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BERNARD LOISEAU

On February 25, 2003, the world of haute cuisine was in shock. Bernard Loiseau, who had been depressed and overworked, had just committed suicide the day before at his home in Saulieu. With him disappeared the chef of one of twenty restaurants
– those with three Michelin stars‐which constitute the elite of the sector in France. Bernard Loiseau was then one of the most emblematic chefs in French grande cuisine, its spokesman and a media hit.
His staff was profoundly affected as they had lost not only their chef but also the man who, over the years, had imparted to all the energy which ultimately promoted the remote Côte d’Or establishment to the ranks of elite restaurants. He was their boss and guide, their father and brother, a creator and the best defender of grande cuisine, the soul and the image of the “house”. Their fears coalesced around one major
question: Would the organization survive its creator? How?

The organization of the B. Loiseau group prior to his death
In 2003, Bernard Loiseau was the owner, chef and manager of La Côte d’Or. The restaurant was run in quite a specific manner which was linked to its owner’s personality. Bernard Loiseau was a chef who left his mark on his kitchen creations; he was also very present with his guests and employees. He was ubiquitous at all times. He would not take one day off and would only rest for a few hours every afternoon.
“In a 3‐star restaurant, the guests want to see the chef”
“Bernard Loiseau spent much time at the reception desk, both when guests were arriving and when they were leaving (…). Thus, he could collect impressions directly from guests”
Bernard Loiseau worried about every detail, guided, motivated and corrected every member of the staff. He was a very demanding boss who could become angry quickly if he thought any aspect of service was not up to his standards. But he could also act almost as a father or brother with his employees. He never hesitated to provide advice and guidance. There was mutual affection between him and his staff.
“Bernard Loiseau was a chef, and a chef gives orders. A chef must display authority, in the kitchen and outside of it. He was the supreme authority in the “house”. People have always worked this way here” (Dominique Loiseau)
“He sacrificed his life to his business. So, we would give him our best. He was always present. People were aware of how devoted he was. He communicated with all staff members. He exerted soft pressure on us ». (an employee)

1 Source : F.Leroy and T.Paris (2008), « Les recettes du renouveau - La réorganisation du Groupe Bernard Loiseau au décès de son chef ».

The composition of dishes, the ways in which they should be prepared were mastered by Bernard Loiseau and his assistant, Patrick Bertron. The latter was in charge of sharing culinary know how with the kitchen staff. He would explain dishes, the spirit in which they should be composed, and how they should be made. He would also show how food should be laid out on the plates. The kitchen staff could also use cards describing the technical data on every dish (ingredients, quantities, cooking time, a photograph of the dish). The cards also helped the waiters to learn what they should know to provide the most accurate possible advice to guests. However, in Bernard Loiseau’s time, these cards were often imprecise and rarely updated. The know‐how which went into dishes was not always formalized. Its transmission was essentially made by the two chefs during actual preparation in the kitchen.
As Patrick Bertron states it, one had to acquire the expertise and, mostly, to share a logic, a state of mind, that of the trilogy2 and that of the power of tastes. One had, first, to educate one’s senses: taste surely, but also sight, touch, smell and even hearing, in order to know if meat of fish was cooked to perfection or a juice had the necessary concentration.

An informal management style
Contrary to Bernard Loiseau’s strict attachment to every detail pertaining to the restaurant’s image and quality, his style of management was quite informal.
« This management style gave everyone in the « house » a feeling of belonging, a sense of one’s role in the development of the restaurant, of being a member of a family business, all with a “down‐to‐earth” approach.” (the restaurant’s bellboy)
Accounting necessities were of course taken into consideration, but management was very much of the “old school”, and did not use strict follow‐up methods. What really counted was quality. In the kitchen, the desire to source the best possible produce led the management to select suppliers without exposing them to the rule of competition, or negotiating prices. Bernard Loiseau was convinced that the exceptional was priceless. Likewise, purchased quantities corresponded to a rough forecast of the number of guests. So, there were many instances when expensive produce had to be thrown away or when leftover preparations were deemed unworthy of the restaurant’s high standards.

