A customer alerted us to the arrival of a French chain on to the Nottingham restaurant scene.
“Well it’s not French” declares Stephane “it’s another English chain – another concept restaurant, offering the illusion of French cooking.”
What is it about restaurant chains that appeals so much to the English diner? A quick glance at the market research data outlining the structure of the UK restaurant market and I am astonished that French Living has survived 20 years! Independents do not feature very highly at all!!
Apparently the British consumer is looking for value and convenience.
A chain can certainly provide value, being able to negotiate competitive prices from its suppliers. It can also provide the glitz and decor, the image and marketing support to draw in the masses. It seems to me that when looking at the dining out equation, food has become almost secondary. Concepts, trends, design, convenience in terms of non-stop service, however, have assumed considerable importance.
On the other hand, the French diner wants quality, which explains why France still remains dominated by independent restaurants, with only 4% of restaurants being chains. Chains do exist, but they tend to be steak houses/grillades – Buffalo Grill, Courte Paille, Hippopotamus and La Boucherie – which are generally used as quick, cheap lunch-time options for city centre office workers.
Independents continue to rule in France, lots of French Living equivalents scattering the high streets and market squares with a plethora of home-cooked, freshly made classic dishes.
Variations and choice usually come in the form of regional specialities – for example a Breton creperie, an Alsace restaurant specialising in choucroute, a Toulousain serving menus from the South West. This is why French Living is the perfect concept for the French market, but it is one that sometimes struggles to be understood in a British market over-run with standardised, safe chains.
“I wish these British chains would create British concepts” moans Stephane. It’s true that there would be more authencity and honesty in creating a concept with fresh modern British cuisine, rather than a clicheed, watered down attempt at French food.
I reassure Stephane with the thought that this new Nottingham French chain won’t make hand-cut fries like ours, they won’t have an irreverent, passionate Corsican to entertain diners, they won’t create loyal, long-term friends, share family recipes, possess a wide and varied French play-list like ours, translate customers letters, organise travel itineraries to Paris and Corsica……
French Living is not an illusion. We are real, a loving, caring heart-beat of a restaurant whose truth will continue to shine for many more years to come.
Read all posts since 2007 in http://www.frenchlivingdiaries.blogspot.co.uk