The restaurant sector grew in sales from 2007 to 2010, 41.6%. There are 64,000 restaurants in Colombia and sales in 2009 are estimated at $3.4 billion compared to $2.4 billion in 2007.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number:
Food Service - Hotel Restaurant Institutional
Alicia de Jacobs,
The restaurant sector sales in 2009 are estimated at $3.4 billion compared to $2.4 billion in 2007. The
hotel sector occupation in 2008 was 54.6% and it is estimated that in 2010 it will reach 58%, although it
may drop some points due to the heavy rains in the country that prevent the visitors to move around the
country. It is also remarkable the number of new hotel chains entering the country.
I. Market Summary
Colombia is the main purchaser of U.S. agricultural products in South America and continues to wait for the
ratification of the Colombian Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA), although Colombia is looking into other
markets in case the CTPA with the United States is not ratified in the near future. The longer the CTPA takes to
be ratified the longer the U.S. agricultural exports will be in disadvantaged vis-à-vis its competitors.
The restaurant sector grew in sales from 2007 to 2010, 41.6%. There are 64,000 restaurants in Colombia and
sales in 2009 are estimated at $3.4 billion compared to $2.4 billion in 2007. In 2005, the sector represented
1.9% of the GDP and estimates in 2010 indicate that it represents the 2.2% the GDP. Colombia has high import
duties for processed foods; around 20%, which is an important trade barrier to take into consideration. The
Government of Colombia has revised its import tariffs this year and as of November tariffs for most processed
food products were reduced 5%.
Regarding the hotel sector, COTELCO reports that by December 2008 there were 1,599 hotels operating in
Colombia with a total of 58,824 rooms available; occupation of 54.6% and sales of $1.8 billion. Estimates for
2010 indicate that there are 1,608 hotels in Colombia with 59,114 rooms available and occupation of 58%.
Occupation in last trimester of 2010 may drop down due to the heavy rains in the country that prevents visitors
to move around the country.
Restaurants and Food Service Sector
ACODRES estimates that there are 64,000 restaurants in Colombia and 30% are considered formal restaurants.
Colombia?s gastronomy is very attractive for tourists, which has contributed to the increase in number of high-
end restaurants. Colombian gastronomy is sophisticated, especially in the large cities, and it can be compared,
in quality and service, to the high-end restaurants in other parts of the world. The fast food segment has grown
rapidly and it was an excellent alternative during the economic recession. The majority of Colombians are more
inclined to eat in fast food restaurants due to work schedules, convenience and affordability of these types of
restaurants. Fast food restaurants have been the solution for eating out in times of economic slowdown.
In accordance with Euromonitor publication, food service sales in Colombia increased 1.5% in 2009.
Nevertheless, the sector?s transactions showed a small decrease during the same period due to the world
economic downturn eventhough Colombia was not affected as profoundly as the rest or the world. The most
affected were the full service restaurants followed by cafes/bars and fast food. The self-service cafeterias,
independent street kiosks, home delivery and take ways experienced an increase in their transactions due to
the giving interest of low price foods.
The Colombian restaurant sector shows that in 2009 there was an attempt from entrepreneurs to open new
establishments, which struggled to perform well as a result of the challenging economic environment. In
addition, some non-competitive establishments failed to adapt to the economic situation and were forced to
close down due to lack of customers. The winners at the end were those companies that were well established
and that did not fall into the trap of making aggressive price reductions or unnecessary promotions in order to
Although local restaurant and food service chains dominate sales in Colombia, the multinational companies?
sales increased slightly faster than those of local outlets in 2009. Among international chains are Hard Rock
Café, McDonalds?s, Hooters, Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and Taco Bell (opening December 10, 2010), with
increases in sales due to the opening of new outlets. Domestic brands that showed double-digit growth were
Archies Pizza, Crepes &Waffles, Pizza 1969, Popsy Ice cream and Frisby.
The sector is expected to make a full recovery over the next year or two. However, uncertainty with regard to
unemployment (10.2%) will continue to have a negative impact on consumer behavior. Chained food service
outlets are expected to perform better than independent outlets. A good number of new brands are expected
to enter the Colombian market as franchises.
