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Eating out on the up in capital

A man selects a dish at a sushi restaurant in Aeon Mall
A man selects a dish at a sushi restaurant in Aeon Mall last year. The number of food outlets in Phnom Penh increased to 2,180 by early 2015, up from 1,762 last year. Charlotte Pert

Eating out on the up in capital

Phnom Penh residents are spending big bucks eating at restaurants, thanks to rising demand for high-quality meals among office workers and other members of the middle class, a new study by Park Cafe Food and Beverage revealed yesterday.

The study estimated that about $1.53 million was spent every day for breakfast and lunch in the capital, with the number of restaurants reaching 2,180 outlets this year, up from 1,726 in 2014.

Heng Sengly, general manager at Park Cafe Food & Beverage, said that total daily expenses on breakfast amounted to $810,000 and another $720,000 for lunch.

“There is good potential for mid-to-high end restaurants that aim to attract the emerging middle class who prefer something new and fashionable,” he said.

“Restaurateurs should look into adjusting restaurants’ environments to attract trendy visitors by improving store decor, layout, furniture, lighting, and sound systems.”

With Phnom Penh’s growing population of 2.2 million and incomes rising, spending on restaurants are also following the lead.

According to another study from Park Cafe released last year, 13 per cent of the professional population in Phnom Penh earned $600 to $1,000 per month while another 6 per cent of the population earned more than $1,000 per month.

The study indicated that more upscale restaurants, such as fast food chains, cafes, and bubble tea outlets, have seen increasing attention from young people between the ages of 15 to 30.

But the market isn’t all locals either, said Chang Bunleang, operations manager of Brown Coffee and Bakery, whose 10 outlets in the capital each attract about 300 customers a day.

According to Bunleang, an increasing number of establishments are appealing to different nationalities, such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese expatriates, although local tastes are adjusting as well.

Bunleang observed that there was a growing trend among local customers who preferred to meet their friends or colleagues to talk business as they dined.

“We are very careful with the quality of decoration and the style of our store to create an attractive environment for our customers,” said Bunleang.

Chea Menggy, owner of local restaurant chain Morning New, Evening Fresh, agreed that middle class customers were becoming an increasingly important sector to the capital’s food and beverage industry.

After setting up his first restaurant in 2002, Menggy has now expanded to a total of seven outlets spread out across Phnom Penh.

He said that sales per outlet have decreased compared to five years ago due to increasing competition from other restaurants, and not because of lackluster demand.

“Some number of our customers have gone to other shops as too many new outlets have established,” he said.

He added, however, that profit margins were doing better.

“In the past [2008], a dish of noodles that cost 3,500 [riel] made us a profit of 1,500 [riel], but now the same dish can sell at about 9,000 [riel] and we profit between 4,000 to 5,000 riel.

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