia’s provincial cities are largely uncharted territory for fast-food chains, but offer a sizeable market with an appetite for flame-broiled burgers.
“There are not many other brands in the province to compete with,” she said. “[We chose] Battambang because it is a big province with a lot of people, and Poipet, because it’s between Thailand and Cambodia, so a lot of foreigners will go there.”
Price could be a challenge in some provinces, but Burger King’s menu is affordable for many Cambodian families, Sotheany said.
The restaurant will leverage its international brand and reputation for speedy service, while banking on consumers’ rising purchasing power.
“Our price is not very high compared to local brands like Lucky Burger [and] is acceptable with the living standard of the Cambodian people,” she said.
A cheeseburger costs $2.60 at downtown Phnom Penh Burger King outlets, while a Whopper sandwich meal including french fries and a soft drink sells for $5.30.
Burger King’s provincial push will put it head-to-head with more established fast-food chains such as KFC, Pizza Company and Lucky Burger, which already have a presence in some provincial capitals.
Kouch Sokly, president of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, said Siem Reap’s tourism traffic makes it a tempting prize for international fast-food chains. Some 2.5 million tourists visited the city last year.
“Burger King is … one of the leading brands in the world,” said Sokly, who is also managing director of CBM Corporation, which operates a number of restaurant brands including BB World, Tous Les Jours and Domino’s Pizza. “It will be successful in Siem Reap because they picked the right location.”
He added that Domino’s Pizza, which opened its first branch in Phnom Penh last year, still has plenty of space to grow in the capital and is not yet looking further afield.
“We have enough room to open [more branches] in Phnom Penh, so we are not opening in other provinces this year,” he said. “We won’t open in other markets until those markets are ready.”
However Benjamin Jerome, general manager of Kampuchea Food Corporation, which represents KFC in Cambodia, said the US fried chicken chain sees strong growth potential beyond the capital and is also looking to expand its provincial footprint this year.
He said KFC – which operates 11 restaurants in Phnom Penh and one outlet in Siem Reap – will open a new branch in Sihanoukville in November.
“[We are opening in] Sihanoukville because it has a lot of commercial activity,” Jerome said. “Our products will be continued to be produced in the Phnom Penh warehouse using locally produced materials.”
Express Food Group, a Cambodian subsidiary of Bangkok-based RMA Group, that holds the local franchises for Pizza Company and Swensen’s, could not be reached for comment yesterday. DFI Lucky Private Ltd, which owns Lucky Burger, declined to comment.