Cotelco reports that hotel occupation in 2008 was 54.6 percent, 51.1 percent in 2009 and estimated 58 percent
in 2010. The reason for the downfall in 2009 is due in part to the appearance of ?informal hotel
accommodations? such as apartments, family homes, and farms where people stay but the places are not
registered as hotels and do not pay taxes. This practice has cost the sector losses of about $166 million.
Nevertheless, the President of COTELCO indicates that the hotel sector has increased since 2002 when it
represented only the 2% of the PIB compared to 7% of the PIB in 2009. The hotel sector is considered one of the
principal job generators in the country and its share, in relation with job opportunities, is 25.8%.
In 2008, 1,599 hotels are operating in Colombia with a total of 58,824 rooms available. The average hotel room
in 2008 was $108, in 2009 $114 and it is estimated at $127 in 2010. The slow increase in rates is the result of
availability of rooms due to the arrival of new hotel chains and the peso reevaluation which was 10.5% in 2009
and 11.62% as of October, 2010.
The Government has favored the construction of new hotels in Colombia by guaranteeing tax exceptions for 30
years. The investment in hotel infrastructure reached $700 million in 2009 and the following are the new hotel
chains operating in the country or under construction: Marriott, Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Sonesta, Widham,
Starwood Hotels and Hilton.. The hotel sector grew as well as the tourism sector and new airlines have entered
the Colombian skies like Jet Blue, Spirit Airlines, Air Canada, LAN Chile, Taca and Lufthansa.
The traditional hotels in Colombia have invested millions of dollars remodeling their facilities in order to be
competitive with the new chains entering the country. Worth mentioning, the investments in the traditional
chains like Hotel Charleston that invested $3.5 million in hotel Casa Medina (Bogota) and Santa Teresa
(Cartagena). The local chains are updating their operations in order to be competitive in services and
technology with the international chains.
Advantages and Challenges of Exporting to Colombia?s HRI Sector
Colombians consider U.S. products to be excellent quality
The growth of fast food restaurants requires more value added ingredients to make final
product healthier and more appealing.
The HRI sector has great potential for growth due to the increased tourism.
Despite the lack of the Free Trade Agreement Ratification, the United States continues to be the
number one trade partner for Colombia. Imports from the United States in 2009 accounted for
20.6% in food and agricultural products.
Multinational companies established in Colombia are taking advantage of their brand names to
position new products for the HRI sector.
Fast food chains are well established but are facing strong competition from local fast food
The young Colombian population and working women have stimulated the growth of fast food
and quick service restaurants.
The Colombian population is more conscious of eating healthy, therefore there are more
opportunities for organics and fresh produce.
Upper and middle class Colombians are eating out more frequently.
The rising value of the Colombian peso compared to the dollar favored imports.
Imports in all sectors are growing fast due to the dollar devaluation.
In order to import food products, a registration of the product has to be obtained from INVIMA
(entity equivalent to USDA?s FSIS). The cost of such registration is high and lasts ten years. Cost
goes from $500 to $1600 depending on the product.
Consumption of processed foods is low by international standards.
U.S. products have to be high quality and good price in order to be competitive with local food
U.S. companies should guarantee consistent supply of products year around.
Besides the 15% tariff for most processed foods, the Andean Community assesses an additional
variable duty for a number of products such as pet food, poultry and cheese.
Trade agreements with U.S. competitors make it difficult for many U.S. products to compete.
Chile is the main competitor for wine and fresh fruits, which enter the country duty free.
Transportation is expensive and adds additional cost to the product.
Cold chain is deficient and Colombians have no clear understanding of this need to maintain
I. Market Entrance Strategy
Competition is based on quality, price and service.
Innovative marketing strategies are imperative in order to penetrate the market
Social marketing techniques continue to be very strong, using sales to generate funding for
U.S. suppliers should develop ways to meet the needs of the Colombian market, through
personal visits to better understand the market and identify needs.