Dominique Loiseau’s role
Dominique Loiseau was Bernard’s second wife. She arrived at La Côte d’Or in 1989. She taught biology and microbiology at a school of catering before becoming a journalist at L’Hôtellerie, a trade journal, and then a manager in a publishing house. She has published several books on food and hygiene in the catering industry. When she arrived in Saulieu, she learned how the restaurant operated but was not directly associated with its management. Bernard Loiseau did not grant her any formal responsibility in its management, but encouraged her to help with the hotel and the restaurant.
« I was the secretary, the jack‐of‐all‐trades, the press attaché… I dealt with Bernard’s personal correspondence, with the promotion of the hotel, with the supervision of building projects…” (Dominique Loiseau)
This was no easy task, in such a well established structure, working along people who would certainly not like her to interfere with their work or make any comment on it. They felt her only qualification for being on board was that she was the boss’s wife.
However, Dominique Loiseau gradually learned how the firm worked. She became acquainted with the staff, she welcomed the guests, she was directly involved in the day‐to‐day operations of the business. Eventually, thanks to her proficiency in English and German, she became one of its ambassadors.

2 The basic principle is to feature three different tastes in one dish.

Though she was not directly implicated in the kitchen’s operations, she played a growing role in the management of the hotel, particularly through its affiliation to the Relais & Châteaux chain. In 1990, she was officially appointed as the director of Relais &Châteaux Bernard Loiseau. In 1998, on the strength of the management skills she has acquired and because she had become so familiar with the operations of both the hotel and the restaurant, she was appointed as the director of the hotel and of the restaurant. She was instrumental in taking the decision to redecorate the premises in order to attract to Saulieu a vast national and international clientele. Under her management, La Côte d’Or was granted the supreme Relais &Châteaux prize, the Blason Pourpre (the Red Shield), which rewards only sixteen other establishments. She also helped her husband with press relations, particularly after the restaurant had been awarded its third Michelin star in 1991.

The impact of Bernard Loiseau’s death
When Bernard Loiseau died, the feeling of loss was very acute. The staff was traumatized and worried deeply about the survival of the business. The stakes were high. What should be done was not obvious. Should Dominique Loiseau close the restaurant or keep it going? In the second case, under what conditions? Did it make sense to transfer the restaurant to a less remote area? Could the establishment, particularly the restaurant, continue to operate along the same quality requirements as before? Was Bernard Loiseau’s creativity replaceable? Without the presence of Bernard Loiseau, could the restaurant retain its three Michelin stars, the precious quality label which guided the choice of most foreign guests? Would losing one star prove a catastrophe? Would staff members start leaving or feel so disoriented they would lose the sense of perfection which Bernard Loiseau had instilled in them? How was one to ensure the staff’s cohesion and motivation? Would Patrick Bertron, Bernard Loiseau’s second, his alter ego, want to leave la Côte d’Or and open a restaurant under his own name?

A decision to go on is made
During her husband’s lifetime, Dominique Loiseau stood backstage. With his death, she was quite reluctantly propelled to the front of the stage. She was the one to make the decision to keep la Côte d’Or opened and to reorganize the business. After a very short time, thanks to the support of the restaurant’s guests and the commitment of the staff, she decided to continue her husband’s work.
“This house could depend on the expertise and loyalty of its staff, a strong organization, and its guests. No one wanted to call it quits. That was one of our main assets. In this business, many houses have beautiful facades, and the staff might be something else. Bernard Loiseau was very paternalistic. He considered his staff family. People liked each other. Our pay was good. We would be able to continue without him”. (a member of the staff)
From this unanimous feeling, Dominique Loiseau drew the conclusion that she had to continue the business, that it was necessary to let it be known that its staff would provide the same quality welcome and service as before, with the same quest for perfection. In the eyes of the public Bernard Loiseau embodied his house. Now, it was necessary to highlight the dedication and expertise of the staff which ran it on a daily basis, to reassure the guests that la Côte d’Or was more than its former chef.
During the months which followed Bernard Loiseau’s death, a few staff members did quit and a few others felt “a loss of their bearings, a drop in their overriding concern for quality service, and a degree of carelessness on occasion”. Bernard Loiseau’s sudden demise opened a period of soul searching for many who could no longer rely on their boss to guide them. Others on the contrary redoubled their efforts to preserve quality.

