French food in America is tricky. You want it to be French enough –- think traditional pastries, sauces, and flavors –- but American enough to appeal to a collective palate. One company has managed to achieve the balancing act quite well, merci beaucoup.
You might not have heard of Group Le Duff, whose North American base is in Dallas, but you likely have heard of one of its 11 subsidiaries, including La Madeleine, Mimi’s Café, or Bruegger’s bagels. The company serves more than 1 million customers in more than 1,600 restaurants and bakeries in 80 countries across five continents.
Claude Bergeron, co-CEO at Le Duff America, says the goal for Le Duff French brands is to be American with French influence, not the other way around, much like how the P.F. Chang’s chain is to pan-Asian cuisine.
“In every little city, and every big city, you have, most of the time, one or two French restaurants, but we didn’t want to become a French restaurant,” Bergeron says. “If you have been in La Madeleine, it’s much more about the French classics revisited in the American way, like Julia Child did.”
So that means rosemary chicken, Mediterranean pasta, classic soups and bisques, crepes, and artisanal bread “remodeled” and accessible to American tastes. It means healthy, whole and delicious options, made by people who truly care about food. What won’t be compromised in the cross-cultural pollination, however, is the French hospitality ethic — what Bergeron calls “la joie de servir,” or “the joy of service.” That stays.
Innovation is etched into the company’s DNA because Bergeron says his team is consistently evolving its menus while staying true to its French roots. All the chefs and research and development team members visit France several times a year to stay on trend. French country classics are huge right now, for example, and the menus across the company will reflect that.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Bergeron says that Dallas is perfect for Le Duff’s North American operations for many reasons.
“If you recruit somebody, and then ask the person to move to Dallas, honestly, you don’t have any problem in having people moving to Dallas … Dallas is very difficult to beat.”
First, the airport hubs are essential for executives traveling from France, from around the United States, and in Bergeron’s case, his Montreal home. It makes doing global business more efficient.
Another strength of the location: The abundance of talent available in the area. And talent begets more talent.
“It’s a booming city,” he says. “The city has been growing and changing. It is becoming more and more a food destination … more and more you have a lot of good chefs, a lot of creative chefs who are opening stuff and creating a much more diverse food offering in Dallas, so all of that brings, of course, innovation and talent.”
He cites top management training, paired with the quality of life, good schools, and affordable housing among the region’s assets. “If you recruit somebody, and then ask the person to move to Dallas, honestly, you don’t have any problem in having people moving to Dallas … Dallas is very difficult to beat.”
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