"The restaurant L & # 39; Escale offers something different on the way"

Dominique Thomas, owner and director with his wife Isabelle of the largest restaurant in France, explains the limitations of such an establishment.

La Croix: How did you come with your wife Isabelle to buy and manage the largest street restaurant in France?

Dominique Thomas: We had a restaurant ten kilometers from Chateauroux. I was looking for development ideas. One day, our chartered accountant, auditor at L & # 39; Escale, tells us that the business is for sale. Our first movement was decline. It is an institution, too big for us …

The site of L & # 39; Escale

Where are you from?

D. T.: When I left high school in 1977, the tray in my pocket, I wanted to make architecture. I was in mechanics … I did a thousand transactions (carpenter, bricklayer, tiler, boiler maker, waiter). In 1986 I became director of a restaurant in Châteauroux that I bought ten years later, but the future was hidden.

In 2006 we made the big leap. We needed two and a half years to get the credit. The Escale was then in a bad state, social, hygienic, culinary. I lost 300,000 € in three years, a bad balance for banks. I changed my boss and I recouped the € 300,000 within a year.

What is the singularity of L & # 39; Escale today?

D. T.: Truck drivers eat at places where they have to stop. Escale offers them something else. We have succeeded, thanks to the dedication of the team, to unite in a restaurant on the road the label "master-restorer", which consists of cooking a maximum of fresh products, to guarantee the "homemade", to handle the reception and cleanliness. To keep it, we are checked every four years. The drivers are grateful for the quality of our welcome. It is an endearing clientele. They are not unknown to us.

How do you recruit your team?

D. T.: First, we can hardly recruit. The French do not show up to work. I have tried everything. I have advertised everywhere. Candidates who show up are delayed by the unusual hours: at 18.00 hours back to work, during the evening and on weekends. All are paid over the SMIC, with a floor of € 1,800, six weeks of rest and five weeks of paid leave plus six reclaimable holidays.

I employ 90 people of fifteen nationalities to fulfill a large number of different jobs and functions (diver, guard, cook, chipping, butcher, pastry chef, secretary, purchasing manager, etc.). The most important thing is to succeed in forming a real team, composed of elements that draw in the same direction and help each other.

How is your parking space an asset for truckers?

D. T.: Because he is being watched all night through a wake and about sixty cameras. This ensures their peace and protection of the goods for which they are responsible for a low price: € 1.30 per hour. Parking is free when they eat at Escale, which they almost all do. Elsewhere, flights are frequent, including diesel. The shower pays 2 €. And they have a laundry.

What is the turnover of Escale-Village?

D. T.: In twelve years we have gone from 4.7 million to 7 million.

Collected by Jean-Claude Raspiengeas