A self-service restaurant in which diners eat as much as they want (for €25.90 a head), that seats 500 and serves 240,000 meals a year does not seem to fit squarely with a wine list of 70 of the finest wines of the region.
I would associate such a list with a Michelin-starred restaurant. But after visiting Les Grands Buffets de Narbonne I now understand the underlying concept created by Louis Privat, one of the most philosophical and innovative restaurateurs I have met.
The first impression is disarming for the restaurant is located in a sports complex surrounded by a huge car park, but this is possibly a canny choice of location as it is the second most visited place in the Aude département after the old Cité of Carcassonne. I was struck on entering the restaurant by how warm the welcome was. This is an example one of Privat’s many ideas: he delegates service management to the service staff who hold a meeting every morning to discuss improvements and even recruit new members of service staff themselves. For the chefs, an innovative kitchen design makes for a comfortable working environment with noisy machinery isolated and music of the team’s choice. Works of art on the walls of the kitchen in engraved stainless steel and commissioned from a well-known French artists constitute another of his ideas. Happy staff lead to happy customers, and he has 85 staff to keep contented.
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