Fast food chains are a concept that, until recently in Cambodia, were confined to the Western world. However, the last few years have seen imported brands mushroom in the country’s urban centres. While very few brands are home-grown, franchises of well-known Western and Asian names offer a taste of home.
Lucky Burger dominates the market when it comes to homegrown fast food, remaining Cambodia’s sole player. With the first branch opening in 1995, the chain serves up burgers, chicken nuggets and fried chicken with rice, as well as a range of fried rice dishes. Lucky Burger outlets are dotted throughout Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, with a handful located in other urban hubs. However, if we’re being honest, you wouldn’t miss much if you skipped dining here during your travels.
An adopted Cambodian favourite, Thai brand The Pizza Company opened its first franchise spot in Phnom Penh in 2005. It proved a hit with the younger generation and emerging middle-class, who continue to flock to the many restaurants found across the country today. Serving thin and thick crust pizzas, pasta, fried chicken and rice, The Pizza Company is Asia’s version of Domino’s.
Cambodians love fried chicken, making KFC the first Western fast food chain to set up shop in Cambodia in 2008. Colonel Sanders’ iconic face can be spotted in all the major cities, with each location serving a pretty-much identical menu to its sister stores across the globe, specialising in fried chicken options. KFC was crowded until a few years ago when a flurry of other international names landed in Cambodia.
American chain Dairy Queen followed hot on the tail of KFC, with its serving of cool treats, refreshments and snacks tickling the tastebuds of young Cambodians. Its popularity today is indicated by the mass of motorbikes parked outside the many stores each evening. Popular options include green-tea-almond-blizzard ice cream, mocha latte and the indulgent waffle bowl sundae.
In 2014, Burger King opened its first franchise in central Phnom Penh, sparking a fast food phenomenon and appetite for the cheese burger and fries combo that has conquered the West. Since then, several more have opened across the capital, with Siem Reap gearing up to welcome its first. This chain has proved popular with students.
Opening their first stores opposite Burger King’s flagship diner in 2016, US-born Carl’s Jr and Cold Stone Creamery are also hits with the swelling middle-class crowd and students. Each evening, the spacious eatery with these chains is filled with locals feasting on towering burgers and fried chicken, washed down with a refreshing ice cream.
Tradition still prevails in Cambodia and, for now, street food remains the order of the day for the majority of people, both in the provinces and cities. The stalls are much more convenient than any of the aforementioned spots. During meal time, the streets are lined with options to choose from. And if you’re feeling really lazy, you don’t have to move far, as many carts prowl the streets, with megaphones alerting hungry souls that they are approaching.