Marie-Pierre Soury
How did the La Croissanterie story start ?
Marie-Pierre Soury: In 1977, Jean-Luc Bret, who came from the industrial baking sector, opened his first shop close to the Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris, using a new concept of selling hot pastries that are freshly baked throughout the day. Until then, pastries were a sideline for bakers, which they only baked in the morning. The shop was successful and he quickly opened a second, but it was the third outlet in the Forum des Halles that really launched the brand. That outlet offered a wider selection of savoury products such as sandwiches and salads and, combined with the footfall from metro passengers, this created a big success. Fresh products all day long, a broad product range and locations in high-footfall areas: three key aspects of our business were already established. The network then grew rapidly with the shopping-centre boom in the 1970s and 1980s.
Since 2012, the number of shops has doubled. Why have you stepped up your expansion again ?
M-P. S. : We have expanded massively in travel areas (train stations, motorway service stations and airports), which now make up more than 60% of our outlets whereas we only had five shops in travel areas in 2006. Our French-style fast food model is particularly well suited to that market. Consumers on the move wanted "fresh" fast food at all times of the day, from breakfast to lunch to tea-time. To address that market, we adjusted our business model for establishing new locations, adopting a franchise approach whereas our network previously consisted mostly of our own branches. We did that simply because travel areas are generally managed by a single operator that holds the concession for all food-service operations.
You have also decided to expand internationally ?
M-P. S. : We now have more than 75 outlets outside of mainland France. We started with French overseas territories five years ago, then French-speaking Africa two years ago. We are working with a solid partner who knows the African market well, and we are now operating in around 10 countries. That also helps us diversify country risk, which is a real issue in Africa. Unlike Europe, where the market is very mature, Africa is still virgin territory and growing very quickly. There is considerable potential.
Do you adjust your product range abroad?
M-P. S.  Marginally, Of course, we offer spicier products. We offer more products containing veal and turkey than pork, but the offering is very similar to what you will find in Paris. That's what our customers want: they are very keen on French-style food, provided it remains affordable.
What are your other areas of development?
M-P. S. : We are continuing to develop services to make things easier for our customers, with a big focus on digital services (WiFi, Click&Collect and a mobile app), and we are looking at setting up a delivery service. In terms of the network, we are continuing to expand at a rate of around 30 new shops per year, aiming for 400 outlets by 2020. This year, we will open our first restaurant inside a hospital : this is a very promising segment where there is big demand for a high-quality offering.
What is your relationship with Crédit Mutuel Equity?
M-P. S. : Crédit Mutuel Equity bought into La Croissanterie in 2017 when we carried out our third LBO. Our contacts there strike the right balance between understanding our business, being good listeners and respecting the group's management. We can also count on Crédit Mutuel Equity if acquisition opportunities come along.
  • 120M
    in brand revenue
  • 10%
    of revenue outside France
  • 300