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[Podcast] Philippe Rhéau, the Best Craftsman of France … in Belgium

Philippe Rhéau is Best Craftsman of France, at the head of a pastry shop … in Belgium. He is a character who makes an impression. Tall, strong, imposing, he has his passion for pastry pegged to his heart. Quiet, his interview was not the easiest to do. But as the minutes went by, we discovered a real entrepreneur and a lucid manager. He is also a man steeped in values, convictions, love of work and customer satisfaction. He is also a generous man who took 1 minute to convince us to do this interview and to drive 100 km round trip to the studio. His pastry shop, the well-named “Brioche d’Or”, is south of Brussels in the village of Ittre. His interview reveals 3 critical factors of success that I analyse for you below.

The title of Best Craftsman of France needs to be maintained. To have a red, white and blue-collar and to produce poor quality would be like soiling it.

Philippe Rhéau

A real manager

Philippe Rhéau also appears in this podcast as a real manager. A man behind his teams who articulates very clearly the link between the love of a job well done, the perfection of the gesture he never ceases to teach, and customer satisfaction. I invite you to listen to (or read) this passage in which he expresses the concept of diligence, learning, customer satisfaction, but also proximity to his customers.

I still learn today, at my age, with young people because they are motivated, so when I have inspired young people, it’s always interesting. There is indeed this rigour, but you have to be correct with the staff. You can be very tough, but if you are correct, it goes by itself. Correctness is the crucial point. When I come back to the store after making deliveries, I come back with my little notepad and say “you put the fruit in the wrong place on this cake, your plate is a bit crooked”. We’re on a highway, my cakes have to be between 2 lines, and we can’t go over the line. Period. I’m setting the bar high, but it’s my image. Some young people don’t like it, they sometimes leave because of it, but I won’t change my policy. I think the stars in the restaurant business have the same rigour because you don’t want to lose your star. The title of Best Craftsman of France needs to be maintained. To have a red, white and blue-collar and to produce poor quality would be like soiling it.

3 keys to success for any business

Philippe RhéauAt a time when “customer-centricity” has never been so topical, at a time when companies are rediscovering the importance of customer loyalty, Philippe Rhéau gives us a masterful lesson. Indeed, he gives us several keys to success that we would do well to learn from in these troubled times.

Lesson 1: Customer Satisfaction and Quality

Customer satisfaction through product quality is central. You have to be convinced yourself of the quality of a product to sell it successfully. The passage in which Philippe Rhéau explains that he refuses to make certain recipes because he is not convinced is an excellent example of this.

Lesson 2: Regularity and Process

The other key is the process and maintaining quality. In the pastry (or food) industry, this notion of regularity is obvious to understand. But I find that it has been gradually forgotten in some other areas. If a company like Amazon dominates its market today, it is in my opinion above all because it never disappoints its customers. Bad experiences are infrequent and the guarantee of maximum satisfaction. This is only possible with very rigorous processes that are clearly described and monitored continuously.

Lesson 3: Rigour and apprenticeship

Apprenticeship is a central element of training in food trades. The rigour of the “boss” enables the notion of regularity and quality essential to success to be transmitted. This rigour can only be imposed by respecting the employees. Rigour and respect are, therefore, not incompatible. Philippe Rhéau succeeds in setting this rigour because he is the embodiment of it. It is here the example of respect by example that brings us back to the absurdity of many “modern” companies where managers do not even understand the content of their teams’ work. This is the failure of a system that values form (professional management) over substance (understanding of the business). As I write these lines, I remember the podcast made with Guy Pezaku who trained in household appliance repair to understand the technicians’ job.

By way of conclusion

This interview clearly made an impression on me. Philippe Rhéau is an authentic person like few others. He’s a manager who is in the concrete, in the “doing” and not in the appearance. Unlike many others, he has managed to keep a direct link with his clients. This contact with the field is a guarantee of success when all the

Illustrations : shutterstock, la brioche d’or

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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