International fast-food giant McDonald’s plans to set up shop in Cambodia, but no date has been set for its arrival, a franchising representative from McDonald’s said Friday.
“McDonald’s intends to develop restaurants in Cambodia, however no firm date has been established for this development,” the unnamed representative wrote in an e-mail, in response to questions addressed to the corporation.
The representative added that the corporation is gathering and cataloguing applications from individuals wishing to operate restaurants here.
The e-mail lists seven criteria McDonald’s uses in evaluating applicants: High integrity, business experience, knowledge of culture and customs, willingness to devote themselves full-time to the venture, willingness to train for nine months in a foreign country, knowledge of real estate management and ability to work well with the franchise organization.
Richard Lim, who has worked as a supplier to McDonald’s for more than 30 years in Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, said last week that the requirement for full-time commitment is most likely the major stumbling block for the corporation’s investment in Cambodia.
“Other chains [are] more flexible with policy,” Lim said. “Money is not a problem…. A lot of politicians have a lot of money. They have $3 million or $10 million, no problem. But they don’t want to run the business. They hire someone else to run the business. McDonald’s doesn’t allow that.”
Lim also said he believed that concerns remain about the country’s political stability, especially in wake of the January 2003 anti-Thai riots.
“As a foreigner from the outside, I think the political environment needs to stabilize. That will attract investors that will give jobs to the Cambodian people and they will have money to spend on things like fast food,” he said.
Funcinpec parliamentarian So Victor said Sunday that he had applied for a franchise several years ago but was told by McDonald’s that Cambodia’s market was not yet ready for the company to invest here.
“My application is still with them, and I am still interested,” he said. “McDonald’s is a worldwide company, and they have to be very careful before they set foot somewhere.”
So Victor said that most prominent among McDonald’s concerns were the size of the market here and the purchasing power of the people.
Chy Sila, general manager of the local fast-food restaurant BB World, said last week that if McDonald’s comes “it will be our threat.” But he said he is ready for the challenge.
“For me I have confidence I can survive here 3 years, 10 years, as long as there is a market. If they give me another 5 years, I will have 10 shops, more than that. Or they can buy me out,” he said.
He added that with McDonald’s advertising in Cambodia, the population will become more willing to try fast food and the overall market would grow. “Currently I am the only one doing grassroots education,” he said.
BB World, which was started by four Cambodian friends who each put up $2,500, currently has two locations in Phnom Penh. This week they are changing their signs after the Ministry of Commerce decided that the signs were too similar to those of McDonald’s to receive trademark registration.
Chy Sila said BB World plans to expand but sees serious hurdles in going to places outside of Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and the capital.
Ty To, the owner of Mondo Burger and Drink, said he too thinks the market is limited.
“I think that McDonald’s won’t target Cambodia,” he said. He added that he believes locals will prefer the taste of Mondo burgers but that he will not be worried if the international chain does locate here.
“If it comes here, my burger will not be its competitor,” he said.