Consumers may say they want more healthy items on restaurant menus, but selling food as medicine might not be the easiest marketing pitch. Yet it’s the approach the team behind bakery-cafe chain Le Pain Quotidien is taking with Le Botaniste, a fast casual with an apothecary design and a plant-based menu.
The restaurant, which launched in Belgium and opened its first U.S. unit (formerly an LPQ store) in New York City in February, is on a mission to serve organic, sustainable food without being preachy or gimmicky. Instead, the apothecary design is a representation of the theme, says Managing Director Laurent Francois.
The slogan “Let food be the medicine” tops the menu, which also refers to its bowls as prescriptions. “Since it’s our knowledgeable staff who are serving the ‘prescriptions,’ we thought it fitting and slightly tongue-in-cheek to make lab coats the uniform,” Francois says.
Transparency also is key: “The front counter is designed so guests can see the food they are ordering,” he explains. To counter the clinical theme, the 59-seat restaurant is full of homey touches such as plants and cast-iron pots, so guests aren’t intimidated by the hyperhealthy approach to food. “If they come into Le Botaniste for a meal, a snack or simply a glass of wine and feel at ease, we’ve done our job,” Francois says.
So what’s next? While there aren’t any more units in the works, Le Botaniste is working to boost its takeout business. “Right now, approximately 75 percent of our guests are eating in and 25 percent are taking meals to go,” says Francois. “We would like to increase our presence as a place where guests can grab quick, healthy takeout.”
“Since Alain [Coumont] first opened Le Pain Quotidien 25 years ago, he has always been dedicated to mindful eating. Le Botaniste, a 100 percent botanical initiative, was the natural next step.” —Laurent francois, managing director