Through all Digby’s, Phnom Penh’s first café and grocer has in common with systemic chains is compliance to standards – standards that are rarely found in Cambodia.
Amy Chiv, a Singaporean, and her Khmer-American husband, David Chiv, opened Digby’s on the mission of “raising the bar” in working conditions, food safety, customer service in Cambodia:
Digby’s employees are being offered free meals at work, being paid above market rate, being trained by foreign chefs and trainers and they are off work every Sunday – even though being a café Digby’s could have the highest turnover that day.
Digby’s brings to Phnom Penh quality meats, sausages, cold cuts, charcuterie all made from scratch free from chemicals with compliance to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) standards, partnering with Discovery Farms, the only certified organic farm by CORAA (Cambodian Organic Agriculture Association) in Cambodia, bringing organic vegetables and fruits, and imported beers and healthy hearty grocery items from gluten-free products to organic products from USA, Singapore, France, and Germany etc.
Having moved from the US to Cambodia two years ago, Amy and David have been working on making a vision come true.
David explains: “We are here to help create jobs for fellow Cambodians. I want to bring back what I have learned from America to share with my fellow countrymen, to help raise their standards in F&B (food and beverage).”
In fact, the lack of unskilled work force is stressed as the crucial Cambodian growth- and competitiveness blocker by the OECD in their 2013 economic outlook for Southeast Asia. A problem may become most apparent when the ASEAN integration is completed in 2015 and skilled workforce from all over the region can take jobs in the Kingdom.
At Digby’s, employees get to learn barista skills; butchery, charcuterie from a German master butcher and a Singapore/Malaysian chef and Amy teaches the staff public speaking and presentation skill. “Continuing training and education is something I appreciate learning from Singapore government, it aims to enhance quality and productivity by helping workers acquire industry-relevant skills and stay ahead of industry development.” she said.
At Digby’s, both Amy and David believe in providing highest quality meats, foods at best affordable price. David believes quality, hygienic and wholesome food is important to bring up also the images of Cambodia in F&B industry.
“Cambodians are capable, they just need a chance and more training. We are here to share what we learn from America and Singapore to fellow Cambodians,” said David.
One exception is the pork sold at Digby’s. It comes from a Cambodian pig farm – M’s Pig ACMC, that uses British pig breeds because they are more resistant to disease. On top of that (before becoming the crispiest and most aromatic bacon in town) pigs from that farm live happily in air–conditioned and clean stables.
Amy and David hope that in the future all quality meats and other healthy foods sold at Digby’s and others will be made available. David believes that quality food should be affordable.
Of course a standard of fair salaries and affordable, healthy food is far from reality in Cambodia but Digby’s has raised the bar.
Amy and David follow a long-term and investment intense business approach that is supposed to create revenues through economies of scale.
Together with all partners along the value chain that follow Digby’s sustainable business model, Amy and David hope to give as many Cambodians a “kick-start” into their lives. They both believe in sowing into their employees’ life, living and livelihood.
David designed Digby’s himself and the industrial revolution chique represents work and productivity to him. It’s a heavy tamarind wood tabletop rests on grey lacquered steel pipes, the high ceiling is carried by steel beams, big dark brown wooden planks cover parts of the floor, antique mechanic mini appliances, typewriters and sewing machines, fill glass cabinets that reach the high ceiling – the spacious and light-flooded room looks like a weaving mill of late Victorian England, turned into a cozy steam-punk sanctuary filled with delicacies.