Organizational change
It became necessary to replace Bernard Loiseau with a full time manager. Dominique Loiseau decided to put in place a new management system and commissioned a head hunter to recruit a financial and HR director. So, in December 2003, Isabelle Proust, an HEC graduate, was hired. She had been a former assistant to the UGC (a movie theater chain) vice president for finance, and earlier an auditor with Mazars. She rapidly became general manager of the business, in charge of reorganizing the Group and of implementing strict management rules.
Dominique Loiseau decided to discharge a few of her husband’s duties. She handled some of his former functions, particularly external communication and the welcoming of guests. All responsible positions were formalized and precise objectives were set for their holders.
“I wanted to make all my managers responsible for their work, so that they would propose solutions instead of just taking orders. In the past, our management style was very centralized. The boss took all the decisions and would leave implementation to his subordinates. My challenge was to transform mere executives into real managers”. (Dominique Loiseau)
The proposed organizational change advocated internal promotion whenever possible. In the kitchen, Patrick Bertron, who had been Bernard Loiseau’s second and then sous‐chef since 1984, mastered the art of haute cuisine in Bernard Loiseau’s spirit. He was promoted to the position of chef. Arnaud Faye who had been recruited as second shortly before Bernard Loiseau died became Patrick Bertron’s sous‐ chef. In the kitchen, where turnover is traditionally high, the challenge was to keep expert staff in place and to continue to attract personnel to Saulieu.
In the same time, Dominique Loiseau wished to reinforce the board with directors who could provide expert management advice. She invited two outside directors. She also offered seats on the board to Patrick Bertron (the former sous‐chef) and to Hubert Couilloud, so that they would be involved in the management process and connect decisions with the down to earth aspects of the business. Hubert Couilloud had been very close and loyal to Bernard Loiseau. He was very influential in the composition of menus.

Cost cutting at all levels
All the firm’s expenses were carefully audited (personnel, purchases, fixed costs) and all contracts renegotiated. Processes were implemented to validate and place orders. Executives were made aware of the necessity to cut costs. It was decided to control inventories, to manage the staff more strictly and, particularly, to adopt new hiring methods. The drop in revenues made it necessary to manage the business more professionally, if it was to be turned around.
“We have now become a real business, as concerns the implementation and follow up of social legislation. The new emphasis on management methods has many advantages and will allow us to survive. The big draw back, though, is that everything is controlled, which means more work for all employees: we have to record all invoices, we now request price estimates from all our suppliers. We forward the estimates to our supervisor who consults Isabelle Proust or not”. (a maître d’hôtel)
The general manager hired a management controller to follow up on the new procedures. She was a young management school graduate. She started work in April 2005. She was put in charge of human resources and accounting.
Kitchen procedures were also followed up more strictly, particularly as concerned inventory management and the cost of the different recipes. The procedures were now new, but they were not implemented in the past. Margin rates were set, so that prices could be determined on the basis of the costs of supplies. All recipes were carefully itemized in a computer based file as to the precise quantities of ingredients needed for their preparation. All inventories were computerized and a theoretical follow up was put in place.
“I have put in place a procedure and now I make sure that it is being implemented. It was difficult for the staff to accept. This is not a job for cooks, but now they comply”. (the management controller)
In the kitchen, some think that these new constraints distract the cooks from their real mission.
“They have put many tools in place, in particular computers, all things which make the life of a creator hell. A traditional kitchen and a big business are not the same thing. In the past, we used our common sense to manage our activities. Now it is different. We cannot let this come into the kitchen because this would mean we would no longer have time to keep an eye on how the boys work”. (the chef de cuisine)

