Cambodia's restaurant sector still has room to grow, though in the face of several venue closures, operators need to upgrade their services and focus on offering unique products, industry experts said yesterday.
Speaking at a press conference for the upcoming fifth edition of the CAMFOOD expo, Kouch Sokly, president of the 120 member Cambodian Restaurant Association, said the population in Cambodia, and Phnom Penh in particular, has benefitted from increasing levels of income. This, he said, translates to an increase in demand for quality restaurants and franchise chains.
The food and beverage industry will keep growing thanks to a stable economy and a very young population, he said.
“In the past, people’s incomes were lower so eating out at restaurants was a rarity, but now incomes have improved and spending money to eat out has become a weekly event,” he said. “The number of people who spend money to eat at a restaurant once a week will increase, and those who do eat out regularly will increase as well.”
While there is no concrete data on the revenue generated by the food and beverage industry in Cambodia, Sokly estimated the sector can earn a total of $300 million to $400 million a year. There are about 2,000 to 2,500 restaurants nationwide who have registered with the Ministry of Commerce and 1,000 of those operate in Phnom Penh.
Despite the potential for growth, there have been several cases where restaurants and food venues were forced to shut down – most notably the closure of the Taiwan-based beverage franchise giant Gong Cha in June.
According to Heng Sengly, general manager of Park Cafe, openings and closures show that the industry is facing tougher competition than ever before. He said that the competition was a sign that some local shops needed to improve their services.
“There is still an opportunity for growth, but operators need to provide something unique with more skill and quality,” he said. “Previously, venues could succeed by offering basic services. But now, customers value decoration, service and novelty so unless we adapt, the business will probably fail.”