He ordered “a fried andouillette” as if he had just satisfied a long suppressed impulse, with a mixture of happiness, haste and relief. So what do the 38 degrees in the shade added to the beers and the fluorescent orange gazpacho "offered by the house" that a waiter spilled on his shorts and shirt: past the surprise of finding himself soaked from the head to the feet, Mr. Coste, 74, quickly laughed out loud.
A moment before the incident, the former worker had praised the "IM-PEC-CABLE" service of the restaurant located in Rungis (Val-de-Marne), between Orly airport, the A6b, the motorway des vacances and the Metropolis, a legendary nightclub in the Parisian suburbs. One of those in the franchise still open after the management declared itself in suspension of payments. The buyers have until August 24 to submit an offer.
Like any loyal and long-standing customer who has known the brand since its creation, in 1961 on the N6 in Burgundy, Mr. Coste wonders and worries about the future of the group. 4000 employees are on the grill. A hot issue: the chain has nearly 300 restaurants, a third of which are franchises.
Managers, workers, young people, truck drivers, tourists ...
“Are they going to keep the sign?” He asks. They say Buffalo Grill is on the starting line. The grandfather inquires. A question of habit, of memories too. Every year for more than 30 years, he has lunched with his family in this round house with a false thatched roof before taking the plane. “Here, the meat is really cooked over a wood fire,” he explains. It's not like that everywhere! The atmosphere is family, friendly, no fuss and, at the end, there is often a discount. »Price of the bill, free coffees: 73 euros for a good aperitif and three main course-dessert menus.
When he speaks, his eyes are fixed on the large (and false) fireplace, where the flames dance. Executives, workers, young people, truck drivers, German tourists, his neighbors at the table come from all walks of life "but much less numerous than in previous years", laments a manager. They too breathe in the aroma which escapes by swallowing defatted bectance six to ten minutes above the flames before being seared then served.
"Synonymous with freedom" on the road to vacation
We can see them salivating and hoping for their deliverance after hours of driving: the crusty and ridged skin of the pork casing that they will savor after having planted their cutlery in the melting and dripping offal. Here, the specialty of the channel is still debated. "Is the andouillette really from Troyes?" »Mystery. Only one thing is certain: "The more it stinks, the better it is, it comes from the guts, it's good for the health", swears a customer while dipping a bit in mustard with grape must, another house recipe. .
Evocation of summer vacations, kilometers swallowed up in loaded cars, sun, burning asphalt, the Courtepaille restaurants visible from the motorway "are synonymous with freedom" according to him and "correspond to the first step on the terrace outside of the Paris region, where you can smell the first smells of wood-fired grills ”.
Seated on the terrace, Lydia and Ghislaine, two fifties already know the next one where they will stop. The girlfriends evoke “the one on the Landes road” when their neighbors, back from Brittany, praise “the one in Caen, avenue de la Côte-de-Nacre. "
Attract young people who are less addicted to meat
The youngest, often in their thirties, remember a childhood scent: "The dessert from the old children's menu, a house-shaped ice cream" with a "vanilla, strawberry" or vanilla chocolate flavor ". A Proust madeleine now replaced by a Smarties ice cream. “Anything,” they say. Seemingly innocuous, the case nevertheless illustrates a thorny subject: "The chain is trying to change its strategy to attract an audience of young people and adolescents", reveals a server.
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Evenings, for which it is better to book, are even organized for the New Year and Valentine's Day. "It works well but it is not yet sufficient, young people are less attracted than before to meat," he explains. Over time, the clientele has aged, the decor, once modern and exotic, has become obsolete and the brand. And now, many customers are pinpointing the quality of the products and the service of many provincial restaurants online.
Exit also the chef decked out in an immaculate chef's hat grilling the barbecue outside for a chic clientele. An image popularized in 1993 in a cult scene from the film "The Visitors". As one customer sums it up: “Today, eating at Courtepaille with the family is above all and above all having the assurance of not paying too much. But for how long?