This is Jean François Schevenels, the owner of Liège Café, an upscale patisserie, bakery and restaurant in Sandton, one of the wealthiest districts in Johannesburg. He is the proud fourth generation of artisan pastry chefs from Liège Belgium. Before moving to South Africa, he had been honing his craft in Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe.
With a menu offering such wonders as “Waterzooi de Poisson” (Belgian fish stew, salmon, mussels and kabeljou served in creme sauce and vegetables julienne), “Chateaubriand Béarnaise” (seared beef fillet , Béarnaise sauce served with fries and fresh vegetables), and authentic homemade “Liège waffles topped with Chantilly cream and dark chocolate ganache”, Mr. Schevenels was a pioneer. He was bringing French-Belgian gastronomy, tradition and art-de-vivre to South African culinary explorers and gourmets.
Liège Café opened in August 2014 with great fanfare featuring Miss South Africa. After a few months of operation, its ratings skyrocketed. Tripadvisor gave a 4.5 out of 5 stars and #4 out of 132 restaurants in Johannesburg, reviewers were ecstatic: “You’d be hard pressed to resist the call of crisp, buttery, croissants, brioche, tarts and sweet pastries” wrote the magazine Food & Home Entertaining, “It’s heaven in earth” went the magazine Hello Joburg.
Customers were sending plenty of stars: “What a nice surprise to find real fine dining in the heart of Sandton (…) I will definitely be back …. again and again and again” commented one, “My 21st birthday celebration was a huge success and was more than I ever expected it to be (…) By far one of my favourite restaurants in Jhb!” applauded another.
Read the rest of Liège Café’s story in the article on linkedin “Why Brands Need to Partner with Change to Win in the African Retail Boom”
In this third episode of The Customer Journey series, I am in a restaurant resembling Freddy’s BBQ Joint, the restaurant of choice of Frank Underwood in Netflix’s House Of Cards. Here, the joint is located in a cosy and busy neighbourhood in Kinshasa DRC; if you are not familiar with the district or the street, you miss the joint. It is tiny, it has no outdoor signs, no name, no address. It’s a no-frills place, it has no decorum, no menu, no waiters. It’s the Mama who comes with the meals straight from the kitchen and she knows almost everyone. I am introduced to her by a friend who is a regular.
It is packed. 80% of the clientele consists of senior staffs of embassies, public offices, parliament, the army, the police, etc.. In general, these men – all powerful and influential – are always flanked by security and entourage everywhere they go. But when it’s time for this joint, they come solo or with minimal company. There are a few well-dressed ladies, some belonging to the local bourgeoisie, others are socialites.
I am not allowed to take pictures of the patrons as they are busy with huge portions of food, buckets of drinks and ice and their whispers and chit-chats. Clearly they relish the fact that the joint is out of the public eye, far from the main avenues of Kinshasa. This no-photo, be-discrete restriction fits my quest of the day: what really drives the patrons to search for indulgence in their busy days and to spend lavishly in this joint? Who tastes the feeling, sparkles the experience, serves as a guide for the customer journey in exclusive environments?