les Collectionneurs, ready to reopen in the name of the art de vivre

By the end of June, every associate has reopened in Italy, and half in France. Interview with GD Carole Pourchet and Xavier Alberti, CEO of the community presided by Ducasse

02-07-2020
Carole Pourchet, general director ad Xavier Alber

Carole Pourchet, general director ad Xavier Alberti, CEO at les Collectionneurs

Cohesion, sharing, closeness. These values have never been so important for the restaurant and hotel managers of les Collectionneurs. The exclusive international community presided by monsieur Alain Ducasse is joined by the same passion for travel, which translates into sincere hospitality, and a desire of discovery and sublime experience of taste, all founded on conviviality and on the art of hospitality. Today the prestigious collection of 585 places in Europe and Tunisia (73 in Italy), which also includes Identità Golose Milano, is ready to welcome its guests once again from the end of June. Our exclusive interview with Carole Pourchet, general director and Xavier Alberti, CEO of the group.

How long have you worked in the hospitality industry? What is your responsibility in your current role?
CP: I wanted to work in the food and hospitality industry since I completed my studies. These are jobs you do out of passion. After 14 years in leading businesses in the hospitality and catering industry or in large retail chains, since November 2019 I’m the General Director at les Collectionneurs. Les Collectionneurs groups restaurateurs and hotel managers who share the same passion: engaging travellers, transforming them into ambassadors of our values and committed actors is an innovative challenge, it’s significant and I’m glad to have accepted it with Alain Ducasse and Xavier Alberti. My mission is now managing the company’s strategy and supporting our affiliates in overcoming this unprecedented crisis together.

Carole Pourchet

Carole Pourchet

How did you show your closeness to clients and affiliates over these months?
CP: Our goal was to keep the highest contact with our community. Our strength was the fact we always kept in touch with our guests, and we remained united. Nobody was to feel alone when facing such a difficult situation. The directors and the committee of restaurateurs and hoteliers, which includes around 40 members who represent our community, meet every week in a videoconference to share the decisions that affect the entire group. First of all, we adopted exceptional measures for all our independent hoteliers and restaurateurs. We helped them by cancelling for three months their affiliation fee to help and support the recovery of their activity. We’ve also asked that they’re allowed to delay payments to suppliers from the Cadhi central buying office in France and Italy. We have also supported them by sharing information. And we created a control facility that would update them daily on government measures to follow. In France, we also created five work groups with collaborators, restaurateurs, and hoteliers who shared ideas weekly through videoconferences on the safeguard of our businesses, saving and buying measures, getting ready to reopen, communication to clients, internal communication. In Italy, our team created two work groups following the same model as the French ones, one focused on the safeguard of the business, and the other on the relaunch and on the communication, with the involvement of Italian hoteliers and restaurateurs through weekly videoconferences, including two meetings with all the hotel and restaurant managers in Italy.

Did you always communicate with guests?
CP: 
Since we could no longer welcome guests into the selected les Collectionneursfacilities, we created specific actions to keep in touch with them. Thanks to videoconferences, we met our committee of travellers in France twice. This Committee is formed by a dozen travellers who made themselves available to participate actively in the community taking part, for one year, in all of les Collectionneurs’ projects, through the organisation of committees and regular contacts. We preserved the dialogue between restaurant and hotel managers and travellers, in Italy and France, also through our social networks, organising live streamings on Instagram with the chefs, and posting interviews with restaurant and hotel managers. We also shared with our travellers the charity projects that the owners of restaurants and hotels within the community launched on both sides of the Alps.

Grand Hotel Fasano, Gardone Riviera

Grand Hotel Fasano, Gardone Riviera

Did you design specific activities to preserve the relationship with affiliates?
CP:
 In this period we understood we have a well-founded and successful ability to work together even at a distance, thanks to the new means of communication. To work efficiently, we will continue to use these tools for meeting and webinars. In Italy, for instance, we will organise virtual round tables with experts, to train our hotel and restaurant managers on specific skills (social networks, delivery and more). These tools allow us to exchange ideas and meet promptly, but of course they cannot replace vis à vis meetings, which are very important to us. This is why our regional representatives will continue to be present and to meet restaurateurs and hoteliers, visiting their facilities.

What strategies are you implementing to stimulate the market?
CP: Restaurant and hotel managers in the les Collectionneurs community are independent, so they implement the sanitary protocols based on the specific features of their facility and location. Our goal is to inform travellers on the dates when they will reopen and on other updates from the facility. Moreover, given the health measures to follow in each country, for this summer restaurateurs and hoteliers have created new experiences or services, such as making some spaces private, or offering inviting picnics. We will promote these offers through specific marketing and communication activities both in France and Italy.

