Chef Oliver Douet, owner of Le Lisita, decided to go back to its laid-back and upscale setting after he realized in 2008 that he cannot hope to turn around the financial performance of his restaurant if he would keep up with the standards that his Michellin accolade (which he got in 2006) requires. One of the expectations that the guide has among its starred establishments is having one waiter catering to the needs of five or six people, which necessitates additional staffing, and a higher meal price for the diners, as reflected in the restaurant’s menu, menu cover and menu holders.
As much as they value the distinction of being the only restaurant in Nimes who received the honor, Chef Douet had to make a decision, as maintaining the star hardly permitted him to break even. Operating a brasserie only requires one waiter to take care of 20 to 30 diners, far from the Michelin ratio of one waiter is to five guests. Minimal staffing translates to lower costs, thereby allowing him to offer menus now priced at €23 (or $31) and highlight it on their menu cover and menu holders, with hopes to significantly increase his current number of customers.
Like many other chefs who have long-aspired the Michelin star, Chef Douet once had splendid plans for the expansion of his Michelin-starred restaurant, but “the banks were anxious in granting loans to establishments like ours.”
Such experience was said to have led an accomplished chef to commit suicide in 2003. Bernard Loiseau held several triumphs in Europe’s culinary world, among them being one of the only 25 French chefs who received the much-coveted three stars of the Michelin Red Guide. He was also one of the only two chefs who have been presented with the Legion of Honor by the French government. He shocked Europe’s culinary society by seizing his own life in February 2003 when he sensed that he was about to lose one of his stars. The Gault Millau guidebook (one of the most France’s most influential guidebooks) had decreased its ranking of Loiseau’s restaurant, and rumors went around that he was about to lose a Michelin star as well.
Bernard Loiseau’s life was related in his autobiography “The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine,” and was said to be the basis of the plot in the Pixar film “Ratatouille.”
Several other restaurants all across the continents continuously lose their Michelin stars, as it takes a certain degree of fortitude and dexterity to maintain it. Achieving it does not guarantee that you get it each year — a chef have to work hard for the star every time. But the clever chef and restaurant owner should know how to balance the importance of an external leadership status in the restaurant industry and a clear focus on their internal operations as a business that need to survive in a very competitive environment.
That said, many takes their hats off for the move that Chef Oliver Douet did to save his place.