Use consolidation when exporting small amounts of product.
Establish direct contact with hotel and restaurant chains
Develop business relationships with top executives like marketing directors, purchasing
managers, and expose them to U.S. business practices.
Participate in local trade shows, such as Alimentec, Expovinos, Agrofuturo, and also be part of
trade delegations, using the support provided by the Office of Agricultural Affairs and the
Foreign Agricultural Service.
Many Colombian companies? representatives visit trade shows in the United States, such as
PMA, Food and Beverage of the American, IFT, NRA, FMI, and Fancy Food. Take advantage of
these visits to meet and educate the Colombian importers.
Develop, to the extent possible, Spanish marketing/communication materials.
Work closely with local importers and to comply with food import regulations to facilitate the
registration and import of food products.
Support the importer with promotion campaigns.
The hotel and restaurant sector obtain products from different distribution channels. For example produce is
bought from wholesalers, retailers and specialized fruit and vegetable supermarket like the fast growing
Surtifruver de la Sabana chain. Imported meats and seafood are obtained from specialized importers who have
the appropriate infrastructure to handle these products. Other products are bought from hypermarkets
specialized in food service.
Wine and liquor are procured from importers/distributors and also from retailers that import directly a wide
variety of wines from different countries. Lately, a few high-end restaurants are importing some wine directly.
With the exception of fast food restaurant chains and a few upscale restaurants, there are a few HRI
establishments that import products directly due to the small volumes needed. Working with consolidators
would be the ideal way to overcome this constraint.
Hotels and Restaurants
Colombia?s hotel association is COTELCO, which was created by a Government Resolution more than 50 years
ago. COTELCO has 742 hotels associated throughout the country. The organization provides support to its
members and represents the hotel investors? interests to the government. COTELCO, in conjunction with the
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism, ICONTEC (regulatory organization) and the academy, established
Norm NTSH-006 that categorizes hotels by stars (from one to five stars). The hotel categorization is done in
compliance with international standards that guarantee international visitors the services offered according to
the category of the hotel. Most local chains have taken advantage of the revenue exception to remodel the
hotels and then obtain better classification. COTELCO also regulates the different types of accommodations in
ACODRES represents the interests of the restaurant sector and provides similar services as Cotelco to its
members. Acodres is a national gremial association that organizes seminars throughout the country in areas
related to restaurant service, menu designs, restaurant management, etc. ACODRES, INCONTEC (Regulatory
Organization), the restaurant owners, the academy together with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and
Tourism established Norm 008 dated June 22, 2005, by which the categorization of restaurants are defined.
By Decree 2755, Article 4, dated September 30, 2003, the Government of Colombia declares exempt of revenue
taxes, for concept of services rendered, the hotels build after January 1, 2003 or remodeled after same date.
The exception is granted for 30 years beginning January 2003. New hotels are considered the hotels built in the
15 year period after the approval of the Decree (January 1, 2003). This law has encouraged investment in the
hotel sector and the result is the exceptional growth and increase of international hotel chains in Colombia.
2007 2008 2009 2010
56.4 54.6 51.1 58
The occupation has been more or less stable during the last four years, but it is important to mention that in
2010, even with more hotel rooms available, the occupation increased 13.5 percent with respect to 2009. The
hotel sector is concentrating on niche markets, such as business conventions, congresses and social functions.
See graphic below, which represents both national and international guests. International visitors on business
represent 50 percent; 37 percent individual tourist; 9 percent conventions, 4 percent tourist groups and 0.8
percent for medical reasons.
In accordance with the National Department of Security (DAS), visitors are mainly from the United States
followed by Venezuela, Ecuador, Spain, Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil.
