Catering king Seng Hok Heng bringing trusted brand to home delivery

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Hengmart, a brainchild of Seng Hok Heng was launched, where they sell packed food and groceries in Phnom Penh with easy and fast delivery to customers’ front doors. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Seng Hok Heng is a well-known capital-based catering service chosen by countless patrons over the years to provide the food and drink for their wedding receptions, birthday parties, anniversaries and other celebrations.

Now, the veteran catering outfit is expanding the scope of their business and making an ambitious entry into Phnom Penh’s burgeoning online delivery sector with a grocery delivery service called Hengmart that promises easy and fast delivery directly to customers’ front doors.

With the Covid-19 pandemic making gatherings like celebrations all but impossible for many months now, the crew at Seng Hok Heng Catering Services found themselves with a lot more time on their hands than they were accustomed to or ever enjoyed previously.

They brainstormed ideas and new business approaches to keep themselves busy and that’s how Hengmart was born.

Hengmart just recently announced the launch of their Easy Snack & Easy Lunch line of products consisting of boxed lunches and boxed snacks available for delivery anywhere in the city at very reasonable prices.

“We just launched Easy Snack & Easy Lunch earlier in September and I don’t want to give any secrets away but true to its name we aim to provide people with an easy option for lunch or a snack,” jokes Cheun Cheu Heng, digital marketing director for Hengmart.

Heng says the key to the longevity and success of the family’s catering business has always been responsiveness to customers’ demands.

“Our idea is that we want to give people what they want. Because when you give people what they want at a price they can afford, then as a business you’re almost always going to be able to make money doing that.

“I know that might sound too simple for some people, but I also know that it’s true,” he explains.

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Cheun Cheu Heng, Seng Hok Heng and Hengmart’s digital marketing director. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Whether it’s a big company with lots of employees or a small study group at a university or people going on a family trip together, Heng says Hengmart has products that will meet their needs in a convenient, fast and affordable way.

Hengmart’s kitchens – which Heng eagerly notes are run with strict food and Covid-19 safety protocols using hygiene standards that meet or exceed the regulatory requirements of more developed markets – have the flexibility to provide boxed lunches with a range of alternative options customers can choose.

The price for one boxed lunch is just 14,000 riel (approx. $3.50) and that covers everything, including soup and rice.

Hengmart’s boxed lunch offerings are designed for wide-appeal and broadly reflect the preferences of the local culture.

Some of the dishes available include Khmer classics such as stir fried spicy chicken with basil, stir fried pork with vegetables, sweet and sour chicken, steamed eggs and salty fish, spicy tamarind fried chicken and various classics of Khmer-fare using staples like pork, chicken, frog, beef and others.

Easy Snack, on the other hand, costs just 9,000 riel ($2.20) and has lighter offerings such as seafood with crispy Khmer noodles, fish meatball and veggie wraps, braised organ-meat (pig) sandwiches, Pad Thai, Lort Cha and deep-fried balut.

“If you compare us to the competition, the big difference is that we don’t pre-cook and then freeze our food to hold it in reserve for long periods in order to quickly deliver up orders.

“We only start cooking once we’ve received your order, period. But we’ve worked hard to maximise the efficiency of our kitchen – and how we do things once your order is in – to ensure that we are as fast as anybody in town for delivery times, except from us you’re getting food that is fresh.

“For us it’s a no-brainer because everybody prefers food that is fresh and served while it’s hot, right? Nobody can argue otherwise. And we never use leftovers or old ingredients. We’d rather just go out of business than risk any customer ever getting sick from our food.

“Unfortunately, not every business in Cambodia has the food safety mindset that we do,” Heng says.

Ordering from Hengmart is as easy as opening their Facebook page and with a few more clicks of the mouse whatever you’ve picked will be on its way with a maximum delivery time of 45 minutes, but Heng says that’s a number they usually beat handily and an aspect of their service they want to refine until they’ve got their average down to around 30 minutes city-wide.

“Right now we’re working on putting together a mobile app so we can really grow and gain market share in what is really a pretty new home delivery industry here in Cambodia, but one that I think has a lot of potential for new brands, especially local ones, to stake-out some space,” Heng says.

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With protocol and hygiene in the kitchen their Easy Lunch is a lunch meal which they serve alternatives where customers could choose from. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

The Heng family’s catering and delivery company seems to have made it through the worst of the pandemic-related downturn and Heng says he’s grateful because early on it wasn’t clear how they were going to make it.

“Adversity builds character for an individual and also I believe for families or even for entire companies. Our past struggles have a lot to teach us if we take time and think about how we got through those experiences,” Heng says.

His first big insight was that everyone was hurting financially right now due to Covid-19 and that universal misery was an opportunity if he could offer people value for their money because now more than ever people had less to spend.

“We thought up a lot of different strategies. Like I said before – give customers what they want, simple.

"But we had to do it as affordably as possible because of the economic pain everybody is in these days and it took some experimenting but we think we have a good handle on what people are willing to pay and how much is too much because it asks them to live beyond their means,” Heng continues.

Hengmart still has a selection of groceries and packaged foods available but they try to stay aware of pricing and won’t stock anything that is too expensive and takes up shelf space for too long. Basic items like beverages, kitchen essentials and big-name brands that everyone knows and trusts work best for them, he determines.

“Easy Snack & Easy Lunch are both brands that I really want to develop further for the Cambodian market. I think if people try it they’ll like it and be ordering again when they need that quick and convenient meal. Some people don’t have the time or energy at lunch to doom-scroll through hundreds of restaurant menus all fighting for their attention,” he says.

Heng says one of the biggest sellers right now is the roasted pygmy hogwich (hog sandwich) that was apparently invented in Mondulkiri and Oddar Meanchey provinces but has caught on in different places around Cambodia.

Heng says he understands people being cautious about imported pork products but he says his buyers know the difference.

“The local pygmy hogs have less fat. And you can tell when it’s done by the local slaughterhouses because when they process them they only cut the pygmy hog in half and the mouth and nose are not separated. They also tend to have their hooves intact and some hair left on the skin, whereas imported pigs that are processed in big factory places all look identical,” Heng explains.

Hengmart also has roasted crocodile from Siem Reap and Kampong Cham provinces on their menu right now and there’s no conservation concern because these are crocodiles that are farm-raised to be eaten and not an endangered type.

Another dish recommended to those with a hankering for something different is the garlic steamed turtle, according to Heng.

“I just want to say that – as the digital marketing director – I would like to thank all the customers who have trusted our services in the past whether it was catering or delivery and who continue to stick by us now.

“And keep checking back with us because we have the luxury of updating our menu according to the ingredients available at the time since we make our food fresh. So we will have more surprises for those people who are intrigued by crocodile and turtle boxed lunches,” Heng says with a laugh.

For Pchum Ben festival this year, Hengmart is offering a boxed meal for Buddhists to buy and have delivered directly as an offering of alms to the monks at their local pagodas. It may not be the same experience cherished by Cambodians for centuries due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but at least the monks need not go hungry as well.

Hengmart is open from 7am to 7pm and is located at #615, St 2004 in Kakap commune of the capital's Pur Sen Chey district.

For more details and to place delivery orders, visit its Facebook page @hengmartdotcom or call them at 010 666 455 | 077 666 455.