The number of restaurants is increasing in Cambodia as the standard of living increases for the population, more tourists arrive and more Cambodians become more educated and have increasing income.
Restaurant owners have become increasingly competitive with a focus on inspiring clients to choose their restaurant over others. One of interesting change for the restaurant field is that more restaurants are serving buffet food, which only a few years ago existed solely in fine hotels and out of the price range for most Cambodian.
Today, buffets are widely available in Phnom Penh and people in the restaurant industry say quality is becoming more hygienic.
Touch Sophea, Owner of Villa Khmer Restaurant on Street 294 in Phnom Penh, said her restaurant had been open for about a year and a half. When she first opened, she offered normal menu items, but later transformed the fare to buffet-style dining.
She said the idea of the buffet food service came when she had seen so many local restaurants serving fast food and few restaurants serving buffet style.
“At that time our lunch was so quiet. We thought of what to do more to make our restaurant busier. When we started serving buffet style, more guests started to come gradually.” She began with a buffet price of 10,000 Riel per person, but later increased the price to 11,000 Riel price because of an increase in food prices.
“Since we first opened, the number has increased more and more.”
She said about 100 guests per day is the average turnover, but with advance book she believed the numbers could increase to 200. The losses were difficult to sustain during the first few months, she added.
“For me, I think buffets become popular because the places are well organized and they are suitable for people who have good jobs,” she said.
She said that restaurants in Cambodia would move toward being better and cleaner, because the increase in competition would cause restaurant owners to have cleaner facilities and more decorations.
“My restaurant attracts about half foreign and about haft Khmer customers. During the weekend, most customers are youths, while on the working days, most customers are employed people.”
Tith Chantha, Director General of Tourism at Cambodian Tourism Ministry said in November, 2011, during the “Good restaurants, Good Canteens and Good Service,” seminar that Cambodia had more than 900 restaurants for serving tourists nationwide, with over 40,000 employees. He said that at that time, Cambodia needed between 2,000 and 2,500 restaurants to serve the expected seven million tourists by 2020.
According to the records of the Ministry of Tourism, among the 907 restaurants nationwide that serve tourists, 333 are in Phnom Penh, 143 in Siem Reap, 60 in Sihanouk province and 371 in other provinces across the country, but only 115 had sufficient qualifications in hygiene, facilities, equipment, quality of food and security for customers.
Porleng Van, president of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, says she has no specific statistics on restaurants that serve buffet foods, but she has noticed that more and more restaurants in Phnom Penh and other provinces have more hygiene and good environments inside and outside the restaurant premises.
“Now that there is more hygiene, it is better than before and Cambodia now has more and more restaurants,” Porleng Van says.
Luu Meng, president of Cambodian Hotel Association, owner of almond hotel, told the Post in February this year that the Cambodia had undergone rapid development in the restaurant sector, with Phnom Penh having more than 100 restaurants that served Chinese dishes.