For the last five years, Gloria Jean’s Coffee has been continually expanding, bringing high quality coffee to Cambodia’s seemingly endless embrace of a café culture. The Post spoke with general manager Brice Smith about the increased level of competition and Gloria Jean’s success.
Gloria Jean’s is one of the most popular international coffee brands in the capital. With more and more coffee shops opening in town, how has the industry changed and what is your stance towards increased competition?
In the last few years, it has been amazing to see the development of the coffee industry here. Though the market is still very young, people have generally accepted the culture of specialty coffee as consumers become more discerning about their tastes.
As far as competition, I get asked all the time about what I think. And my response is usually, “I don’t really care.” Our competitors have their own business, we have ours. All I care about is moving Gloria Jean’s forward by listening and responding to the needs of all our loyal customers. We have more than doubled in size in the last year and a half and it’s not from copying what others are doing. This being said, I do believe that competition is healthy though because it helps to expand, educate, and evolve the market.
Can you talk about Gloria Jean’s expansion across the country?
We have already expanded outside of Phnom Penh into Siem Reap. Currently, we are now looking for franchise partners in Battambang and Sihanoukville to open up more branches.
Could you please tell us more about your expansion in Siem Reap?
I am very happy with the way our first store in Siem Reap has turned out. We have had such a good response from our customers. Many of our customers have commented that it is the best designed store so far. Due to high demand, we are also expanding the store into a second level. We plan to open a second location in Siem Reap later this year, as well as a third location in 2016.
With many cafés operating in Cambodia, what is it that makes Gloria Jean’s stand out?
Our focus is to consistently provide the best quality products. Gloria Jean’s is a true coffee shop chain that also serves light food, not a restaurant that also serves coffee. So our main focus is our drink quality. Our loyal customers are what have made us truly successful, and we thank them for that.
As a franchise, Gloria Jean’s has brought international standards to the food and beverage industry in Cambodia. More than that, could you explain the management and training skills the company provides?
Gloria Jean’s is proud to say that for five years, we have been continuously improving our training standards. We opened a training room almost two years ago. This helps us prepare our employees before they go to work in our stores. We prefer to recruit staff based on personality rather than experience. A hardworking, ethical employee with no experience is better than a seasoned worker from a competitor, as we can train them to our high standards.
Behind the scenes of Gloria Jean’s expansion in Siem Reap: An interview with the talented architect Dan Hover
Could we hear more about your background?
I am a UK born architect and interior designer based in Cambodia. Over the past six years, I have been specializing in designs for cafes, restaurants and apartments around Southeast Asia. A lot of my inspiration comes from the places I have visited and lived. As Cambodia continues to develop, I see more and more clients open to unique design methods.
Could you explain some of your architectural principles you use when you design a new shop?
Because I have always enjoyed coffee and spend most of my time in coffee shops, I believe they should be a place to sit and relax in comfort and style. In all my designs, I try to be aware of the customer’s perspective. Whether they are there to enjoy a coffee with friends or alone, I aim to make each design visually stimulating and inspiring.
This is the first Gloria Jean’s in Siem Reap, and we wanted to make an impact. The exterior is made up of steel and fiberboard. The shapes are protruding from the building. When lit up at night, it really takes effect. The rest of the exterior is cladded with natural wood vertically.
It has been nicknamed the Landmark as it is impossible to miss on the up and coming Wat Bo Street. The interior is of industrial style. I thought the style would suit Gloria Jean’s exterior design. I wanted to make use of all the raw materials available in Cambodia and incorporate them in my design [using] steel, concrete and wood. Gloria Jean’s has always given me the freedom to be creative and this design is no exception. The feedback from customers has been great.
What is your plan for the next shop?
I am currently working on another store near Russian Federation Boulevard, Phnom Penh, that will open by the end of the year. It will be an interesting design and I am sure it will be a big hit with the local coffee culture.