One of the largest international coffee chains putting down roots in Cambodia is Costa Coffee which opened February 28 at the corner of streets 51 and 294 in BKK1 and plans to have three more outlets running by the end of this year.
Costa Coffee is in the top three largest coffee franchises in the world, along with Starbuck’s and The Coffee Bean. The UK-headquartered Costa Coffee has more than 2,400 outlets in 29 countries.
Owned locally by EFG, one of the divisions of RMA Cambodia which also has the Cambodian Ford automobile dealership as well as the John Deere tractor dealership, Costa Coffee is the latest incarnation in a stable of RMA franchises like Pizza Company, Dairy Queen, BBQ Chicken and Swensen’s Ice Cream.
According to RMA Cambodia CEO Rami Sharaf, EFG is now the largest franchiser in Cambodia with nearly 700 employees at 21 outlets.
“We expect to end the year with more than 1,000 employees,” Sharaf said.
The conversation between RMA and Costa started two years ago, Sharaf says, with a delegation visiting from London when coffee culture was beginning to develop here.
“You follow the guidelines of the franchiser religously, there is zero compromise,"Sharaf said."We were in touch around two years back and had initial discussions with a delegation coming down from London, and at that time the coffee culture was still in its beginnings. Costa wanted to discuss a regional deal, and this is why now why we are the agents for Costa in Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and possibly Myanmar in the future,” Sharaf said.
“We are talking about huge expansion especially in Thailand.”Costa Coffee’s Street 51 location is a kind of flagship “stand alone” operation and somewhat unusual in the Costa Coffee universe, in which most of the outlets are part of a shopping center or in connection with other businesses.
Sharaf said Costa’s chairman, seeing a picture of the Phnom Penh location, said it was “the best in the world.”
EFG is staffed entirely by Cambodians, Sharaf says.
“We don’t have a single expat.”
He said the franchise rules are followed religiously.
“They are up to the mark to satisfy the very demanding and strict franchisers. This Costa Coffee franchise represents pride not only for Costa, but for Cambodia and this is to inspire others who complain about finding the right talent. If we give the right training and equipment, Cambodians can do it,” Sharaf said.
Costa Coffee’s Operations Manager for Cambodia, Dalux Nheap, who trained in England for two weeks last year, also visited the London roasting facility which serves all Costa outlets worldwide.
“They buy the coffee from around the world and they have two coffee masters to taste the coffee. Normally good coffee comes from cold weather and at different times of year the coffee comes from different places. They have a specific blend mixed between Arabica and Robusta beans called Mocha Italian,” Dalux Nheap said. “The coffee has to be kept chilled all the time. When the coffee arrives here, we need to keep it in chilled storage.”
There are between 400 and 500 Costa Coffee outlets in China.
After he met all the Costa Coffee people from various departments and two day’s training in various departments, Dalux Nheap traveled to Shanghai where he took detailed operational training for two weeks on how to run a coffee shop.
The coffees at Costa come in three sizes in Cambodia, piccolo, primo and medio. The maximo size, available in other countries, is not available in Cambodia.
While the original procedure from the UK is counter service, the Costa franchise adapted the situation to Cambodian style, which means the customers can be served at their tables.
“We started with counter service and they’ll also serve you at the table. They gave us flexibility to adapt,” he said.
One differentiation at Costa is fruit coolers which come pre-mixed from England.
“Nobody else has the fruit coolers and they are sweet and sour, with flavors like peach, mango, passion fruit, red berry, orange and raspberry.”
The signature food product at Costa Coffee is muffins, chocolate and blueberry. Also available are almond croissants as well as ham and cheese croissants.
“They developed the food menu with a supplier by paying attention to local taste.”
The menu also includes a tuna melt and ham and cheese on ciabatta bread.
Costa Coffee is open from 6:30 am to 9 pm with a ground floor, upper floor and terrace for smokers, as well as outside seating. Sharaf says that by the end of 2013 there will be an additional three Costa Coffee outlets.