French chef Yannick Alléno has just launched a new book in French called “Tout doit changer” or Everything must change. During the past few months, the chef of the Pavillion Ledoyen in Paris and Cheval Blanc in Courchevel among other establishments has used the time to reflect on the future of fine dining restaurants and how they need to transform themselves.
The result is a book that discusses the future of fine dining and gastronomy. It looks at the importance of the well-being of staff, how to run a restaurant like a modern business and how to really address the needs of customers by starting a conversation before they arrive at the restaurant.
The book is written in the form of a conversation with Erik Perey.
The French chef said that everything started with his ill famous comments during a congress organised by World’s 50 Best in Paris when responding to a question about women in fine dining restaurants he said that many only wanted to work at noon because in the evening they wanted to take care of the children. “The DNA of women is to raise children,” he had said to explain why there were mainly man in kitchens of fine dining restaurants.
He had since apologised on many occasions for his comments but on reflection he said he felt the needed to go further into the subject.
“Before that event, I had never taken the time to think about these subjects, to think about the organisation of kitchens and service, of working hours or of certain constraints that workers had. I never even considered employing a disabled cook. Since then, I have met dozens of HR professionals from all sectors to reflect on the matter,” the French chef said.
Like many chefs of his generation he had faced a different type to kitchen when he started. “At the time the working conditions were difficult and working hours were non-existent. Today, youngsters don’t want to lead such a life and they are right,” he said.
In his restaurant group which operates over 15 restaurants around the world, he has tried to reduce the hierarchy to have flatter organisations. “We have also introduced a tutoring system to improve integration and to also teach new staff about their well-being. Another initiative that he has introduced is the planning. Before it used to be done by the management and the most experienced, now it is done through collaboration. Every week, all the restaurant teams introduce their preferences based on their personal situations. The idea is to find a compromise and we have found out that it works. A business needs to satisfy all its stakeholders from its staff to the owner or shareholders, the suppliers and its customers.”
Where he sees a major change is in establishing a relationship with a client before they arrive at the restaurant. His idea is to anticipate and consult future clients from the reservation to ensure they really get what they want. He called it a table concierge. Instead of just noting the time and number of covers he believes that the person taking the call should spend the time to listen and to understand what the client really wants. From dietary requirements to preferred flowers, even to different preferences of guests on the same table.