The communal table

The communal table

Sometimes innovation is very simple, and yet sophisticated in its implication. Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgium based bakery and coffee shop. It was started by Alain Coumont. He learned about bread when he as a child watched his grandmother bake bread. He is educated as a chef, and when he could not find good bread for his restaurant he decided to start his own bakery. He wanted to bake hearty and wholesome bread with a firm slice and a good crust. Bread is the main product of the bakeries but their is a variety of products in the shops. The Le Pain Quotidien concept which is now spread to more continents, has caught on very well, and customers find the atmosphere in the grandmother inspired outlets joyful and relaxed.

In keeping with his European roots, Coumont has (re)introduced the “communal table” in the middle of his coffee shops. It is a long table as once seen in farmhouses.

Chris Voss and Leonieke Zomerdijk describe the wider impact of the communal table in the following way: “The main feature of the communal table is that it attracts customers who are by themselves and would like to come in and have a coffee, but do not want to sit alone. Joining the communal table avoids customers feeling alone. It also gives the opportunity to chat with other customers, but often the mere fact that customers do not feel or look alone is enough. As a result, the Le Pain Quotidien shops are very successful at attracting off-peak business from customers that shop by themselves.”

And this is what Le Pain Quotidien says about its initative: “Friends and strangers alike come together around our communal table to break bread and linger for a while. Like all of our furniture, the communal table is made from reclaimed wood, which means no trees were sacrificed for us to sit and unwind. Take a seat next to a neighbor, share the Brunette and be reminded that, even in the big city, we are a community.”

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