New work methods
All business processes were actually reviewed. Bernard Loiseau’ style of management was dubbed by his staff “communicative”, “informal”, “based on horse sense”, “craftsman like”, “familial and professional”. What came after him was a more structured and formal organization. For the management, the major difficulty was to put in place a stricter management style in order to make sure the business would survive, while not compromising on quality.
“With Bernard Loiseau, we were not structured as we are now. He was very quick. Many things were made on the spur of the moment, and everyone would follow. He was rather impulsive in his ways. He had brilliant ideas. It was not always possible to implement them. Today, everything is more structured. We have to study our costs and expenses. »

Computers were introduced and communication was now gradually made via e‐mail, in a formalized way. Lots of employees simply could not get used to this. Weekly meetings between supervisors were organized. The hierarchal line of command had to be respected, which was not always the case earlier. These changes were not supposed to affect in the least the staff’s work style and their way of welcoming guests. There was no intention whatsoever of questioning the spirit and philosophy which Bernard Loiseau had imprinted on the house: respect for guests, for work, for others.
“In the past, the atmosphere was familial but professional. Now it is stricter and colder. Yet, this is not felt by the guests.” (the gouvernant)
“There is less happiness in the work. It is more business like, now. The members of the staff are here to do their jobs. With Mr Loiseau, they worked enthusiastically. They would not count the hours. They felt a lot a respect for a person who devoted his whole life to his business.” (a guest in the dining room)


The kitchen: between continuity and renewal
In the kitchen, at first, the staff prepared the same dishes as Bernard Loiseau did. It was essential to respect Bernard Loiseau’s culinary principles in order to convince the staff, the guests and the haute cuisine reviewers that nothing had changed. Yet, Patrick Bertron was convinced that guests would rapidly expect novelty and would not want the restaurant to become a sort of museum. Gradually, with Dominique Loiseau’s help, the chef entered a phase of creation and ultimately presented two types of dishes: the Bernard Loiseau classics and the Patrick Bertron creations. The only requirement was not to break with the culinary style set forth by Bernard Loiseau.

More so than Bernard Loiseau, Patrick Bertron favored creative team work with his seconds. He gave them broad work themes, depending on his preferences, for example, a “warm liver” or a “pigeon”. Then, they would discuss, the seconds would submit their ideas and everything would be recorded in a log shared by the “creative cell”. Regularly, they would meet to taste their production.

