“We left our comfortable jobs in London to open a bar-restaurant in Cambodia”

Renaud et Lorraine dans le jardin de leur bar-restaurant à Phnom Penh, ouvert en mai 2022.

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“Working in a communications agency is exactly what I wanted to do after graduating from business school. If the job of account manager fascinated me, the rhythm and the pressure were heavy. One day, after a week of long days, I came home exhausted and joked to Renaud: “If I listened to myself, I would drop everything and open a restaurant in the sun. »

Jokingly, we imagined what our ideal restaurant would look like. At that time, Renaud was a ‘revenue manager' in a hotel chain. His mission: to analyze data to set hotel prices according to occupancy, demand… If this job had fascinated him in the first years, he was starting to get bored and wonder about the meaning of his mission.

One evening, while he was having a drink with a professionally fulfilled friend, the latter said to him: “You are not even 30 years old and you stay in your job for material comfort. If you continue like this, you will slowly die! » The click for Renaud. That same evening, he said to me: “Ok Lorraine, your restaurant, we're going to try it. We give ourselves a year for it to take off and if it doesn't work, we go back to London. »

Anticipate before the big departure

But where to go? We immediately thought of Cambodia. We had spent two weeks of holidays there in 2016 and we had loved the country, its culture, and the kindness of the Cambodians. The country seemed interesting to undertake on several points: the low cost of living, which makes it possible to start without too many funds and to last several months without inflow of money, few administrative procedures, and many relations with London , especially with suppliers.

Not the hothead type, we anticipated as many things as possible before leaving, to be as efficient as possible as soon as we arrived. In parallel with our work, we prepared a business plan for a good year, imagined a menu by testing a multitude of recipes, thought about the decoration…

For ultimately arrive at this concept: a bar-restaurant with cocktails – because we are passionate about mixology – and spring rolls and spring rolls. We had eaten a lot of them during our trip there and we thought there was a way to revisit them with original recipes.

A strategic location

In 2017, we quit our jobs and returned the keys to our apartment at 8e district of London to take off towards Cambodia. We settled in Siem Reap, a city we fell in love with during our vacation. It is a place on a human scale, which combines the advantages of a small town, far from the bustle and Parisian stress, and of a big city, in particular by the diversity of the restaurants present, and its dynamism, that it owes to the many tourists coming to visit the temples of Angkor. This leads us to believe that our establishment can be visited all year round.

On the spot, we started looking for a place to rent. We have set our sights on a traditional family home that has not been inhabited for several years. Despite the waste accumulated in her garden and the work to be done, we believed in it, because it was one of the few to have an outdoor space.

Six months after our arrival, it's time for the opening of our restaurant called Wild, with two employees in the kitchen. We have tried to have as many local foods as possible on the menu, but we are forced to import certain products, particularly dairy products, from Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

A second establishment in Phnom Penh

If our establishment very quickly functioned well, the pandemic has hit us hard. With the borders closed for almost 18 months, our clientele has melted. We mainly received Cambodian tourists. Many tourists from Phnom Penh, the capital, have recommended that we duplicate our concept at home, telling us that it could really work.

The idea caught on… and we finally opened a bar-restaurant there in May 2022, four times bigger than our first establishment! Opening a second restaurant was unexpected. Now, with our two businesses, we employ more than thirty employees.

When we explain our new life to some English people, some think we're taking it easy. Few imagine all the hours of work behind it. But little by little, the teams are taking their marks. So much so that our establishment in Siem Reap is running very well without us!

The idea would be to achieve the same thing in our second establishment… before possibly thinking of a third project. Medium or long-term objective: carry out several projects and have several free months in the year to travel to other countries.

Of course, we miss our friends and family. And there is always a little fear of having a serious health problem here because the healthcare system is not efficient. However, we are projecting ourselves in Cambodia. We remain lovers of London but here, our quality of life is incomparable. The weather is nice for us who love the heat, the lovely people, we really don't miss anything. We have the impression of leading a simpler, healthier life and of having a use for the local community. »

To note

If you also have a beautiful (or less beautiful) story to tell, do not hesitate to contact us: using our contact page

And to read other inspiring testimonials, it's HERE.

Conclusion

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See you next time!

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