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Restaurant association to start up in temple town

Siem Reap’s eateries are joining forces to form the Siem Reap Restaurant Association.

At a meeting of the Cambodian Restaurant Association in Siem Reap’s Casa Angkor Hotel last Monday, the board presented the idea of setting up a Siem Reap chapter.

Temple Town businesses were quick on the uptake, following the success of CRA in representing Phnom Penh-based F&B companies for the last two years. CRA now works on behalf of more than 50 companies, made up of over 100 outlets, from long-running favourites to smaller enterprises.

“We came to Siem Reap two years ago to attract businesses here,” explains Geert Vanbaelen, who is spearheading the establishment of the Siem Reap chapter, “But we were only new and the businesses here were afraid to join. Now they see the brands we’ve attracted, and they’re ready to get started.”

Geert says that the larger restaurant groups and hotel restaurants were the most enthusiastic, but he believes others will follow suit. The association will be assisted by the already-established Cambodia Hotel Association Siem Reap, which was represented at the meeting by its president, Emmett McHenry of Sokha Angkor Resort.

Geert, a former CRA treasurer who recently relocated to Siem Reap, says the establishment of the chapter will help businesses in a multitude of areas. “It’s a networking association, so it’s gets people together, it improves communication. It can represent restaurants with a common voice to the government, and will work to make food and beverage a leading industry in Cambodia.”

Vanbaelen also says the association works in communities, with schools and NGOs, educating and encouraging students to become interested in hospitality. The association has also lobbied the government to improve hygiene guidelines and to formalise inspections.

Another item on Monday’s agenda was the CamFood and CamHotel 2012 Exhibition which will take place in Phnom Penh in October. It will be held in Diamond Island Exhibition Center, and hopes to attract over 12,000 industry professionals.

CRA is now pushing for more representation from Siem Reap and Geert says, “Some restaurants and hotels came to the expo two years ago, but after our presentation in Siem Reap, a lot more were very motivated to get involved.”

CRA will encourage representation by providing transport for staff to the capital for the exhibition.

While also a showcase for products and businesses, the expo will be a showcase for staff too, with competitions in everything from bartending to bed-making, even a waiter race. Geert says, “I hope this year we will see some Siem Reap staff taking part. It will improve their skills and who knows maybe they’ll go on to work abroad?”

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