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Fresh food beats fast food

Jason Boken / Khmer Times Share:
The Vine in Phnom Penh: a hair salon, cocktail bar and restaurant. KT/Siv Channa

Since 2005, rumours have made the rounds that McDonald’s may possibly open in Cambodia. 15 years on and that is simply all that it has been, a rumour.

The McDonald’s fast-food chain is a US-based organisation that is popular across the globe. Since it started in 1948, the company’s number of worldwide restaurants has grown every year.

McDonald’s is iconic, and its golden arches along with the famous Big Mac are the stuff of legend. Even so, they still haven’t positioned themselves within the Cambodian fast food market.

Certain countries do not have McDonald’s restaurants. Although you will find the chain in many parts of Asia, there are none to be found in Cambodia. The population here relies heavily on rice, seafood and tropical fruits for their diet, so there really is no market for McDonald’s.

Cambodia does, however, have some fast food restaurants. Most of them are in the capital Phnom Penh. These fast-food chains just don’t do as well as in neighbouring countries and there aren’t nearly as many.

For example, there are 10 KFCs in Cambodia and there are around 700 in Thailand. Locals, as well as expats, seem to opt for good locally produced meals that are made with fresh ingredients and aren’t processed.

McDonald’s-inspired burgers at The Vine in Phnom Penh. KT/Siv Channa

But a business in Phnom Penh named The Vine have stepped in to give the people craving McDonalds what they want, but using locally sourced fresh ingredients. The Vine Phnom Penh opened in 2018 as a bar and salon and then in late 2019 decided to open their kitchen and expand the business.

Owners of The Vine, in Streeet 272, Joel Shipsides and Sara Collins both from Victoria, Australia, said: “Sara and I first sat down and spoke about what we would like to do here in Cambodia. Sara stated that she was missing hairdressing [a previous career] and said she could see a gap in the market for a Western salon, after a few discussions we both agreed that having a hair salon with a fully functioning cocktail bar would fit in perfectly in Phnom Penh.”

Further down the line and The Vine has now expanded into having a fully functional kitchen as well as the original bar and salon. They are cooking up some of McDonald’s best known items within their menu, using locally sourced quality ingredients and a top class chef. Some of the McDonald’s favourites include The Sausage and Egg McMuffin and the legendary Big Mac burger.

The owners of the Vine went on to say: “Around a year after opening we started to consider having food options available for our customers. Sara and I were thinking more cheese platters and tapas style food but we met a chef that had experience in making high-end quality burgers and was keen to work with us. That was when our burger menu was born. With McDonald’s lacking in the Kingdom, people have been able to somewhat cure that craving by having a Vine burger. The burgers that we have chosen to put on the menu are not only our own favorites but fan favorites too.”

With delivery services  Nham24, EGETS, Food Panda and Meal Temple, more and more restaurants are being able to deliver their dishes directly to their target audience. Customers are able to get fresh locally produced food direct to their doorsteps. An increasing number of people are opting for a meal that they know is going to be wholesome rather than a cheaply processed meal deal. Meaning local restaurants are keeping fast food chains at bay.


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