By Ivan CAPECCHI
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For some Alsatians, his name is synonymous with happiness: the tarte flambée is to Alsace what pizza is to Italy. But happiness has a price.
By doing a quick market study on the perimeter of the city center of Strasbourg, we notice that very often the classic tarte flambée (cream, onions, bacon) is offered at around €9-10. But the prices are very variable. One establishment offers it at €5.5, another at €7 and the last one at €9.8.
As for the “specials”, there too, it’s a price waltz. €11.5 for smoked salmon on sauerkraut here, €12.2 for honey goat cheese there, and up to €15.5 for “dried beef from Alsace and Comté” or smoked trout!
How to explain such disparities in prices and are they justified? To find out, we asked Stéphane*, a restaurateur from Strasbourg, who specializes in the production of tartes flambées.
” Do a bad thing “
Formerly the manager of a bistro-type restaurant, Stéphane launched into the production of Flammekueche in the context of the pandemic, at a time when only take-out sales were authorized.
If he decided to testify today, it is out of a desire to “put his feet in the dish a little”. Because some practices of his colleagues are… questionable, he believes.
2 euros production cost for a classic pie
At Stéphane, the production cost of a classic tarte flambée is around 2 euros. “By taking high-end products,” he says.
According to the restaurateur, “3/4 of the restaurants get their supplies from the big suppliers in Alsace: Metro, Promocash, etc. So everyone has pretty much the same product bases.”
About 5 euros with all charges
But some are less careful about the quality of the latter – “a kilo of smoked bacon can be worth 5 euros or 15 euros” – so that, according to Stéphane again, the cost of production of a classic tarte flambée varies between €1.5 and €2.5 on average.
If we now add all the other costs (staff costs, service costs, restaurant charges, etc.), the cost price of a traditional tarte flambée is around €5, estimates Stéphane again. Sells him his classic pie for 7 euros, so he gets about 2 euro profit on each of its sales.
“Don’t take people for fools”
But the restaurateur points out that each case is different, as it depends on the location of the restaurant, the products used, the number of covers served daily, the salaries of the staff, etc.
That being said, when Stéphane sees a classic pie offered at €9.8, he can’t help but think that “it’s way too expensive”.
You have the same problem with pizzas: today, you can hardly find a single pizza under 10 euros… Those who open align themselves with the prices charged. Admittedly, we had price increases but we shouldn’t take people for idiots either. Beyond 7 euros, do not abuse.
“It’s not the goose that lays the golden egg either”, tempers Stéphane who, if he had a little less scruples, “could[t] multiply [sa] margin by two without problem”.
A higher margin with special pies
In general, it is not even with the classic pie that restaurateurs make the biggest profit margin.
No, according to Stéphane, “where we get the most margin is on the specials”.
“Take a tarte flambée with munster cheese. Let’s say you put 30-40 grams of munster on it. If you sell it for €1.5 more, even if your munster costs you €10.5 per kilo, you are still profitable”, he illustrates.
For Stéphane, it suffices to add the magic words “comté”, “hoops of walnuts” or “salmon” to inflate the prices.
He assures him to make the same margin with the specials as with the traditional ones: 2 euros. “Where we make our biggest margin is with the vegetarian, because what costs me the most are the bacon bits,” he admits. Amount of profit here? €3.
“One day, customers will no longer be ready to pay that price”
Special pies at 13-15 euros? “If I place myself from the customer’s point of view, I never pay that price,” says Stéphane.
“One day, customers will no longer be ready to pay this price and some will cry,” he predicts. “It’s like what happens with restaurant staff: there has been so much abuse that now no one wants to work there.”
*Name has been changed.
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