Finding the best and trusting them
It is the only miracle recipe that I know. – By David Lanher, owner of bistrots in Paris and New York
We live in a time where restaurant owners struggle to find staff. Our solution to this issue: no just finding excellent people but doing everything we can to keep them. And this implies an involvement from both sides.
Every day I drive across Paris on my scooter to go around all my establishments. I get out of my house, I go to the Crèmerie then to the Paradis, to the two Vivants (restaurant and wine cellar), I drop by Racines, take a look at the Noglu, stay a while at the Caffé Stern, stop by the Racines 2 and finish with the Bon Saint Pourçain. One week out of every six, I go to New York to see how our two places over there are doing and I use this opportunity to bring someone every time it is possible. I do not do that just because it is nice, or because I want to control everything. It is primarily a way to stay close to people and to avoid a classic boss-employee relation with my teams. When I don’t drop by a restaurant two days in a row, I get texts saying “Well, you don’t love us anymore?”. It is more pleasant for them and for me and, this way, people stay with us for longer and get involved.
Generally, I consider that allowing someone to work in optimal conditions and trusting that person is the only miracle method to get the best out of them. That is why when I open a new place, I try to keep the usual pattern. Instead of thinking about a restaurant and then finding a chef, I do the opposite. First I find the people, I think about a team and then I try to find a place with potential and which fits their personalities. And once the project is ready, we try to make people arrive in the best possible conditions. When I met Frédéric Duca, a star, three “toques” from the Gault et Millau and named best chef of the year 2015 by Gilles Pudlowski, to create together a new place in New York, we took care of his visa, of his wife’s, of his children’s, and of all the formalities and recommendation letters necessary to get the work permit in the United-States. It took us time and cost us money but in the end, I know I have someone who will stick with us for a long time.
With this recipe, we take care of the places’ launching and then things develop naturally because everyone is doing their best. Our two most recent places, the Caffé Stern and the Bon Saint Pourçain, are full every day and they have won almost every possible prize in their categories. Of course I am proud of it but, sincerely, I am not someone with a huge ego, my only pride is that I managed to make people work together who now form a hard core, almost a family. By the way, there is a reason why my first place is called Racines (roots), it is a term which alludes to values that matter to me.