Emmanuel Landré, General Manager, Le Gavroche

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th September 2014

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Emmanuel Landré is the General Manager at Michel Roux Jr’s restaurant, Le Gavroche London, which holds 2 stars in the Michelin Guide UK. 

He joined the restaurant in 1998 as a commis waiter, quickly progressing through the ranks until in 2008 he took over the reins from industry legend, Silvano Giraldin, following his 37 years of service. Almost everyone said he had big shoes to fill but for six years Emmanuel has been quietly going about his business ensuring a world class level of service is maintained at one of the UK’s most prestigious restaurants.  

How do you strive to create a relationship with your customers at Le Gavroche?

We’re working with about 70% regular clients for lunch and 30% for dinner which means it’s always repeating clients, who come once a week, once a month, once a year or once every ten years but you still recognise them and you can build up something. Seeing customers regularly shows that you’re doing something right and I’m pleased to say that we are always fully booked for a few months in advance.

Le Gavroche interior
Le Gavroche

Why did you choose Le Gavroche when you first came to the UK?

When I first stepped into Le Gavroche it felt like a family. It’s a family business so you’ve got the boss who says something, the decision is made and you do it straight away. You don’t send an email to a manager to send to another manager to another and it takes two weeks to get an answer. It’s small, it’s compact and it’s a bit unique in that way. It’s more personal as well; you can see the emotion more from the family, which I like. It’s not about the money, it’s about the feelings you get.

You joined Le Gavroche as a commis waiter in 1998; how would you describe your progression to where you are now?

At the time being in London was very expensive for me so the best way to make it better was to climb up the ladder quickly. Fortunately I’d had a good background and Silvano quickly became my mentor; he looked after me and took me under his wing. I became the Assistant Manager of the room service to the hotel. I didn’t like that role so much because there was less contact with the clients. It’s a nice job with a dozen or so people to manage but you’re in a basement making breakfast or afternoon teas with no contact with the clients.

Le Gavroche
Le Gavroche

Then ten months later in early 2000, Silvano called me back to the restaurant and I became Maître d’hôtel so I was back in charge of the room looking after my clients which is what I love. And Silvano helped me to develop the skills and level of excellence you require to be a top Maître d’. A couple of years passed and in 2008 Silvano retired and offered me his position. To be honest without Silvano and Michel, I wouldn’t be who I am today.

Is it possible to sum up what you learned from Silvano?

The caring of the customers; without them you wouldn’t be there. For example, the regular clients – it doesn’t matter if they spend a little or a lot, I will do anything for my repeating clients. You don’t have to be rich, as long as I know you and you’ve been here a couple of times. If you want a table, I’ll get you one. Then if a recession comes, your regular clients will still come to meet you. That’s just one of the aspects I learned from Silvano but of course we could talk for hours about everything I learned from him.

Michel + Rachel
Michel Roux Jnr and Rachel

What were the biggest challenges of taking over the role from Silvano?

To be honest everybody said you’ve got big shoes to fill but I didn’t really pay attention because to me it just felt natural. Silvano was telling me five years before that one day it was going to be me, so it wasn’t a surprise; I was prepared; I’d spent 10 years at the restaurant so I knew Le Gavroche inside out and the clientele.

When you took over did you want to move the service in a new direction or were you happy to keep it going the way it was?

I’m always very happy to stay the way it was. Le Gavroche is well-established with its techniques and ways of delivering service and I’m pleased to carry on the same traditional characteristics like carving – why should I change it? When Michel sends a grouse or chicken or duck to carve at the table, it’s absolutely amazing. I strongly believe that chefs are artists and when they make such a beautiful plate, the carving is a little bit of yourself that you can express into that. The whole table will stop talking, look at you as though you are performing in a theatre production.

>>> Read more of Are You Being Served here

You strive as much for staff retention as customer retention at Le Gavroche, don’t you?

Yes, my assistants have been dealing with me for 12 years, my head sommelier for ten years; all the maître d’s who’ve been running stations have been here for three to five years. You can’t keep them forever unfortunately but it’s important to keep staff as much as possible then when your clients come they know your staff; they recognise their names and they build up a relationship with them.

Top service experiences: The Waterside Inn, Bray Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, London Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London Kitchen W8, London

How do you create that loyalty?

There’s two things: the first one is that the staff at Le Gavroche is like a family, so for example Michel Roux Jr speaks in the same tone to a kitchen porter as he does to me; also everybody knows that if you spend a year at Le Gavroche, it’s the best springboard in your career, especially if you’re young. If you manage to spend at least a year with us, whatever
level you are, everybody in the industry knows Le Gavroche. It’s very demanding, the hours are long of course, the level of excellence is very strict but if you stay for a year, you’ve got somebody who is well-trained. Loyalty seems to be a good word to describe Le Gavroche – loyalty of guests and loyalty of staff. And believe me we do everything we can to keep this relationship as good as possible staff-wise and for the clientele. As I said we’ll do anything for our regular clients. Some people work all their lives to come once or twice to the restaurant so you’re not allowed to disappoint.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th September 2014

Emmanuel Landré, General Manager, Le Gavroche