Expansion on the menu
Based throughout the UK Bistrot Pierre is an ever-growing chain of boutique restaurants that serves high quality, authentic anglo-French cuisine to customers
Established as a singl franchise restaurant in Nottingham in 1994 by school friends Robert Beacham and John Whitehead, Bistrot Pierre, originally branded Pierre Victoire, began providing customers with authentic French cooking in a relaxing, lively atmosphere. Throughout the early years Robert and John first operated two successful Pierre Victoire franchises in Nottingham and Derby, however, when the Pierre Victoire franchise model folded in 1999, the restaurants were rebranded as Bistrot Pierre. “At the time the franchisor went into administration in 1999 we had two franchises and had just opened a boutique 43 bed hotel with fine dining restaurant, cocktail bar and real ale pub: the Lace Market Hotel, Nottingham. We sold that business in 2005 for £4.25 million, which enabled us to expand our Bistrot Pierre business. The franchise going bust and us going it alone was the best thing that could have happened, although it didn’t feel that way at the time!” begins John Whitehead, Joint Managing Director and Co-Owner of Bistrot Pierre.
Offering freshly prepared Anglo-French dishes that are made from carefully sourced ingredients from both local producers and artisan French producers and suppliers, Bistrot Pierre has gained a strong reputation for innovative, high quality dishes. In fact, the company’s chefs regularly take trips across the channel to gain inspiration on how to experiment and hone new recipes and create new dishes while also maintaining exceptional value. In October, chef specialities includes the lunch starter Moules: rope-grown mussels that are steamed in a light, creamy Normandy cider sauce that is served with crispy Alsace bacon lardons; and for dinner, the Noix de St. Jacques: pan-fried scallops with Alsace bacon and hazelnut butter. The main on offer is Canard aux cerises: pan-fried duck breast with dark cherries, port and French beans, served with the day’s potatoes and seasonal vegetables.
Focusing on its ‘raison d’être’ of delivering great value French cooking and seasonal menus, the company has grown significantly over the last decade and today has 16 sites open for business across the UK. The 16th site, in Weston-Super-Mare, opened in September 2016, while the 17th site, in Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, is currently under construction and is due to open in the first quarter of 2017. “We can’t really comment on Mere Green yet, however Weston-Super-Mare has gone off like a rocket; this restaurant also has a separate bar space and is out-stripping targets at the moment by 60 per cent. Although things are positive, we will see how we fare in the winter months before we get too ahead of ourselves,” says John.
Discussing the reasons behind Bistrot Pierre’s soaring growth in a competitive market, John continues: “We aim to offer outstanding value with no stealth price add-ons and do it consistently; we also make nearly everything ourselves. We are having a big push at the moment on innovating some of our dishes and menus; in the 22 years since we first opened, the UK casual dining sector has changed immeasurably – if not actually really emerged as an entity. For the customer this is great as competition improves the product and experience while also keeping prices in check; for the competing restaurants a plethora of quality neighbours makes winning the share of the cake tougher. Fortunately, customer demand has generally kept pace with supply.”
Looking at the style and branding of each restaurant, John says all sites have a similar branded design, however each has its own unique touches of character: “There is some common iconography in the Bistrots, but we flex to the individual building where we can; thematically they are similar, but colour schemes and materials do change – we may try a different finish on some of the tables. When it comes to the pewter bar tops, lighting schemes and interior decoration, these touches are nailed down.”
Complementing the brand’s style and solid reputation for great value fresh food are its team members who animate the restaurants and have a major impact on each restaurant’s success. Viewed as equal in importance to the food served, the hospitality and customer service of team members is an integral part of Bistrot Pierre’s continued success story. With superior customer service at the heart of its operations, Bistrot Pierre has been awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence year-on-year since 2012.
“We monitor customer feedback closely and hve developed fairly robust training methodologies over the years – to a large degree looking at how the stand-out performers in our sector operate. We audit internally and externally on our customer service KPIs and are moving to a superb interactive HR platform, which I think will really help team engagement and thus enhance customer experience,” says John. “When it comes to repeatedly being awarded the TripAdvisor (TA) Certificate of Excellence, we work hard at TA and view it generally as a force for good; we get the occasional errant/ spurious review but overall if the teams are delivering against our mystery diner KPI’s then it should all fall into place.”
Having delivered record revenues of £18 million and profits in excess of £2 million in 2015, Bistrot Pierre has developed solid foundations for further growth over the coming years as the company focuses on significant expansion and appeals to a national market.