Bouchon & RendezVous
Behind-the-scenes at Asheville’s long-lauded French eatery, Bouchon French Comfort Food, and the newer sister restaurant RendezVous French Comfort Food, restaurateur Michel Baudouin continues to cook up buttery, decadent food from his native land. He’d already pivoted to provide his food to locals via his Haw Creek location after the tourist industry disrupted his customer base downtown; now he’s catering almost exclusively to locals with to-go options at RendezVous.
Q: Tell us a little about your business.
M.B.: I have two locations: Bouchon downtown and RendezVous in the Haw Creek neighborhood in East Asheville. We serve French comfort food.
Q: When did you get started, and why did you open your restaurant?
M.B.:Bouchon opened on North Lexington in October 2005. RendezVous opened in June 2019. The restaurant business is all I know, and there were no French restaurants in town. RendezVous came after I was losing my locals downtown due, according to many, to parking challenges, not taking reservations, and having too long of a wait time for a table. When I opened 15 years ago, all we had were the locals. Many today still support the restaurant, so I thought opening a new location with easier access and taking reservations was the thing to do.
Q: What makes your restaurant unique and successful?
M.B.: We take our work seriously, but not ourselves. My team knows that we are nothing without the customers, so I will say consistency in all departments.
Q: How have you adapted to COVID-19?
M.B.: We had to overnight. Downtown is totally closed, but we offer take-out and deliveries out of RendezVous in Haw Creek, Tuesday through Saturday, taking calls from 2 to 7 pm with deliveries limited to 5 miles. The menu is posted on our website at ashevillebouchon.com.
Q: How do operations look different now compared to before COVID? How have your numbers (sales, employees, etc.) changed?
M.B.: We do 10% at best of the previous revenue. 50 people are now unemployed.
Q: What’s an important lesson you’ve learned in the time of COVID?
M.B.: Not having debt would make it much easier. You quickly realized who is who—team members, providers, suppliers, and customers. I always claimed that we had the best clientele in Asheville; now it’s proven more than ever. The future is uncertain, and right now all you can do is be creative, aware, and communicative while working harder than ever.