Inside a shop in a restored building on the corner of Sothearos Boulevard and Street 266, nearly 10 Cambodians wearing the same uniform are walking around and cleaning tables.
Colourful decor, modern wooden furniture, air conditioners jutting out from the walls and soft music playing in the background establish a welcoming ambience. So does the smell of coffee brewing.
The building is home to the sixth branch of Brown Coffee and Bakery, which officially starts operating today.
“The expansion is reflecting our long-term investment plan,” Chang Bunleang, managing partner of Brown Coffee and Bakery, said on Tuesday. “We have been training staff for years, so we are ready to compete in any circumstances.”
By the end of this year, Brown Coffee will have a total of eight branches in Phnom Penh. It also entered into agreement with Japanese retail shop AEON, paving the way for a ninth outlet in the mall that is scheduled to open in 2014.
Despite international competitors flocking into the Kingdom’s food and beverage industry, local companies like Brown are intent on defending their territory.
According to Owen Williams, manager of CB Richard Ellis (Cambodia), a market research company, a number of domestic establishments have performed well in the Cambodian market, but the arrival of popular brands is also a sign that local shops need to improve their services to keep up.
“International brands entering the Cambodian market indicates strong current economic growth and belief internationally that this will continue,” Williams said. “Competition is positive for a market and encourages [local] companies to improve standards.”
In the past 12 months, more mid-range brands, especially in the food and beverage industry, have piled into Cambodia. In February, Costa Coffee, the second-largest coffee chain in the world and the largest in the UK, opened a shop in Phnom Penh.
Burger King, a global fast food chain, opened a shop at Phnom Penh International Airport. And Tous Les Jours, a “French-Asian” bakery serving a selection of baked goods and beverages, has been here since November.
American coffee giant Starbucks has yet to break into the local market, but its brand image is popular among young Cambodians, who can be seen wearing T-shirts with the company logo.
The food and beverage industry is likely to keep growing thanks to a stable economy and a predominantly young population. Eating out is no longer the exception.
Park Cafe, Foods and Beverages Co Ltd, a casual dining restaurant chain owned by a group of Cambodian restaurateurs, plans to franchise in Phnom Penh.
General manager Chan Sy said franchising was one way of helping his restaurant grow so it has enough capacity to compete with foreign brands.
He said Park Cafe is continuing to expand, adding two more outlets to the six it currently runs by the end of the year.
“Demand is growing among professionals who enjoy dining and networking,” Sy said.