Laurent Plantier, the CEO of Alain Ducasse Entreprise shares in an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM his insights on the success of the group founded by one of the world’s most successful and highly prized Chefs.
Your company has recently opened a chocolaterie in Paris, in a world where the premium chocolate brands are no longer artisanal. What has been your motivation?
We believe in a very simple idea: if you aspire to be a high-end chocolatier, you have to make your own chocolate – from beans to bars. Sourcing the raw products and preparing them in our kitchen is what we do in our restaurants. There is no reason why we would not work in the same way in our Manufacture de Chocolat.
The Alain Ducasse Chocolat is a rare living proof of craftsmanship in fine foods. Do you think your initiative will inspire other entrepreneurs? How important is the background of the entrepreneur? (beyond passion and access to finest ingredients and state of the art machinery?
I don’t know if followers will step into this market – yet they would be definitely welcome. I must admit that the ticket of entry is quite high since the machines are hard to find and difficult to use. And the whole process requires a large expertise. Yet the result is astonishingly superior: making our couverture, praliné, etc. allows us to offer products with a very distinctive personality.
Do you plan to expand your Chocolat Manufacture abroad?
We are craftsmen, working one step after another. We will look at the opportunities.
With several Michelin starred chefs closing their franchised operations (including abroad and their home countries), what do you think are the lessons to be learned?
I guess you refer to the closings which took place recently in the US. Most of them happened for very US-specific context. On our side, we focus on creating restaurants based on long-lasting concepts and we also pay a great deal of attention to continuously updating them. For instance, we recently celebrated our 25th anniversary of Le Louis XV, in Monaco. If I had a thought to share with the industry, I would say: be less fascinated by fad and form and rely more on an innovation which makes sense.
What is the DNA of a successful restaurant within a luxury hotel? What are the differences between a restaurant in a hotel and a stand-alone location?
There are of course some technical parameters – for instance in terms of size and organisation. However, the management expects the restaurant of its hotel to be as attractive as a stand-alone one. This demand is absolutely crucial, this is the reason of being of our contracts. The restaurant must add to the overall image of the hotel, not the way round.
Besides your existing partnerships (i.e. The Dorchester, Plaza Athénée), do you plan any new ones in the coming months? Do you have plans to expand abroad?
We also have a partnership with Intercontinental in Hong Kong, with Hotel W in Saint-Petersburg, with Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. And, most importantly, with the Monte-Carlo SBM in Monaco. I can say we are quite familiar with this type of business and always keep our eyes open on any opportunity. However, we also pioneer other types of partnership. For instance, we recently opened a gorgeous restaurant in Doha, located in the Museum of Islamic Arts.
How do you think fine dining should be approached in major emerging markets such as India, China or Russia, where consumers might be less educated?
With humility. We don’t want to preach our guests or tell them what to appreciate, what to do or how to do it. In emerging markets like in any other places, our customers want to have a clear proposal and an impeccable delivery of the proposal. They know what they want – up to us to offer it.
Is organic food more than just a ‘trend’? What is your view on organic certification and regulations on frozen foods?
This is a major issue. What is at stake is what people will eat tomorrow and how we are going to use wisely the natural resources. Yes, certification and regulation have a contribution to bring. But the debate is much larger. For instance, how to protect fish stocks since many, many species are today in danger? How to develop the local resources and avoid having fruits and vegetables travel thousands of kilometres before arriving on our tables? We are at the forefront of this battle. We have to fulfil our responsibility vis-à-vis their providers as well as their customers.
What is the importance of service in a successful restaurant? Can the best food make up for poor service or vice versa?
The customer’s experience is holistic. What is in his or her plate is absolutely as important as what is around the plate. Moreover, both have to be consistent: there is the right service for the right cuisine.
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