In Les Sables-d’Olonne, an “anti-crisis” menu is a recipe


USAow can you go from four covers a day to a full house while refusing even people? Micael Benoit found the recipe, it is roughly written on a slate placed on the sidewalk opposite his restaurant: “Anti-crisis menu”. Since mid-March, he has been concocting a complete starter-main course-dessert meal (with two choices each) at La Pagaille for 10 euros, or 8 euros for the starter-main course or main course-dessert formula. Here we serve almost only fresh products, which we possibly transform before putting them on the plate.

Example this Wednesday afternoon: in the sink is a large pan filled with chips waiting to be dipped in oil. Result of five kilos of potatoes peeled by hand and cut lengthwise the same morning. They accompany a few minutes beforehand, nicely sliced ​​flank steak, ready to be grilled over the flames of a kamado, a Japanese barbecue placed under a large extractor hood. “All the great chefs now have them”, the cook proudly proposes. And those who postpone red meat can always fall back on a scallop with cream that is simmering next to it in a pan, with green beans.

Frozen? Do not even think about it! “The fries are made here, it’s cheaper and also the tastiest”, laughs the boss, who besides in the kitchen also answers the phone for reservations and serves himself in the dining room. † Indeed, to provide a meal at this unbeatable price, it is currently impossible to pay a waiter or waitress, even if his wife Manny lends him a hand twice a week on market days.

The new canteen

But by the way, do you eat well in exchange for a 10 euro note? It is clear from the many plates that returned to the kitchen empty and from the smiles of the customers. “I have never found better value for money than this! makes Catherine excited, surrounded by three friends. “For this price, we can’t be too demanding, we don’t expect something terrible and yet it is good,” Thierry rejoices. I feel it will be my canteen very soon! †

Notably, a “canteen” that has already been adopted by employees of the nearby town hall. “We no longer ask ourselves questions before going to a restaurant, and it’s easier to invite someone over because we don’t ruin ourselves! 10 euros today is what more we put in to fill the car and finally we realize it represents a meal. Yes, our full is increased with a good meal! †

This calculation is exactly that of Micael Benoit when he decided to offer this cheap formula. “In February, when prices were rising everywhere, we said to ourselves that it is not normal in France that we cannot eat cheaply, except in fast food. Our idea is therefore to prove that you can have a good lunch and dinner for 10 euros. If the bet is successful, it will require some gymnastics. “I count not count my time”, recognizes this father of five, getting up early in the morning to prepare, because in addition to catering (lunch and dinner), La Pagaille is also a bar that is open all day.

It is also thanks to drinks and coffee that the cash register is filled (30% of the final bill). For the rest, you have to juggle prices to generate a small margin. “It should cost me 4 euros or 4.50 € per meal, but if I buy ready-made desserts, for example, it is already 3.50 €. There I make them myself and it costs only 50 cents, the same for the starters, and for the main course the maximum is 3.50 €. It’s very hot, but we’ll get there! We work with local producers and I have a supplier who can find me fish for 12 euros per kilo or spider crabs for 5 euros per kilo. †

‘I go for the minimum wage’

And so La Pagaille is on its way to becoming one of the most popular tables in the seaside town without even being on the Remblai! Despite this, his boss, who rents the walls, hasn’t really enriched himself. It doesn’t matter, “my goal is not to make a lot of money, but to please myself and please people,” he says. Since I took over the company, in May 2021, I have not paid myself a salary, today it is changing and I am aiming for a minimum wage.

Spring break, then summer break will be a major revealer. So it’s time to take stock with the accountant. “We will be able to recover our costs,” assures Micael Benoit. From May, it will slightly increase its price to 12 euros. An inflation that should not scare away customers who are increasingly loyal to the concept and who put a knob of butter in the spinach. Homemade spinach of course…

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