Chea Suon Bopha is continuing her father’s legacy of providing travellers with quality services and dishes made from locally-sourced organic produce at popular rest stops in Kampong Thom and Kampong Cham.
“We always maintain our standards of taste for every dish in our restaurants,” the 40-year-old said. “And we ensure quality for both taste and hygiene because all of our ingredients are fresh and organic.”
Bopha added that the family also grow vegetables themselves to serve at Prey Pros Rest Area in Kompong Thom and Batheay Restaurant in Kampong Cham.
Bopha was born in Phnom Penh and studied a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Finance and Tax Planning in the USA. Now she is a businesswoman running two restaurants.
She told Kiripost that she is happy to continue her father's legacy and wants to see more rest areas in Cambodia because they are essential for people when they travel across the country.
However, she said it is key to ensure rest stops provide people with delicious casual cuisine served in a breezy, relaxed atmosphere with clean and hygienic rest rooms.
Motivation to open rest stops
Bopha said the idea to create rest stops started when her father first visited the USA. He drove for 560km, which took six hours. During his travels, he came across a few rest areas on the road that were home to relaxing spaces, including bathrooms and a restaurant for people to take a rest.
“After my father arrived at these places, he felt normal and wasn't even tired after travelling for so long. That's because he got enough rest. Suddenly, he thought that Cambodia doesn’t have any rest areas for tourists and other passengers, so he decided he should create a place,” she said.
In 2004 to 2005, he opened Prey Pros Rest Area (PPRA) with the aim of catering to people's needs while they travel, as well as providing a convenient place to rest and enjoy food, snacks, and drinks while viewing nature in rural areas.
She confirmed, “PPRA opened for people to stop and relax without any charge. Prey Pros village is in the middle for people who are travelling from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. It takes three hours from Phnom Penh to arrive at Prey Pros, so they can stop and rest there before continuing to Siem Reap.”
In 2013, Bopha took over the businesses from her father after returning from her studies abroad. She lived with her parents and wanted to continue the legacy her father had created, and still runs the businesses today.
Jobs for the local community
Bopha said that she runs the rest stops not only for herself but also to support people's daily income, reducing the need for migration.
She recalls when the business first opened, “We faced a challenge finding employees who could write when customers ordered food. But we tried to teach them.”
She added that one staff member who has worked at the restaurant since it opened did not know how to write letters and numbers. However, today she is knowledgeable about the company’s menu and other necessary tasks.
“When new staff come, we always have orientation sessions to provide brief information and tell them to stay in any position, there has to be standards and a good preparation system,” Bopha said.
She added that all staff are paid a good monthly wage, and she believes that when they stop working at her restaurants, they have the skills to potentially start their own business.
No one can succeed without challenges
Bopha said no one can succeed without challenges. She noted that her father had no experience in running restaurants, having worked previously as a government officer.
“Our staff is also limited because if we hire in large amounts but our business income isn’t stable, that’s a problem,” she said.
The most important aspect, according to Bopha, is understanding customers’ needs in modern times. She said there are a lot of people who support the business - both old and new customers, adding that it is “motivation” when she receives positive feedback from local and foreign customers.
She said operating a competitive business is key to success, and encourages other people to set up rest stops. “When we have a lot of competitors it is good for all people when they go to Siem Reap.”
Bopha also noted that when opening a restaurant, customer feedback, including complaints, should be welcomed. “When people complain directly, it means they want us to change when they come again.” In response, she has trained her staff to always ask for feedback.
Bopha added, “During the Covid-19 crisis, we closed our restaurants for a short time, then we reopened but reduced the working hours. All workers understood this case. Also, what we can learn from this pandemic is to know financial management.”