Main Colombian Hotel Chains
Company Name Number of Location
GHL Hotels Limited 40 Bogota, Medellín, Cali, Santa Marta, Barranquilla,
Valledupar, Ipiales, Girardot
Hoteles Estelar 21 Bogota, Cali, Manizales, Cartagena, Medellín, Paipa, Ibagué,
Dann Hotels 14 Bogotá, Cali, Bucaramanga, Medellín, Barranquilla,
Cartagena, Popayán, Ibagué
Royal Hotels 11 Bogotá, Cali
Organización German 10 Santa Marta, Pasto, Bogotá, Montería, Girardot
Hoteles Charleston 3 Bogotá, Cartagena
International Hotel Chains in Colombia
Company Name Number of Hotels Location
Accor-Sofitel, Mercure, Ibis 5 Bogotá, Cartagena, Ibagué, Cali
Intercontinental Hotel Group 4 Bogotá, Medellín
Hilton International 3 Bogotá, Cartagena
Four Points by Sheraton 2 Cali, Medellín
Marriott 2 Bogotá
Embassy Suites 1 Bogotá
Sheraton 1 Bogotá
Holiday Inn 1 Bogotá
Radisson 1 Bogotá
In accordance with National Restaurant Association, ACODRES, the gastronomic sector has grown in sales at an
estimated rate of 7% during the last three years, equivalent to $3.4 billion in 2009. It is estimated that
Colombia has 64,000 establishments and at least 30% of these restaurants are well established outlets that
comply with GOC regulations and are considered ?formal restaurants.? The contribution of the gastronomy
sector to the GDP is estimated at 2.2% in 2010. The growth in number and income of the restaurant sector is
also due to the increased of tourism, which has grown 50% in the last three years. Principal tourist cities are
Cartagena, Medellin, Cali and Bogotá.
Quick service and fast food restaurants represent one third of the market and are very popular in the large
cities. These fast food outlets are strategically located around working areas, food courts in shopping malls, on
highway sides, etc. The fast food restaurants have become the solution for families that have little time to
prepare traditional meals and a moderate income.
Competition among fast food chains is very intense. McDonald?s, Presto, Del Corral, Burger King are the main
names that share the hamburger market. A strategy of the fast food chains is to advertise and promote
campaigns for children in order to attract families. This strategy has contributed immensely to the success of
fast food restaurants in Colombia. However, Colombian fast food chains like Presto, Hamburguesas El Corral,
chicken roasters, and pizza places are important competition to the international chains.
Main Fast Food and Quick Service Chains in Colombia - 2009
Establishment Name Global Brand Owner Outlets Market
El Corral Inversiones El Corral 151 11.6
Oma Rstcafe OMA S.A. 150 2.6
Juan Valdez Procafecol S.A. 130 2.7
Dunkin?Donuts Donucol S.A. 118 2.7
Frisby Frisby S.A. 114 5.4
Kokoriko Avesco S.A. 110 9.9
Presto Frayco S.A. 99 2.9
Sandwich Qbano Various franchisees 99 2.5
Helados Popsy Comercial Allan S.A. 91 1.0
Jeno?s Pizza Grasot Ltda. 90 1.9
Helados Mimo?s Productora y Comercializadora de Alimentos Ltda. 76 4.3
Crepes & Waffles Crepes & Waffles S.A. 54 9.6
On The Run Exxon Mobil de Colombia S.A. 35 0.2
Yogen Fruz La Campiña S.A. 34 1.4
McDonalds?s ADCL ? McDonald?s 33 9.2
Pizza Pizza Aliter Ltda. 33 0.1
La Brasa Roja CBC Ltda. 33 4.6
Archies Pizza Archies Colombia S.A. 32 3.2
Pizza 1969 Gourmet Inbercab Ltda. 32 2.4
Star Mart Chevron Colombia S.A. 26 0.1
Pan Pa?Ya Pan Pa?Ya Ltda. 26 0.9
Domino?s Pizza Dominalco S.A. 22 0.9
Petrobras BR Petrobras Distribuidores Ltda. 20 0.1
Charlies Roastbeef Industrias RB 20 0.4
Mr. Lee SIA Ltda. 20 0.4
Cali Mio CBC Ltda. 16 4.6
Cali Vea CBC Ltda. 15 -
McDonalds Varios Franchises 14 -
KFC Food Service del Caribe S.A. 13 *
Others Others 900 14.4
Total 2,668 100.0
*included in ?others?
