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Paul Bocuse 1926-2018

The Culinary Institute of America named Paul Bocuse the Chef of the Century. He died January 20, 2018 at the age of 91


I had a delicious lunch at Paul Bocuse’s three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon, France with my husband and some members of the Dallas Arboretum on June 4, 2013. But, by the next day, I was just as hungry as ever!


Restaurants provide a service, an economic activity that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything. Part of the definition of a service is that it is perishable. Our experiences at restaurants cannot be stored or saved for later use. But, the experience can be remembered and shared with our family and friends.


Paul Bocuse made a phenomenal impression on me at every touchpoint or point of contact.  The three essential elements of effective customer touchpoints are people, technology, and process, with an emphasis on people. Technology has increased the number and variety of touchpoints, but people are the most important.  The patient waiter who explains processes stays in those customers’ minds long after they forget how easy it was to navigate online reservations. Successfully engaging with customers requires using technology to give employees relevant information and wrapping both of them in effective information flow processes. If a company’s processes are complex and convoluted, people and technology can’t be as effective.

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Mr. Bocuse came from a long line of chefs dating back to the 17th century. He grew up in the restaurant, lived there and died there. As part of his daily routine, he was served a meal by one of the kitchen staff so he can (as he told the Wall Street Journal) "inspect their nails and watch the way in which they work." And of course, he could taste the food.


Managers find ways to make the intangible more tangible, since customers perceive services as risky and difficult to evaluate.  Accordingly, customers tend to rely more on personal references, reputation, price, and facilities of the service provider as an indication of quality. The wall papered main dining room has large arches which lets the light, as well as waiters, flow from room to room. It has chandeliers, a large fireplace, and round tables with fresh white roses in small vases. The china, glasses, hand towels, napkins, and tablecloths are all adorned by the name Paul Bocuse and the logo of the restaurant. Waiters are dressed in suits. Service was superb. Paul Bocuse’s restaurant makes money by bringing people pleasure.


The menu had Mr. Bocuse’s picture and his signature in gold ink. He is pictured in a chef’s uniform wearing a medal. Paul Bocuse must be the most highly decorated chef in the world. His foot-high, starched, pleated chef's hat is a symbol of authority in the professional kitchen.Bocuse3.jpg



Before the meal, a popular French drink, Kir, was served. It is a mixture of blackcurrant liqueur topped with champagne or white wine.The first course was a cheese popover and a small cup of spring pea soup topped with crème fraiche. The second course was Lobster bisque. The third course was served in the shape of a pyramid. On the bottom was roasted potatoes, then filet of beef with black truffle sauce, then a slice of foie gras, and a small round of toast topped with Truffle butter. The fourth course was fresh goat cheese and Saint-Marcellin, a soft French cheese made from cow's milk. The seasonality and freshness of the savory courses were complemented by small desserts. A selection of candy, including handmade chocolates, was passed around on trays. Then, the dessert was served. It included a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a strawberry, raspberry and blackberry; a pistachio cake topped with raspberries; a cream puff; and a lemon tart. The farm-to-table meal ended with a small cup of coffee.


Consumers prefer paying for products rather than services. So, Paul Bocuse has a store in the restaurant. I bought a butter dish and placed it in my china cabinet. The butter dish was 30 Euros which was about $38.50 at that time. Why was I willing to pay so much for a souvenir? Just like other consumers on vacation, I thought that I might never visit Paul Bocuse in France again. The butter dish is a tangible way to remember the intangible! And it is conspicuous, which means that my friends and family will see it and know that I bought it at Paul Bocuse in France. The sack had the name of the restaurant with France underneath it and the graphic logo of the chef. The store receipt was similar to the sack with a graphic chef logo and Paul Bocuse France in gold letters underneath. “Merci” and “Thank you for your visit” as well as contact information are on the back of the receipt.


Successful service managers have high standards, systems for monitoring service performance, systems for satisfying customer complaints, and an emphasis on employee and customer satisfaction. Culinary perfection with just a few ingredients on the plate, combined with immaculate service, places Paul Bocuse among the best restaurants in the world. By focusing on classic, and delicious, fine dining, Paul Bocuse created something that people choose to talk about, regardless of what his competition is doing.


As Paul Bocuse said, “It takes the same amount of time to do a job well or badly, so you might as well do it right.”


I took pictures and brought back souvenirs to help me remember my Paul Bocuse experience. Hopefully, my experience at the restaurant can help you learn about the importance of management.


  • Think of times when you have received extraordinary service. What was your experience? How many people did you tell about your experience?