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A slice of the wedding cake

Touch Ratha, general manager of catering firm Seng Hok Heng, speaks with The Post at his office in Phnom Penh earlier this month.
Touch Ratha, general manager of catering firm Seng Hok Heng, speaks with The Post at his office in Phnom Penh earlier this month. Heng Chivoan

A slice of the wedding cake

In Cambodia, the wedding business is booming and the country’s demographics – with a third of the population between 15 and 35 years old – means there are lucrative opportunities for wedding planners and caterers. The Post’s Hor Kimsay sat down with Touch Ratha, general manager of Seng Hok Heng, one of the largest catering companies in Cambodia, to discuss a business built around couples tying the knot.

What is average number of tables the company serves during the wedding season and how has business changed in recent years?
The company serves about 3,500 tables per month on average during the wedding season from November to June, and the numbers have continued to increase almost triple year-on-year.

How much does the average wedding party spend on catering?
In our case, the average cost of catering a wedding party runs from $15,000 to $20,000.

What is the largest and most extravagant party that your company has catered?
We catered a huge wedding party that was celebrated on Koh Pich last year. The total cost of the whole event was about $150,000 for catering services that included everything from food to tent decoration, floor planning and air-conditioning units.

What challenges do you face in operating a catering business?
We are not a manufacturing company, so we have to work as a team to run the whole field. Finding a strong, creative, dynamic and diversified team to work in this fast-paced business is the biggest challenge our company faces.

How many jobs does your company provide and how do you manage your staff?
We could provide up to 500 jobs monthly in high season and about 250 jobs in low season. We manage the salary base, project base and temporary staff as the business fluctuates through the seasons.

About 98 percent of my staff have not graduated from university. Therefore, as a general manager, I must play multiple roles. Sometimes I am more of a coach and trainer for the staff, while other times I facilitate directly with the clients.

We provide good working conditions and better than average pay, which attracts a higher quality labour force.

What salary range do you provide to your staff?
We have about 20 people who work as project managers, and we pay them about $1,000 to $1,500 per month. There are about 50 people who work as middle management who earn about $700 to $800 per month and the rest are lower level who earn about $200 to $250 per month.

How do you manage the supply chain of food and materials for catering?
Having a reliable supply chain of food and materials is a number one concern for a growing company like ours. We must ensure that all purchase orders are fulfilled and the final product is delivered to the table.

Suppliers and products are carefully selected and we have them contracted to work for us. If a supplier does not follow the terms of a contract, they are warned or terminated.

How many catering businesses are there in town and what do you think about business competition?
Catering is a multimillion-dollar business. I would say there are around 100 catering businesses currently operating in Phnom Penh, and total revenue just from weddings alone we estimate to be from $60 million to $70 million a year.

Other businesses that are riding the surge of weddings include wedding halls and hotels, flower and fabric decorations, beauty salons, tailors and dressmakers. Some couples also need marquee tents, portable stages, mobile air-conditioning and musicians.

What trends do you see in the wedding business?
Catering for weddings is like being in the fashion business. It is very trendy, so you have to focus on how to make it unique and elegant for it to pay off.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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