By Joshua Wilwohl and Kaing Menghun
Hard Rock Cafe, the iconic U.S. restaurant franchise known for its collections of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia, will open restaurants in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, in a deal with a local firm owned by the niece of Prime Minister Hun Sen, company representatives said Friday.
According to U.S. public relations firm Coyne PR, which represents Florida-based Hard Rock Cafe, the global chain has signed a franchise deal with local companies Worldwide Investment Group and Meas Development to open two restaurants in Cambodia.
“As part of this new agreement, the companies plan to open a new Hard Rock Cafe location in Siem Reap, and later, a second cafe in Phnom Penh,” Coyne PR said in a statement.
“A long-term lease has been signed on a colonial building across from the Old Town and the River, which will be home to the new Hard Rock Cafe Siem Reap. The new Siem Reap cafe will be part of a beautiful development, where 11 other restaurants and retail shops are going to be installed during 2013,” the statement added.
Hard Rock’s announcement on Friday comes after U.S. fast food chain Burger King opened its first restaurant in Cambodia at Phnom Penh’s airport in February and after the recent arrival of U.S. ice cream chain Dairy Queen, reflecting the growing confidence of brands in the country’s stability and economic potential.
Worldwide Investment Group’s chief operating officer Bearring Phang said the company’s investment in the Siem Reap Hard Rock restaurant is about $3 million. The capital investment for the Phnom Penh Hard Rock would depend on the location, which had not yet been secured, he said.
“We hope to open in Phnom Penh sometime in 2014,” he said.
“Hard Rock is a well-known brand. We believe Hard Rock is a real franchise with several locations in 58 countries, and it will be popular in this country.”
Hun Kimleng, who is the niece of Mr. Hun Sen, and is married to National Police Chief Neth Savoeun, is the chairwoman of Worldwide Investment Group. Ms. Kimleng’s company is also an investor in at least two other restaurant chains—Australian coffee company Gloria Jean’s and Chinese restaurant Emperors of China—as well as HML Law Firm and Consultants.
According to the HML law firm website, “[Ms.] Kimleng has extensive experience as a corporate shareholder and a high management profile in many businesses and has good relation with various ministries.”
Worldwide Investment Group is also a partner of land development firm TTY Corporation Co. Ltd.
Meas Development is operated by Belgian restaurateur Alain Dupuis, who is the majority shareholder in the Blue Pumpkin franchise, the Emperors of China and several other local restaurants.
Hard Rock, which was founded by Americans in London in 1971, currently has 141 cafes and 18 hotels around the world. The company is owned by the Seminole of Florida, a tribe of Native Americans.