08/09/2020 – Special Report / Q&A / Fauchon / Delicatessen / France
Fauchon: The french benchmark for luxury
As Paris-headquartered luxury food and delicatessen business Fauchon approaches its 135th anniversary, Food & Beverage Networker catches up with CEO Mr Samy Vischel to learn more about the firm’s approach to innovation, the direction of business in light of new market dynamics, and how Fauchon’s academy is paving a path for the next generation of culinary talent.
As by far one of the most famous and luxurious food brands in France, whose iconic historical store in Paris has become a real symbol of French art de vivre for foreigners visiting the French capital, Fauchon is a brand with which most foodies will already be well acquainted. Founded in 1886, the gourmet confectionery and delicatessen company has since expanded to encompass 76 Fauchon stores worldwide, with its international presence representing around 80 per cent of the company’s total revenue today.
For over a decade, Samy Vischel has played various pivotal roles in this successful international expansion, and for the last two years he has sat at the helm of this iconic French luxury food business. Having graduated from the Hotel School of Lausanne (l’Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne), Mr Vischel joined Fauchon in 2009 and spent six years developing the brand’s presence in the Middle East. As regional chief operating officer, he oversaw the development and openings of more than 20 boutiques and restaurants in the region. In September 2014, Mr Vischel returned to Paris to start working as the food and beverage director of Fauchon – a role that saw him engaged in the international development and implementation of brand concepts. He was appointed president of Fauchon in July 2018. Since then, Fauchon has invested considerably with the opening of a new hotel and restaurant, as well as a teashop in Paris last year. In 2021, the plan is to open another hotel in Kyoto, with 10 more scheduled to open within the next five years worldwide.
Q. What has been most important to Fauchon’s enduring success over more than a century, to become such a renowned leader in the luxury food and delicatessen space today?
I believe several key factors have helped Fauchon’s growth and sustainability. First, we have always embraced bold modernisation and excellence. We’ve always been a true innovator in the world of patisserie, and have always sought to be at the forefront of new and different product creation.
We’ve maintained our commitment to nurturing rising young chefs with innate genius. For example, Pierre Hermé, Christophe Adam, Christophe Michalak and Cédric Grolet were all previous emerging talents in patisserie who were recognised and nurtured by Fauchon. Our current pastry chef François Daubinet has experience working in some of the most prestigious culinary institutions in New York and France.
I believe we’ve always been keen to examine our strengths and weaknesses – what works for us, and what doesn’t – and adapt accordingly. Innovation is key and we always aim to keep our standards high in terms of product quality as well as respecting Fauchon’s traditions.
Where are your strongest markets for on–site retail today, and where are you looking to establish new outlets?
We have 73 stores and chain stores located in about 20 different countries. Today, more than 80 per cent of Fauchon’s turnover comes from international markets – something we consider a great achievement.
One of our strongest market regions is Asia, with 30 retail points in Japan alone, and three in South Korea; followed by France, with 20 locations. In the Middle East we have a total of 13, five in Europe and two in South America.
We’re looking to expand our activity in North America, Europe (particularly the UK) and Asia.
Q. Last year, the firm opened a concept store in Paris focused on tea. What motivated Fauchon to pursue this idea?
It started with the idea of offering customers unique, made–to–measure herbal teas. Fauchon has been creating flavoured teas since 1886, and most of the tea products we sell use ingredients known for their authentic origins, and the subtlety and delicacy of their aromas.
Tea as a product is very versatile and easy to customise, which appeals to many customers. You can make your own blends to buy for yourself, or as a gift, as well as delight in all the paraphernalia that comes with it, like infusers and decorative tins, which we also sell. Additionally, having a dedicated space in which you’re able to enjoy it together with others really rounds out the whole experience.
We take great pride in the tea collections we put out. Just as perfumers spend years perfecting their craft to create memorable and finely mixed fragrances, our experts carefully choose our teas and create harmonious infusions.
Q. Last year your firm launched its first five–star hotel and restaurant: Fauchon L’Hôtel Paris and Le Grand Café, respectively. How have these new ventures been greeted?
We received a very warm welcome when we opened our boutique hotel and restaurant, so we were very pleased. Above all, we wanted to create a space in which locals and travellers alike could really have a chance to indulge in everything Fauchon and get a taste of the full brand experience.
I think we succeeded in doing that because people were very responsive to the fact that Fauchon L’Hôtel Paris has its own clear identity and is so unlike other hotels. It offers fewer rooms and an intimate atmosphere even in a place as busy as the centre of Paris – in a way that doesn’t forfeit its luxury or vibrant decor.
We hope to replicate this result in Kyoto, Japan, where our next hotel is scheduled to open before the end of 2020. Beyond that, we plan for 10 more Fauchon hotels to open across the world within the next five years.
