Vegans and vegetarians, here’s a place you’ll want to know about! Not only is this the perfect spot to catch up with friends over good food, but you can also stock stock up on fruit and veggies at their retail store at the same time. Oh, and did we mention that it’s also a bakery selling a range of delicious freshly-baked goods? We find out more about the story behind this bakery-restaurant group, Le Pain Quotidien, and their range of cafés in Hong Kong.
From humble beginnings
Le Pain Quotidien had its humble beginnings in Brussels as a small bakery back in 1990. Today, the company has over 200 restaurants across the globe. Hong Kong now hosts three: at Wan Chai, Elements and Pacific Place. Since those small-time baking days, Le Pain Quotidien has blossomed into a triple threat: a bakery, restaurant and retail store selling ingredients of its signature dishes.
Here in Hong Kong, the stores have etched out a unique local identity that has played directly into the hands of the city’s rising flexitarian movement. The menu is full to the brim with vegetarian and vegan options (often locally sourced), and a sweet spot has been one of our city’s favourite fruits, avocado.
It’s taken a few iterations of that menu for the team at Le Pain Quotidien to connect with the community so well. “We’ve evolved the menu since we launched,” explains Sonia Bakkouri, Operations Manager of all three outlets. “Originally it was heavy on tofu, but our customers have been very enthusiastic about other dishes. We’ve recently brought back our mushroom sauce and updated our fruit salad to include more local fruit in response to customer demands.” Listening to the flexitarian community has been key to the brand’s success in both the restaurants and its thriving catering offering. “I’ve found that our customers aren’t simply looking to be healthy with only food, but also the whole eating experience,” says Sonia.
Customers have been the driving force behind changes to the restaurant’s businesses practices. Today, if you order delivery for an event or office lunch from Le Pain Quotidien, you’ll have to specially request cutlery. Sonia shares that this cutlery-free delivery is a process dictated by customer demand – and she’s delighted to support the community by changing processes to better environmental practices.
Looking to go greener?
Sonia recommends the following strategies: “Be realistic. Don’t think vegan straight away. Go slowly. Initially, find foods and dishes you like. Soon, you’ll start to feel better. Then, I recommend finding substitutes and continuing to replace meat with non-meat options. Make sure you’re not changing your diet too drastically. You’ll find it’s easy in Hong Kong; people like fresh foods, and this is our future; we’re eating less and less meat.”
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This article first appeared in the April/May 2019 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.