Pizza war ready to smoulder in Phnom Penh

The arrival of yet another international pizza brand in Phnom Penh suggests a looming war for market share is cooking.

Pizza, whether corporate, Khmer-influenced or classically Italian, is a favourite food among both Cambodia’s young and the expat community and there is increasingly no shortage of businesses after their tastebuds.

Anthony Galliano, American Chamber of Commerce president said, “Globally, pizza industry [revenue] is $160 billion. QSRs (quick serve restaurants) represent $85 billion of that pie and more than five billion pizzas are sold worldwide each year.”

There are now three major US pizza brand QSRs in Phnom Penh; Dominos, Papa John’s and the latest entry, Pizza Hut. There are also non-US pizza QSR chains including The Pizza Company and Yellow Cab. An upscale non QSR chain, Vietnam’s 4Ps Pizza just launched a location in Phnom Penh, its first international store.

Add in locally owned “Mom and Pop” type stores, with their unique Cambodian twist on traditional pizza, as well as the numerous extremely authentic Naples style woodfire-oven-centric Italian pizzerias and the market is clearly approaching a critical mass.

According to Galliano, Pizza Hut is considered to be equally top-placed with Domino’s Pizza as the biggest pizza franchise in the world.

He added it would be interesting to see how their rivalry plays out in the Kingdom’s already saturated market.

Galliano noted: “The QSR franchises are cannibalising the industry and gobbling up weaker concept chains and independent restaurants, given their capital base and much larger wallets, management expertise, buying power and innovation.”

He does expect that smaller dine-in restaurants face stiff competition from them but “pure delivery such as Brooklyn Pizza Delivery is much less susceptible”.

United Franchise Group, the company responsible for bringing Pizza Hut to the Kingdom, has stated it intends to expand the brand rapidly over the next two to three years by opening 30 stores.

QSR brands are often restricted by their franchise agreements to purchasing ingredients from the franchisor’s in-house supply chain, which generally means their ingredients are imported frozen. In contrast, smaller independent restaurants can get local fresh ingredients, a major draw for avid afficianados of authentic or fusion approach takes on pizza who dislike the bland uniformity of international QSR feeders.

Despite that, Hiroki Kitaura, who owns Trattoria Bello Pizza & Pasta near the Russian Market, said her restaurant still faces a challenging situation. She isn’t sure the QSR pizza brands are causing it, though. Her restaurant is struggling because it caters mainly to tourists and the declining expat population.

She intends to find a way to cater more to locals but isn’t sure what direction to take.

Arnaud Darc, president of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, says authentic pizzerias will always have a place in the world with connoisseur clients searching for authentic Italian flavours.

Darc added: “Pizza is a popular food for Cambodian people, especially with teens and young adults. With half of the population below 30 years old, the pizza industry has some more good days ahead and the pizza market is coping quite The arrival of yet another international pizza brand in the Kingdom suggests a looming war for market share is cooking, well despite Covid.”

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