Q. I understand Fauchon will open a ‘school of excellence’ in Rouen next year. Can you tell us more about what the school will offer, and how it will further enhance the Fauchon brand?
We like to describe Fauchon as a ‘talent incubator’. We see the establishment of a school as a natural next step – one that will allow us to pass on our knowledge to others. Located near the city centre, the Rouen school will open its doors in January 2021.
Covering an area of over 5,000 square metres, the school will cater to 800 students a year and offer training in different areas of the culinary industry. The school will offer vocational qualifications (CAP), professional qualifications (CQP), bachelor’s, master's and executive master’s degrees in baking, pastries, chocolate and confectionery, ice cream, cooking, catering, bartending and waitering.
Another important aspect of the curriculum will be training, including a ‘FoodTech’ incubator and accelerator program for new companies and investors in food and service industries. This will be set up to support these future professionals in their creation of innovative concepts. An ‘Auguste Fauchon’ endowment fund will be created to support the most motivated students through their training by offering merit–based scholarships.
Q. Please tell me more about Fauchon’s key collaborations relating to its international strategy?
FAUCHON’s international strategy is mainly based on the development of retail and F&B concepts through license and franchise agreements.
Therefore, our priority is to look for a franchisee or licensee who has a deep knowledge of the local market and a strong Food & Beverage and/or retail experience, and who would ideally be able to operate multi units.
In parallel, we would be interested in further developing our presence in department stores and selective distribution.
Q. The Covid-19 pandemic has clearly caused enormous disruptions to the retail and hospitality sectors alike. How is Fauchon responding to the crisis?
Just like many others in those industries, Fauchon has definitely felt the impact of the coronavirus crisis. France especially has seen a lot of difficulties in the past few years, including the 2015 terrorist attacks, the yellow jackets movement in 2019, and the strikes against pension reform in 2019 and 2020. All such events have impacted the businesses based at the Place de La Madeleine.
Inevitably, the government-imposed administrative closure of our stores there following the Covid-19 pandemic caused operating costs to skyrocket, which unfortunately led us to request the commencement of receivership proceedings before the Commercial Court.
The reorganisation plan only concerns our two boutiques in Place de la Madeleine, and is a necessary step in enabling Fauchon’s brand development and fostering its key role in that market. Fortunately, the international Fauchon branch, the hotel and the school were not affected. Our ambition remains unchanged: to continue developing our brand.
Q. Have you observed an uptake in online sales, and do you see e–commerce as an area of growth for your business in the long–term?
We’ve seen a massive increase in online orders during the lockdown period – so much so that we actually saw a 240-per-cent increase in turnover in just a single month, between April and May. Since then, we’ve managed to maintain almost the same level of results.
We’re very glad that despite the difficulties of lockdown life, people are still finding comfort in our products and ordering them online. And that’s something we hope to continue to facilitate when we launch our new website this month [August].
Q. How is Fauchon responding to consumer trends such as the growing interest in healthy eating, and the rising demand for food traceability and sustainability?
In the past few years, and especially since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many more people have slowed down and started to examine what they are spending their money on, what kinds of businesses they are supporting, and what types of food they are putting into their bodies.
Many people have joined the movement to consume fewer animal products, and eat more locally and ethically sourced foods, as a way to help keep their communities’ businesses alive during this trying time.
There are conversations being had everywhere about the impact of food traceability and sustainable commerce – a topic particularly relevant to us, as Fauchon has always been very attentive when it comes to the origin of its raw materials. One mission of our chefs is to find small producers and build relationships of trust with them. We try as much as possible to promote sustainable and eco-responsible agriculture. Most of our products are French in origin – and, on top of that, we also try to offer as many seasonal products as we can.
Q. Could you please outline Fauchon’s particular interest in the UK market?
We want to achieve even more on an international level and we are very keen on building a stronger foothold in the UK market (as well as in the USA and China). As one of the major capitals for leading luxury brands, and as a food capital, the London market is a key territory for Fauchon to activate. A hub of ethnic and cultural diversity, London’s culinary scene is very dynamic and well known for creative gastronomy concepts – it’s a new destination for foodies, and hence a place that attracts lots of French chefs and pastry chefs willing to expand their concepts and let people discover their cuisine and specialities. Currently, Fauchon is present at Harrods London. I feel like there is still a huge potential to fill though, and we’re therefore looking for partners to reinforce this market.
Q. What will be Fauchon’s overall strategy and approach for future growth?
I believe we really need to monitor a few things: new trends as well as how people eat, consume and travel. Analysing and taking note of what we observe is key. We don’t take our success for granted, and we know now more than ever that everything is fragile. Some areas we are looking into are hospitality and the educational business, through the launches and openings I’ve outlined above.
Our interest is both to increase our retail points and/or open new Fauchon stores/ cafés, with an ultimate aim being to become the benchmark for the French art of living throughout the world.