This August, Pizza Hut debuted in Phnom Penh. [Image: Monty Rakusen / Getty Images ]

Pizza Hut Comes to Cambodia in time for the Pizza Wars

ASEAN

In August this year, Pizza Hut debuted in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia near the Russian Market to attract expat young professionals and Cambodia’s growing business population. This opening follows the trend of US food brands' growing positive reputation in Cambodia. Back in May of 2021, the Cambodia Franchise Expo, held virtually, provided information for nine different US franchises on gateway opportunities to gain access to Cambodian markets. According to a recent report by the United States Department of Agriculture, US beverage and food products have a strong reputation for safety and quality compared to Asian competition. The Cambodian agricultural economy is primarily driven by the meat industry where imported meat consumption has significantly increased from $29 million in meat imports in 2015 to $123 million in 2019. The Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries stated the recent decline in access to local livestock in Cambodia has led to importing meats from other countries. Pizza Hut is another example of a US brand incorporation into Cambodia’s growing fast-food culture.

US-based Pizza Hut was founded in 1958 and is the largest pizza brand in the Asia-Pacific region with a presence in over 100 countries. Pizza Hut is originally owned by Yum Brands but partnered with the United Food Group to open Pizza Hut in Phnom Penh. However, the Singapore-based franchising partner, United Food Group Inc., aspires to open 30 stores throughout Cambodia within the next two to three years. The United Food Group also owns Park Café, Cambodia’s popular restaurant with 20 different locations across the country.

Cambodian young professionals are increasingly gaining more income, and Pizza Hut wants to capitalize on this trend by promoting modern pizza culture and providing high-quality food. Pizza Hut also aspires to make the dining experience easier for young professionals, by providing dine-in, order-out, and delivery options.

The entry of the American Pizza Hut franchisee possibly opens up a pizza war in Cambodia because there are several other pizza competitors such as The Pizza Company (Thailand), Papa John’s (United States), Dominos Pizza (United States), Yellow Cab Pizza (Philippines), and Pezzo Pizza (Singapore). In a recent interview with the Khmer Times, American Chamber of Commerce president, Anthony Guilliano, stated the pizza global industry is a $160 million dollar business, with the quick serving restaurants generating $85 billion of that $160 million. While more than 5 billion pizzas are sold worldwide each year, the larger Quick Serving Restaurants are overpowering the small ‘mom and pop’ shops due to their access to monetary funds and resources. The president of the Cambodia Restaurant Associate, Arnaud Darc, emphasized pizza is a popular food in Cambodia, especially for young people, therefore there is a hungry market, regardless of the competition.

Since the first month of opening the Pizza Hut location in Phnom Penh, the restaurant had an overwhelming amount of support, which served as a catalyst for opening two new locations in Boeung Keng Kang and Tuol Tompong. The Cambodian government has the goal to reduce poverty with the creation of 1000 jobs. Pizza Hut is committed to contributing to this initiative working through a multilateral approach to employ locals to work for the company, collaborate with local farms in the Cambodian agricultural market to obtain the “CAM GAP Certificate” from the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, and improve the quality of water in partnership with Pasteur Institute of Cambodia, all in order to meet the standards of Pizza Hut International.

The United Food Group predicted the Cambodian pizza market to produce over $100 million dollars in revenue in 2019, and increase 15-20% annually, as the Cambodian economy continues to grow with foreign investment. The Pizza Hut business venture is important because it shows the United States’ commitment of bringing US economic interests and the modern-day pizza experience to Cambodia, one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia pre-COVID-19, and in the ASEAN region.

Vannary Kong is a participant of the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is a Master's Student at the Harvard University pursuing International Relations with a Certificate in National Security.