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People walk past American fast-food restaurant Carl's Jr in St Petersburg, Russia last year. AFP
People walk past American fast food restaurant Carl's Jr in St Petersburg, Russia last year. AFP

Carl’s Jr gears up to open capital’s first drive-thru

Cambodia's first-ever restaurant drive-through is set to open in September when American burger chain Carl’s Jr launches operations in Phnom Penh, though not everyone is convinced Cambodians will adopt the American car-oriented food-order service.

However, Sovary Somach, head of operations for Carl’s Jr Cambodia, is confident that by providing more convenience for ordering, drive-through service – an institution among modern fast-food restaurants in developed countries – will draw more customers.

“Our guests will have the option to come inside our contemporary California-themed restaurants where they can experience our big juicy burgers as well as unique amenities including partial table service and a refillable beverage bar,” she said.

“Or they can enjoy the ultimate convenience and speed of our drive-through, where they can order right from their car and bring the food home, back to the office, or wherever they chose to eat.”

With Cambodians already accustomed to ordering food from street stalls while in their cars or on their motorcycles, Somach expects customers will be quick to take advantage of the drive-through lane and window.

She said the additional staff required to man the drive-through window was worth the investment, as in other countries research has shown that restaurants with drive-through options have higher sales than those without.

“Given the high percentage of fast-food restaurants globally that have drive-throughs, and the potential to increase sales, it’s surprising that no one has done this before,” she said.

Burger King, a rival American fast-food franchise that entered the Cambodian market in March 2013, has drive-throughs at most of its locations in the United States, though none at its nine outlets in Cambodia.

“More people prefer delivery than drive-through, I think,” said Thon Sereiodom, assistant of the chairman for Burger King Cambodia.

“But most people come inside of the restaurant and some call for delivery, though we don’t have delivery [service yet].”

Sereiodom said Burger King might consider adding drive-through or delivery service in the future, however the company’s chairman is concerned take-out options could lower the quality of its products.

“He wants the customers to come and eat inside the restaurant,” he said.

RMA Group, whose sister company Express Food Group holds the local franchise for Dairy Queen, Costa Coffee and other international food chains, said it plans to offer a drive-through option in the future. However, the company has not yet selected a specific brand or location for the service.

Roatana Pao, a spokesman for RMA, said that while drive-through service is a good initiative, he personally believes Cambodian people prefer to dine in rather than order food on-the-go.

“Only a small percentage take [food] away, so it seems like it won’t be successful among Cambodians, especially youth,” he said.

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