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Café Amazon branching out

Suthon Choothian, managing director of PTT Cambodia, the franchiser of Café Amazon, speaks at the company’s headquarters last week in Phnom Penh.
Suthon Choothian, managing director of PTT Cambodia, the franchiser of Café Amazon, speaks at the company’s headquarters last week in Phnom Penh. Sahiba Chawdhary

Café Amazon branching out

Café Amazon, the coffee shop brand of Thai oil giant PTT, has become one of the fastest-growing chains in Cambodia since arriving four years ago, with new outlets opening both inside PTT petrol stations and as franchised stand-alone shops. The Post’s Matthieu de Gaudemar sat down with Suthon Choothian, managing director of PTT Cambodia, to discuss what is guiding the coffee shop chain’s rapid expansion across the Kingdom.

How did Café Amazon first establish itself in Cambodia?
PTT Cambodia became the franchiser of Café Amazon in the Kingdom after we were granted a master franchise in 2016, though actually we first launched the brand here in 2013. From 2013 to 2016 we were growing quite successfully, so that is why we were trusted by the mother company in Thailand to grant us a master franchise.

The current plan is to expand the business, especially for Café Amazons inside PTT gas stations.

What is the current size of the company?
We have a total of 34 Café Amazon shops all over Cambodia. Inside Phnom Penh we have 26 and the remaining eight are in the provinces. We expect to achieve an expansion to 200 shops within 10 years.

What strategy is the company currently following to continue its growth?
PTT Cambodia is following a strategy of both operating Café Amazon shops itself as well as offering franchising opportunities to third parties. We try to maintain a balance between the two and this strategy applies to both locations in gas stations and stand-alone coffee shops.

We also plan to expand our Café Amazon business beyond Phnom Penh to cover all areas within Cambodia. We are trying to target key cities like Battambang, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap.

Why should people invest in a Café Amazon franchise?
We believe that with investing in Café Amazon businesses, the return on investment is pretty good while the risk is low and also the payback period is relatively fast, usually within three years. We also believe that the customers like our brand and the brand awareness amongst them is good. So we think that for investors, the sales growth and return on investment that the franchisees will receive with us will be better than for most others.

Does the brand face any major challenges for its business or expansion?
There are a growing number of competitors in Cambodia right now, both local and international brands, so it is creating a challenge for us. However, we think there are still opportunities for the coffee business in Cambodia because this is a rapidly growing sector. Even though there are a lot of competitors, the market is not saturated yet.

How do you plan to compete with the increasingly crowded market?
We are not focusing on beating other brands, but we are more focused on improving ourselves by improving the quality of the service and the standards of the business. We are focusing on how to make customers feel impressed with our brands and our tastes and how to make them want to come back to Café Amazon to use the service again.

We are still focusing on expanding Café Amazon inside PTT gas stations because our target is to be a brand for travellers.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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