From resistance to open opposition
However, tension grew. The necessary changes provoked resistance and gave rise to more or less open conflicts. Some questioned the whole reorganization of the establishment as it imposed procedures which were feared to be detrimental to quality and tradition. Others thought that cost control and the introduction of reporting methods would hurt quality and the convivial atmosphere which had earlier characterized the establishment. Others still rejected the excessively management oriented style which had been adopted.
“The general context had changed too. If you are a temporary employee or a permanent staff alike, you are just a number. You can be fired on the spot. The time is over when, in the 80s, people cared for you. In the past, you could start at the bottom and gradually make your way up.” (a waiter)
Resistance to change and to the introduction of stricter management rules turned into personal opposition against those leading the change. The senior members of the staff, particularly those who felt they had made the three star restaurant with Bernard Loiseau, questioned the legitimacy of the new bosses. Dominique Loiseau and Isabelle Proust were outsiders in the world of haute cuisine and, to boot, women in a traditionally male trade. It was felt they were debasing Bernard Loiseau’s style and that the changes they advocated contradicted the tradition which had made the establishment so successful.
“We are the ones who invented the three star restaurant: Hubert, Bernard, Jean‐François (the custodian), Patrick Bertron and the chefs de rang.” (a butler)
“The people who manage us have never been in the trade” (a butler)
« Nouvelle
cuisine » is challenged
Not only were management and the new methods of operation criticized, opposition was also aimed at Patrick Bertron’s creations and the changes which had made their way into the menu. Tensions flared up particularly between the kitchen staff and the dining room staff. The dining room staff felt that many creations of the kitchen were in direct confrontation with the spirit of Bernard Loiseau. They were bitterly criticized. Rivalries also emerged between members of the dining room staff (most of whom had accompanied Bernard Loiseau along their whole career) and the kitchen (most of whose staff had never even known Bernard Loiseau). Moreover, it was said that these members of the kitchen staff would spend only one or two years with the restaurant, during their apprenticeship. Concretely it meant that a few chefs de rang and butlers would guide the guests’ choices toward Bernard Loiseau’s classical preparations and not Patrick Bertron’s creations. It was then easy for them to claim that Patrick Bertron’s creations did not meet the guests’ expectations, and so that they – the butlers and chefs de rang were perfectly justified in criticizing them.
On top of that, the seconds were reproached with not knowing Bernard Loiseau’s spirit and with not having participated in the growing success of the establishment.
“It is very hard to have the waiters acknowledge innovations”. Relation between the kitchen and the dining room are tense. We had invented a new dish, lobster ravioli served in lobster broth with stuffed cabbage. We wanted to serve the broth in a teapot. Everybody was up in arms. We were told that we had never worked with Bernard Loiseau, and just did not know how to work.”
(a kitchen second)
Tensions focused on the person of Hubert Couilloud, who was in charge of the dining room and had been one of Bernard Loiseau’s first companions in the restaurant. Many thought that, as he had been his right arm, he embodied Bernard Loiseau’s spirit as much as the chef did. The staff and the guests liked and respected him. Rivalry between him and the chef increased, particularly as concerned new dishes.
“He is the keeper of the house spirit. He is important. He cares for people. He is a bit like Bernard Loiseau, he is generous» (a member of the administrative staff)
“Hubert Couilloud, he is the image that all guests have of the establishment because he stands at the reception desk and manages the dining room.” (the establishment’s manager)
“After Bernard Loiseau’s death, Hubert Couilloud (the person responsible for the dining room) said: ‘Nothing gets out of the kitchen that I have not tasted’. I obeyed him once, and then I disregarded his order. What I accepted from Mr Loiseau, who was my master, I could not accept from someone else. In Bernard Loiseau’s time, Hubert Couilloud participated in our tasting sessions. I always came very frustrated out of them. I would ask Mr Loiseau to taste things and he would say they were perfect. Then Hubert Couilloud would taste them and say he did not like them. So, Bernard Loiseau would ask me to start all over again. After the death, I said no (…). I wanted to assume the risks.” (the chef de cuisine)
After a dormant phase, tensions broke into an open conflict: decisions had to be made. Should organizational reforms and the new cuisine style be continued? The risk, then, was that a number of the staff would probably leave the establishment. Firing Hubert Couilloud would prove very risky as he was so experienced and enjoyed such good relations with the guests. He was also familiar with Bernard Loiseau’s style.


An individual assignment, you are requested to analyze the “Bernard Loiseau” case study with the following instructions (The totality of the report should not exceed 5 pages – Word document):
1. Analyze the case study based on Bernard Loiseau using the grid or the theory of your choice (among the grids and the theories covered during the course)
2. Proceed to a second analysis of the case using the 7S systemic approach of leadership.

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Introduction
In this report, the case of Bernard Loiseau is being analysed using the charismatic leadership (personality trait theory) which was followed during the time of the founder Bernard Loiseau and after which the role of the leader in the organisation was not as centred as it was during his period. During the period of Bernard Loiseau, he was a charismatic leader who had automatic following from his employees as he had built an informal relationship with almost all the employees of the organization and this enabled the organization reach its heights in cuisine business as all the employees worked with total commitment to the leader and also to the organization. With the demise of the leader, there was a lacuna felt which was not filled up by either his wife or with the managers she appointed for various roles in the organisation. In this report the case is analysed using some of the leadership theories and the Blake-Mouton Managerial grid; and also with the 7S theory of systematic leadership as given out by McKinsey.

Leader with a Charisma:
Bernard Loiseau was a charismatic leader who had a vision and dedication of whatever he did for his organization. Apart from the few hours of rest in the afternoon, he always had been working for the welfare of the organisation. He was a highly skilled communicator towards his employees and also with his guests and exhibited high level of devotion and expertise in the kitchen and all the other areas of guest management in his restaurant. Most importantly he had a clear vision for his organisation and also for his employees....

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