Yesterday, I spent the day in Lyon, gastronomical city and door to several wine countries (Beaujolais and Rhone Valley), with my MBA students. I thought it would be a vacation day – relaxed lunch at Bocuse, visit of the old city of Lyon and relaxed dinner in a famous “bouchon”, one of those Lyon traditional restaurants. In fact, this day got me thinking about branding in the wine and food business because each event was the occasion of a presentation by the best local specialists.
When we arrived at the “Brasserie de l’Ouest” of Paul Bocuse, one of the four local restaurants created by the famous three-star chef, we were welcomed by Jean Fleury, manager of the four brasseries of Paul Bocuse. A “Brasserie” is a local restaurant for everyday meals: some are upscale like the brasserie of Bocuse; some are not much better than a coffee shop serving sandwiches, pre-cooked dishes and beverages. Paul Bocuse is certainly one of the most French chefs, along with Ducasse and others. Over 80 years old by now, Paul Bocuse never opened any other restaurants, whether in France or in an other country, besides his famous restaurant near Lyon. That’s why it was a little surprising when he opened in 1994 his first brasserie, le Nord (the North), followed the next year by the South. Then came East and West. On the 4 Brasseries no sign of the name “Bocuse” – the brand-. But if you “google” “Brasseries Bocuse”, you’ll be sent to the site.
How do you brand a Bocuse restaurant without using the name? Jean Fleury defined the branding process by a few words: style, quality, cuisine. When you walk in one of Bocuse brasseries, there is no way you can confuse it with your around the corner brasserie: the decor is very elegant, the napkin is nicely embroidered with the name of the restaurant, the table is covered by a white tablecloth, the food is up to your expectations, and the service is impeccable. The pricing was also a very important component of the branding system: at lunch, where the customers are mostly business people on their own lunch or taking a client to lunch “at Bocuse”, you can choose the 22,90 euros menu or choose “a la carte” which will cost you from 30 to 80 euros depending on your choice. At night, the brasserie customers are families or friends who eat “a la carte” for a comfortable budget. The Bocuse signature is all over the place without having to mention his name.
What about “OuestExpress”? Jean Fleury mentioned a new concept called “OuestExpress” located around the corner from the West Brasserie and opened for 3 months. Amazingly enough it is a “fast food” restaurant where customers can eat for under 10 euros at lunch. Designed like an American upscale fast food restaurant, OuestExpress provides only high quality products: salads, sandwiches, “quiches”, fresh fruit juices, teas and coffes from all over the world, luxury mineral waters. No mention of the Bocuse name either but the quality of the food and the design of the place tells a story of experience and quality.
Branding through action? Not really: the Bocuse brand exists for many decades and it was certainly easier to build the brand of the Brasserie as a secondary branding. But congratulations to an icon of the French gastronomy to be able to build a young and trendy brand on his name.