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Staff Training in Cambodia: the Big Challenge

Formation professionnelle restaurant bar phnom penh cambodge


Although the annual growth rate in Cambodia has been over 7% on the average over the last 20 years, it hides a number of deficiencies in the school system and professional training in sectors such as restaurants and hotels. The quality of the service to the client, which remains central in the hospitality businesses, is not at the level that would deserve the country.

Tourists and expatriates regularly point out a lack of professionalism: a staff often described as unresponsive, static and taking no initiative. Entrepreneurs, who are concerned to provide their customers with an optimal level of satisfaction, encounter these problems in their daily lives. Two themes come up regularly: staff training and turnover rate. More than just a concern to regulate, CEOs and GMs often feel this problematic as a barrier to the development of their company. As the service is not satisfactory, they have the reflex to hire additional staff on the one hand to carry out the work that the former do not execute and, on other hand, to prevent sudden resignations or unplanned vacations. Many restaurants are therefore overstaffed with four, five, six ... waitresses and waiters where it would take only two or three. If Cambodia allows it easily in view of the low wages as compared to the West, the problem will not be solved on its own.

Although the level of service is relatively low, we all met with good staff. Establishments such as PSE (Pour un Sourire d’Enfant) or Sala Bai have proven their competence in this area. Unfortunately, these training institutions are scarce, they are unable to meet the growing demand for labor market and their teaching program ignores the indispensable marketing components of the restaurant and the customer relations.

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However, this situation is not inevitable. The solution lies in the training in a company by an external resource. Western learning methods and know-how are one thing, but they must be integrated into the cultural context and the Cambodian spirit and culture. Thierry Poupard, founder of Service-Attitude, a consulting and training organization dedicated to restaurant professionals, says: "In order to Westernize service, we have to Khmerize learning". Thierry Poupard holds an MBA from the University of San Francisco was lecturer at HEC, restaurant management instructor at the international school Le Cordon Bleu, author of Service Attitude at L'Harmattan and is a consultant for restaurateurs. When he first came to Cambodia in 2013, the obvious point was a lot of work to be done on this subject. For him, Cambodian staff can’t be trained as American or French personnel are, the approach must be thoroughly adapted. On top of that, too many managers consider training as an expense when it is indeed an investment, with a return, a strong ROI.


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Living in Phnom Penh and a twice-daily observer of restaurants for nine months, he has acquired lots of inputs and developed a unique, pragmatic, illustrated, and results oriented method called "Khmer Service Staff Training Program". It doesn’t consist of a lecture or a teaching style, but rather of short 15-20 minutes modules, each one on a single theme per session that make the waitress and the waiter evolve considerably. In 4 to 5 weeks for a dozen modules, progresses are flagrant. Greeting and service are a profession wrongly thought and poorly valued. The Cambodians pay attention to the salary and they quickly realize that small things such as clearing the table, changing the ashtray, appearance and behavior, or suggested sales (second glass of wine, dessert, coffee...) become a source of complementary income. It is not uncommon to see a restaurant turnover increase of 25%, as well as the tips that keep the staff loyal, once the teams are well trained. The service is no longer a function, it becomes a mission. For Thierry Poupard: "We must create a virtuous circle between the staff and the owners/managers by also working on the tone of voice and the language, when empathy has proved to be more efficient than injunctions. The better the service, the higher the sales, the profit, the tips and the star rating on Tripadvisor.”

Beyond its innovative training method, Thierry Poupard is also able to provide efficient solutions in various fields such as point of sale marketing, product mix analysis, sales and profits increase, or recovery of restaurants in difficulty.

Jean-Marc ALLIER



M. Thierry Poupard

Tél : 011 239 064


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