Matthias opened his first restaurant, Max à Table, on 30 April of this year in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. What sets his restaurant apart is the innovative use of tables with touch screens.
Matthias, everyone, is talking about your new concept and you've had good media coverage. Where did you get the idea for Max à Table, the first connected "fast good"?
Even when I was a student at Vatel, I had this desire to create a restaurant. After several ideas that I couldn't get off the ground – because my competitive edge was not great enough – I finally came up with a winner! Max à Table reflects what today's consumers are looking for: fresh ingredients, tasty food, a relatively low price, good service, and a multitude of extras thanks to new technologies. In fact, our clients are quite curious about our interactive tables, and enjoy them immensely!
I studied at Vatel Bordeaux for three years and thought that the Chartrons district where Vatel is located would be the perfect place to test the Max à Table concept. That's because there are some 7,000 students in private business schools in the Chartrons, as well as many people who come there to work – most of whom hold management positions – and people who live there, and who very open to new food and technological trends.
In fact, I've been wanting to create a new concept in the restaurant business for years. I have travelled a fair amount and attended conferences in Paris, including one by Marcel Saucet (Doctor of Innovation) that particularly inspired me. When I came out of his talk, I really wanted to create something original that would combine new technologies and the restaurant business. That is how the idea of tables with touch screens came to me. I asked around, and eventually contacted the firm of Digital Interactive who supplied the equipment.
Could you please describe these tables?
Every "Max’ Adepte" can visualise the products and their descriptions, and order directly from their table. The client can see the menu, choose what he wants to eat and drink, pay, and also see what's happening in the kitchen on his interactive table. The table also has games and quizzes enabling customers to relax while they're waiting for their order, or even to take advantage of special reductions. In addition, you can even discover events happening in Bordeaux, read the newspaper, or even take a virtual trip around the world...
Why did you choose the name Max à Table?
Well, to start off with, the basic concept is "fast good", which is to say French-style fast food that is more tasty, better- balanced, and more imaginative – in keeping with what today's French consumers are looking for.
As for the name, Max is short for Maximum: maximum taste, maximum freshness, and maximum comfort – not forgetting our little character MAX! Consumers always want more, and I knew that when I created something in this sector, I would achieve excellence. Not that Max à Table is better than all of our competitors, but it is clearly among the best in terms of value for money.
What sort of food do you offer?
We serve "Hambourgeois" (hamburgers) and large salads. Everything is fresh and homemade. We want to go along with the current food trends, and change as they do. For the time being, the menu is fixed, by our aim down the road is to offer the "hambourgeois of the day", "seasonal salads", and "dessert of the day". Our restaurant is sponsored by Michel Roth, who is in charge of the kitchens at the Ritz. We are going to see if we can establish a mutually beneficial partnership. We could even offer a "hambourgeois de Michel" as dish of the day...
Did you encounter any major difficulties in opening your restaurant ?
The main complication was with the banks – even though I was able to put up 50% of the capital. It seems as though it is very difficult to innovate and be entrepreneurial nowadays... The banks don't want to take any risks. Other than that, except for a few details, we have not run into any major difficulties.
Why did you decide to study at Vatel, and why Vatel Bordeaux?
I found out about Vatel on the Net, and it seemed like a really good option after my baccalaureate degree.
Why Bordeaux? Simply because I have family there.Vatel opened up my mind and gave me a much better handle on my career. It also let me take on responsibilities at an early age. During my years at Vatel, I especially remember my internships at a hotel in Reunion belonging to the Naïade group, where I created the job of management auditor. Now if that isn't taking on responsiblity! Apparently they still take on trainees from Vatel Bordeaux…
After meeting students from Vatel Nîmes, Lyon, and Paris, I realised that Vatel Bordeaux was truly made for me. The school leaves lots of room for personal development. Nothing makes us focus on any particular facet of the hospitality industry. It's up to us to decide. Vatel Bordeaux provides tailor-made training!
How did your studies at Vatel (theoretical, practical, internship) help you to crystallise your restaurant concept?
Vatel taught me a great deal. I have worked in a variety of restaurants (a luxury establishment, a brasserie, a semi-gastronomic restaurant, and even a fast food place) in several countries (France, Ireland, Malta, Reunion, London, New Zealand, etc.) and held down various jobs: waiter, head waiter, assistant manager, management accountant, operations management controller, and strategic management controller. Combining theory and practice enabled me to acquire the sort of foundation I needed, and it was precious to meet and learn from professionals in the restaurant sector.
How did you make a name for yourself?
It really wasn't hard to make Max à Table well-known! Above and beyond all the work done in conjunction with my communication agency, the local media were very interested in my story!
How do see Max à Table's future? Are you intending to open up branches in other cities?
Yes, I would like to open up restaurants in the largest French cities. People wanting to open a franchise have already contacted me. But before going that route, it is important to have a better idea of Max à Table's target audience, cost structure, and potential turnover at the end of the first year. Franchisees need to be reassured and helped to have a strategic mid to long-term vision of the brand.
“Vatel made me more open-minded and allowed me to meet people who contributed to making me who I am today.”
Aurélie Ponce - Operations manager for the Cheval Blanc Paris Hotel / 2006 Alumnus
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