Hotel Cala Caterina, Villasimius

Hotel Cala Caterina, Villasimius

Which protocols are you following to guarantee a safe holiday, respecting health, sanitization and safety measures?
CP:
 In France, les Collectionneurs supports hotel and restaurant managers in applying specific COVID-19 health measures. Before the official protocol for our industry was published, we prepared a document with the official information and the government’s measures. This document was later updated with the new info and national guidelines once these were published. The sharing of good practices among restaurant and hotel managers is crucial and we’ll continue to encourage it through our online committees and meetings. In Italy, like in France, our team is available to support hotel and restaurant managers in the implementation of the Italian national protocol. We are offering them the tools, such as a group of pictograms, to help them communicate to their clients the health measures they have applied in their facility.

Restaurant BUR, Milan

Restaurant BUR, Milan

What will be the impact on your overall management costs?
CP:
 After the confinement phase, members of the community, to offer the best hospitality to travellers, will have to pay extra costs because of the sanitary measures. For restaurants it will be even harder. Indeed, adapting to these measures will be more penalising because of the reduction in seats, and some are even thinking of postponing the reopening to a later stage.

When do you expect the facilities within les Collectionneurs to reopen in Italy and France?
CP:
 In France, restaurants and hotels in the community will open one after the other. By the end of June, in France, one hotel or restaurant out of two has reopened to travellers, taking into account the restrictions imposed on the reopening of restaurants (in France, in some regions including the Île de France, restaurants can only serve on the terrace). One big exception to this reopening before the summer is Paris. Here they will likely wait till September before a large number of hotels will reopen, with the reopening of the great attractions in the capital and the awaited return of international clients. In Italy, almost every location reopened by the end of June (safe for some exceptions in the islands).


Xavier Alberti

Xavier Alberti

Xavier Alberti (XA) – CEO les Collectionneurs

In your opinion, how will hospitality change in the short and long term?
XA: Already in this phase it is important to reassure the clients who decide to stay in places where they have already been. Last week we presented a survey of 1,130 French travellers within the community conducted between April 21st and April 28th on travellers’ opinions and sentiments with regards to the hospitality and restaurant industry. The result was that following the health crisis due to COVID-19, while 80% of French travellers believe the hygiene measures adopted are reassuring, these measures, by themselves will only influence the choice of destination for 28% of the travellers. Indeed, for almost one traveller out of two, knowing the place where they will stay will be crucial. A high-quality independent hotel, small or medium sized, run by passionate owners, often for many generations, guarantees a warm welcome, and favours friendships that last over the years. At a time when safety is essential, places that favour a human relationship and where people have already stayed will be reassuring. In the long term, as we are convinced that the meeting of restaurateurs, hoteliers and travellers create a relationship based on trust, we believe clients will prefer to book the hotel and restaurant directly, rather than through intermediaries.

Villa La Bianca, Camaiore

Villa La Bianca, Camaiore

What about the culinary offer?
XA:
 As for restaurants, according to our survey, it seems that the health crisis has also had an impact on the choice of a cuisine that pays attention to the origin and quality of its products. People will pay more attention to selecting places that use local products and our restaurateurs stand out as Table Remarquable by being committed to valorising the territory and typical products, mentioning in their menu at least 3 producers or giving specific details on the products’ origins. Moreover, the menus are seasonal, so they are renewed multiple times during the year, thus guaranteeing fresh products throughout the year.

Villa Paola, Tropea

Villa Paola, Tropea

Sharing, experience, interaction, can we ‘redesign’ the activities that made a stay unique, if we cannot welcome guests with a smile, or we must keep social distances?
XA:
 Health measures (masks, social distance…) will create a new dynamic and impose new rules to welcome our travellers in the best conditions. However, hospitality is in the DNA of restaurateurs and hoteliers in our community, and these measures will not be an obstacle to a warm welcome, through words and attention. Because many administrative formalities will now be handled online, at the moment of arrival we will be able to offer an even more customised and dedicated service. Many members have also studied new experiences, adapting to the situation and continuing to be in touch with travellers. Indeed, the hoteliers who will open have adapted their services or developed a new offer (picnics in their parks, privatising part or the entire house, etc.) to be ready to welcome guests this summer in the best way. During the crisis, almost one third of the chefs in our community, selected as Table Remarquable, in France and Italy, reinvented themselves and offered a takeaway or delivery service. This new service, while it does not guarantee profitability to restaurants, has nonetheless proven to be a success in most cases, showing an attachment both to their cuisine and to the pleasure of enjoying the dish of a chef. Some restaurants are thinking of continuing this activity even when they have reopened. Finally, during the confinement, hoteliers and restaurateurs have updated their clients as often as ever through social networks, newsletters or on their website. We believe this strong connection will continue to develop and will be long-lasting.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Sections

Dal Mondo

Reviews, recommendations and trends from the four corners of the planet, signed by all the authors of Identità Golose