What makes this set of circumstances unique is the need to enhance shareholder value. French three-star restaurants are generational; no chef lives forever. Loiseau has no progeny in a position to take over the kitchen, unlike Pierre Troisgros (remember he lost his brother, but because there were two running the operation the restaurant barely skipped a beat) who has a son, Michel, in firm control; or Georges Blanc who has two sons working in the kitchen. The closest to the Loiseau situation has been the man he tried to emulate in certain ways, Alain Chapel. Since Chapel's sudden but natural death at about the same age of Loiseau, Suzanne Chapel has managed to keep the doors open because of Philippe Jousse, who was Chapel's chef de cuisine for eight years. The restaurant is surviving with its diminished two-star rating while waiting for Chapel's 19-year-old son to finish his culinary studies and apprenticeships. Loiseau, however, has, I believe an 11-year old son (and 12-year-old daughter).
The widow Dominique and the shareholders are in a tough spot. Veritable temples of gastronomy such as Grand Vefour and Restaurant de la Pyramide were restaurants only and could be sold on the basis of their history to Champagne houses who then hired accomplished young chefs to run their kitchens. With Groupe Loiseau, you have a much different situation. Unfortunately the die was cast when Bernard Loiseau acquired the restaurant in Saulieu, which had a bad location in terms of both transportation and touristic resources. He compounded the error by ambitiously upgrading the property. Instead, he should have kept it small or, as Jean Bardet did, sell the restaurant early in his career and moved to a small city like Tours (which Bardet did) or to Paris a la Pierre Gagnaire.
The current assets fall into three categories. One is assets relatively unaffected by Loiseau's death. There are the three Paris restaurants which may lose a bit of business by no longer being able to capitalize on the fact that they are somehow subject to the three-star touch of Bernard Loiseau. Second are those assets that are no longer productive; i.e. the consulting and branding. Third are the assets whose value is physical in nature, but need to be made desireable once more. These would be the major asset of the physical plant in Saulieu: the restaurant, bar, public rooms, hotel rooms, kitchen, spa, gift shop, and wine cellar. It is hard to imagine selling these assets, given their location and economic climate, for much money. Thus, the burden falls on Dominique Loiseau, unless she wants to walk away and leave her and the corporation "destitute", to engage a potentially great chef; raise some more money, no doubt; and hope that the economy and scary geopolitical situation improve. My guess is that Groupe Loiseau will sell the three restaurants in Paris, take on more debt if it can be done (taking advantage of the low interest rates in Europe), and hope to find a very talented chef. History has shown the three-star restaurateurs such as Jean-Claude Vrinat (Taillevent) and Claude Terrail (La Tour d'Argent) can remain three-star restaurants with ever-changing chefs de cuisine. I believe, however, that she will have to find a chef who creates some buzz. She may have to forsake Loiseau's "Nouvelle-Cuisine" influenced cooking for an avant-gardist, as she needs someone who can attract attention. It wl be interested to see what her bankers decide to do.
Edited by robert brown, 04 March 2003 - 08:23 PM.