The government has issued operating licenses over 2,000 restaurants across the country as part of its effort to ensure the quality and hygiene of food outlets that serve not Cambodians but also some 5 million tourists who visit the Kingdom each year.
Kim Sereyroth, head of food and hospitality services department at the Ministry of Tourism, said the ministry routinely inspects restaurants to ensure that they have all necessary operating permits and certificates.
“The licensing procedure requires vendors to demonstrate that they have acquired the proper legal documents from relevant authorities, such as construction permits and business registration documents,” he said.
“They also must have certification from the Ministry of Health and an approved fire protection system.”
According to Sereyroth, the Tourism Ministry has issued licenses to 2,239 restaurants with a total of 130,885 seats. Only licensed restaurants display a certificate from the ministry, which he said provides proof that “these restaurants have been legally authorised and can properly and safely serve customers.”
Kuoch Sokly, an advisor of the Cambodia Restaurant Association, stressed the importance of oversight in the restaurant sector, noting that thousands of restaurants and food stalls operate without the necessary operating licenses.
“People who dine at unlicensed restaurants must be extremely cautious about the food they eat,” he said.
Sokly, who has 20 years in the restaurant industry under his belt, said the majority of licensed restaurants are located in Phnom Penh while other areas of the country lack high-quality establishments. He said there were still many opportunities to develop the sector.
“With regards to good restaurants, there is still a high demand and we need more hard and soft investments,” he said, adding that the younger generation in particular craves “something new, unique and tasty.”
Ho Vandy, president of World Express Tours, said the government has set quality standards aimed at “improving the behaviour, services and hygiene” of restaurants. He added that in addition to compliance with health and operating standards, restaurants are also encouraged to be environmentally friendly, offer more Khmer dishes and use more local ingredients.