The Institutional Market
Procurement laws regulate purchases and contracts by government industrial and commercial enterprises.
Even when equal contracting conditions apply, goods and services of domestic origin are given preferences. The
GOC urges all-official entities and government decentralized industrial and commercial organizations to ?buy
The following areas are considered important within the institutional sector:
In accordance with the National Department of Statistics, DANE, the Colombian population in 2010 is 45.5
million; 13.1 million people are within range age of 5 to 19 and are potential students. From the 13.1 million, it
is estimated that five million are enrolled in private schools. Most private schools serve lunch; this is often
mandatory at the elementary level and optional at the high school level. The price for an average school lunch
is 3 to 4 dollars. Some schools contract the service from catering companies, but the majority has kitchens
where food is prepared. The raw materials are bought in supermarkets specialized in food service and also in
wholesale markets. There are also food and beverage vending machines in most schools where snacks and
sandwiches can be purchased. Sales of imported products in this sector are not significant. Nonetheless, there
is significant potential for growth and an opportunity for U.S. products, especially in beverages and snacks with
Colombian Government Programs
The GOC sponsors several programs aimed at improving nutritional standards for children attending public
schools. Children from low-income families often have substandard nutrition. The GOC?s food assistance
programs provide nutritional balanced lunch supplement and reach around four million children up to 14 years
of age. Nursing mothers, elderly people and homeless are also included in these programs.
The Colombian Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and all regional educational offices implement the GOC
programs. The annual ICBF budget for nutritional projects that target children and elderly people is estimated
at $430 million.
Social and Country Clubs
There are more than one hundred urban and country clubs in Colombia. Due to the economic slowdown in
recent years, several mergers and acquisitions took place among clubs. Some clubs were bought by corporate
business. Clubs continue to recover from low sale and have adopted strategies in order to increase sales like
offering services to non-members for social events. Social clubs are the second best market for upscale
imported products. The clubs buy from specialized food service supermarkets, from food and wine importers
and also from wholesale markets.
Typical Imported Products Used by Clubs
salmon sausages Frozen bakery products Nuts, pistachio
whitefish hams Pastries and confectionary Cured cheeses
caviar Turkey cuts spices Frozen
anchovies Olives, olive oil Salad dressings pastas
Variety of seafood Special beef Prepared sauces Special rice
The Colombian government protects local producers. The use of import tariffs on imported goods and
discretionary issuance of imported licenses and permits on some product; like milk, rice, and poultry serve to
promote and protect local production. Nevertheless, there are significant opportunities for imported value
added food products in Colombia due to quality and acceptance by consumers. The United States competitors
in value added food products are Canada and the European Union; in fruits, and wine Chile is the main
competitor, followed by Argentina.
Colombia grants preferential treatment to products coming from the Andean Community due to agreements
signed in recent years with member countries. Colombia has bilateral trade agreements with Chile and Mexico
which allows products in the country with zero import duty. With respect to trade with Venezuela, Colombia is
actually negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with them. A Trade Agreement has been signed with Canada
and should be implemented any time. With the European Union, the Agreement is pending approval from the
Parliaments of the different country members.
The Colombian HRI Situation Facing U.S. Suppliers in 2009
Product Category Rank Country Share of Import
Meat and Meat Offals 1 Chile 12.6
HS 02 2 U.S.A. 9.6
Net Imports: $36 3 Canada 5.1
4 Paraguay 2.9
5 Peru 2.9
6 Argentina 2.8
Dairy Products 1 U.S.A. 2.9
HS04 2 Rep. Czech.
