South Korea-based coffee chain Caffé Bene plans to open a Phnom Penh shop in in October, making it the latest entrant into a crowded market with numerous international and local coffee chains all angling to caffeinate Cambodia’s rising middle class.
General manager of Caffé Bene in Cambodia, Jinsil Lee, said yesterday that construction is in progress and the shop will open in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Keng Kang 1 area, already a bastion of pricey coffee and tea options.
There is still potential for a new player, however, because “the economic level [in Cambodia] is rising”, she said.
The store will differentiate itself from other coffee chains through “specialities from Korea”, she said, adding that they are concentrating on specialty desserts.
Caffé Bene announced in January that it was on the hunt for staff. The store was initially planned near Central Market on Monivong Boulevard, where a sign still hangs on the side of a building that seems to be under renovation.
Rami Sharaf, CEO of the parent company controlling Express Food Group, the local owner of UK-based chain Costa Coffee, said he isn’t overly worried about the extra competition.
The way he sees it, customers are becoming more willing to pay two or three dollars for their cup of coffee.
Two more Costa Coffee branches are expected to open next month, he said: one along the riverside near the Royal Palace, and a second on a Phnom Penh university campus. In November, it plans to open a fourth branch in Vattanac tower.
Despite the presence of international brands such as Costa or Gloria Jean’s Coffees, a number of local chains such as Brown and T&C have held their ground.
“Local brands can do well as long as they can deliver a product with a consistent quality and the right ambiance,” said Karl Johan Remoy, general manager of Indochina Research (Cambodia) Ltd.
“It is not only about the coffee. In Phnom Penh, controlling service levels can be challenging considering the difficulty of finding qualified staff. International brands with their global training programs may have to rethink their staffing strategies to stay competitive,” he said.
Remoy said Cambodian-owned Brown, a local brand with Khmer-style design, is still the most popular coffee shop town.
“Looking at their followers on Facebook they have over 45,000 likes and 1,300 people talking about them. In contrast, Costa Coffee has 10,000 followers and 500 people talking about them.”
Kouch Sokly, managing director of CBM Corporation Co Ltd, the company that owns local chain T&C, said they have a different target group than international brands, and for that reason, do not see the newcomer cutting into their businesses.