Having conquered Vietnam, Burger King Worldwide Inc marched into Phnom Penh International Airport on February 24. The Imex Pan-Pacific Group Inc (IPP), one of the largest conglomerates in Vietnam, will be in charge of the Cambodian branches. The Post’s Sarah Thust talked to Tony Cricenti, vice-president of business development at IPP Group, after the signing ceremony last Friday.
Your company established Burger King in Vietnam. How did business develop there?
There are [nearly] 90 million people living in Vietnam, so it’s a very different market, being a large country. Our expansion strategy was to grow quickly and to grow large throughout Vietnam. We were trying to catch up with companies like KFC. It’s going well. We’ve opened 17 stores in less than two years. We hope to double that and it’s been perceived as a great product – the Vietnamese like it. It’s promising.
What are your plans here?
We want to expand from the store at the airport, growing the market to a reasonable size. We plan to have at least 10 stores in the next five years. Hopefully more, if the market wants it. This will also include surrounding areas like Siem Reap.
We know we can only expand into a few cities. Our business model is leveraged from Vietnam, where we’re building a lot more stores. Coming to Cambodia with additional stores is okay for us - we have the whole supply chain from Vietnam, the whole support services and we can assist in a partnership in Cambodia [with the local company HSC].
Why did you not enter the Cambodian market sooner? KFC now has a very established position.
I guess we weren’t ready earlier. The market needs to be ready to support such a large international quick-service restaurant brand, and that is important from a supply point of view – having resources and skilled labour. The time was right now.
I just know that we can gain support now on ensuring that standards and quality are met and consistent to what you see in the rest of the world. That was crucial. It was also important to have the supply chain and training and support that comes through the regional office in Singapore.
Was it difficult to find employees?
Our staff are Cambodian; this is crucial. Most of the staff and management need to go through quite an intensive team week training course. Our product is something very new: they use different kinds of equipment, and we have global standards in hygiene and quality. The aim now is to maintain and to grow.
I think that it will go well. It’s a young population, and it will be easy to recruit and choose people that fit into the culture of Burger King.
Don’t you think Burger King is too expensive for most Cambodians?
Our strategy is not made for foreigners - our strategy is strictly to ensure we meet the needs of the local market. We are at the airport here and our prices are very, very competitive. We have done significant market surveys and we have been priced as competitive; in some instances even lower than some of the competitors in the market.
Where will you open the next Burger King branch in Cambodia?
We will first expand into the city centre in Phnom Penh and then look at other cities. Obviously, we would like to have something in Siem Reap, but we’re not rushing with that.