So much the better if these few lines have already whetted your appetite and your curiosity. But, sorry, you’ll have to be patient. More than 150,000 customers are already waiting for their table at the “Grands Buffets…
So much the better if these few lines have already whetted your appetite and your curiosity. But, sorry, you’ll have to be patient. More than 150,000 customers are already waiting for their table at the “Grands Buffets” and, barring rare defections, there is no free place for six months.
At the origin of this phenomenal success, Louis Privat, 68 years old. A man who knows how to count since he is a trained accountant and who loves cooking. That of Auguste Escoffier, not the molecular one. “I am an unconditional defender of French tableware,” he says. A meal obviously requires good products but it needs a ritual and a decor with beautiful crockery, a tablecloth, crystal, silverware. Not to mention impeccable service. At the “Grands Buffets”, the cooks are in white with a chef’s hat, the staff in the dining room are in black with a white shirt and tie. During a lunch or a dinner, the customer must feel the most important person in the world.
The adventure began in 1989 when the mayor of the city, Hubert Mouly, launched a call for tenders to provide “L’espace de liberté” with a restaurant. Louis Privat and his wife, Jane, whose establishment in Leucate is already breaking attendance records, treat all their competitors with the idea of an all-you-can-eat buffet. At this word, it’s true, we get depressed imagining the plate of raw vegetables or charcuterie, grilled meat or fish and the inevitable dessert trolley.
111 cheeses and duck with blood
Louis Privat who, as we have said, has found the rhyme between plate and calculator, bets on the contrary on the top of the range. It offers oysters, seafood, foie gras or lobster among the starters. Here again, the success is immediate. For a single price (currently 47.90 euros), the customer can really eat as much as he wants, only constrained by the opening hours of the restaurant and the elasticity of his stomach.
Since 1989, like another independent French institution, the Mollat bookstore in Bordeaux, Louis Privat has continued to expand his restaurant, improve it, innovate and break records. It thus appears in the Guinness Book as the restaurant offering the widest choice of cheeses with 111 products. In 2016, this seasoned collector, keen on theatre, acquired the famous La Tour d’Argent duck press at auction. Not to display it in the window but to serve the duck with blood that even the Parisian restaurant only serves to order.
The meat lover will be spoiled for choice between this mythical dish or another such as hare à la royale, but also prime rib, veal liver, milk-fed lamb from the Pyrenees on the spit , sweetbreads and so on. The article would not be enough to list the menu of the Grands Buffets which of course ends with around fifty desserts including the classics of pastry (Paris-Brest, Saint-Honoré, Russe, baba au rhum, crêpes Suzette, tarte Tatin, etc.) or ice creams in a salon just renovated in the spring, at the same time as the opening of the Jean de la Fontaine dining room, worthy of a palace, its five chandeliers in bronze, crystal and gold as well as its ceiling decorated with 18,000 gold leaves.
Purchasing power increased by 30%
Louis Privat neglects nothing for his clientele (40% from Occitania, 10% foreigners, including many Spaniards) on whom he also imposes a low margin, whatever the product. To the point that wines or champagne are sold at the producer price. But the founder of the “Grands Buffets” also watches over his 180 employees who, for example, continued to receive their full salary (and tips) during the confinement and closure of the establishment.
Louis Privat was also the first restaurateur to put into practice the Aubry law on 35 hours since, at home, an employee works only four days a week. “I also created a debt relief service for those who would have financial problems” he underlines. The boss finally ensures the cordiality between his employees where the voussoiement is obligatory.
At the beginning of the year, he finally announced to his staff that their purchasing power would increase by 30%, thanks to a profit-sharing bonus. “Our profession is no longer attractive enough, he specifies, but it is not only because of the salaries, contrary to what many professionals believe. The payslips will thus increase from 250 to 900 euros per month. To finance this measure, there is no other choice but to raise the formula by 5 euros, which has gone from 42.90 to 47.90 euros. The reservation list has not been empty, quite the contrary. On the other hand, Louis Privat received 500 applications but he makes it a point of honor never to poach an employee from another establishment.
Sometimes copied, never equaled, Louis Privat settled for Narbonne without trying to develop his concept elsewhere in France. He now shares his life between Narbonne and Greece. And he knows that the “Grands Buffets” will one day or another have to do without him. But, without him, it won’t be quite the same.