Net Imports: $11.8 Chile 1.6
3 Argentina 1.4
4 Canada 1.2
5 Brazil 1.0
6 Others 0.9
Milling, Malt, Starches 1 U.S.A. 10.1
HS11 2 China 2.2
Net Imports: $19.9 3 Chile 1.8
4 Brazil 1.3
5 Thailand 1.2
6 Germany 0.9
Edible Fruits and Nuts 1 Chile 85
HS08 2 U.S.A. 28.6
Net Imports:$135.6 3 Ecuador 7.5
4 Peru 4.9
5 Venezuela 2.2
6 Italy 2.0
Cereals 1 U.S.A. 423.6
HS10 2 Argentina 330.9
Net Imports: $1,159 3 Brazil 175.5
4 Canada 142.4
5 Mexico 28.7
6 Peru 28.1
Beverages 1 England 30
HS22 Ecuador 21
Net Imports: $122 2 Chile 18
3 Argentina 9.6
4 Mexico 4.9
5 Spain 4.9
6 Others 33.6
Prepared Meat and Fish 1 Ecuador 71
HS16 2 Duty free Cartagena
Net Imports: $156 U.S.A. 37.5
3 Peru 19.9
4 Chile 10.8
5 Spain 4.3
6 Others 2.0
Source: Global Trade Atlas
IV. Best Products Prospects
Colombia is a growing market for value-added food products. Surveyed retailers and food importers feel there
is significant potential for new products almost in all food categories. Healthy and ethnic food categories are
especially new and fast growing. Wines and gourmet products are penetrating the market with excellent
results. Organics is the new trend and retailers are searching for the best suppliers of such products.
The following products categories represent the major export opportunities and some emerging opportunities
for U.S. food products to Colombia. These products will be even more competitive once the Colombian Trade
Promotion Agreement between Colombia and the United States is implemented.
HS Product Tariff
02 Beef, pork and poultry
02.02 Special meat cuts (prime rib) 80%
02.03 Pork 20%
02.07 Turkey, duck 20%
03 Fish and seafood
03.02 Fish, shrimp, crab, lobster, salmon 15%
03.05 Smoked fish 15%
04 Dairy, products 15%
04.05 Prepared butters, oils from milk 20%
04.06 Cheese and curd 15%
07 Frozen products
07.10 Vegetables 15%
16 Poultry Meat
16.02 Poultry meat by products 15%
17.02.20 syrups 10%
19 Pasta and bakery products
19.01 Baking mixes, pastas 15%
19.05 Pastry and dessert mixes 15%
20 Preserved Fruits and Vegetables
20.01 Prepared with vinegar 15%
21 Different Food Preparations
21.03 Sauce preparations, condiments, mustard preparations, etc. 10%
21.04 Soup preparations 15%
22.04 Wines 15%
V. Related Reports
Check following link:
V. Post Contact Information
Office of Agricultural Affairs
U.S. Embassy, Bogotá, Colombia
Carrera 45 No. 24B-27
U.S. Mail Address: U.S. Embassy ? Bogotá
Agricultural Section, Unit 5119
APO AA 34038
Telephone: (57-1) 315-2138
Fax: (57-1) 315-2181
e-mail : email@example.com
(Agricultural and Plant Health Inspection Service)
U.S. Mailing Address: U.S. Embassy ? Bogotá
Agricultural Section Unit 5103
APO AA 34038
Phone: (57-1) 315-2192
COLOMBIAN GOVERNMENT CONTACTS
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA)
(Phytosanitary and Zoosanitary requirements office)
Carrera 41 No. 17-81
Deputy Manager Animal Health Protection and Regulation
ICA -Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario
Carrera 41 No. 17-81
Tel. (57-1) 288-4800 ext. 1201
Cel pone: (315)899-7032
Jaime Cardenas, Head
Plant Inspection Guarantee-Health Risk
ICA -Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario
Carrera 41 No. 17-81
Tel: (57-1) 288-4800 ext.1301
Ministry of Social Protection
National Institute for the Surveillance of Food and Medicine (INVIMA)
Division of Food and Alcoholic Beverages
(Food Products registration and Health permits)
Carrera 68D # 17-21 Zona Industrial
Phone: (57-1) 294-87003 Ext. 3920
Fax: (57-1) 315-1762
Ministry of Foreign Trade
Juan Carlos Cadena
Director of Commercial Relations
Calle 28, No. 13A-15, 6th Floor
Phone: (57-1) 606-7676 Ext. 1433
Fax: (57-1) 606-7539