Founder Patrick Esquerre Returns to La Madeleine as a Special Advisor

Last Friday, La Madeleine hosted a blogger’s breakfast to unveil their new look. Our man on the CEO beat, Glenn Hunter, was there. He files this report:

When it comes to taking advice from women, Patrick Esquerre and Philip Costner of La Madeleine Country French Café are of one mind.

Esquerre, who founded the bakery-café chain in 1982 and recently rejoined it as a “special advisor,” says the café first became a hit because he listened to suggestions from its female clientele, including well-off Dallasites like the late Annette Strauss. They told him to put in fireplaces, for example.

Costner, the café’s COO since July 2008 for new owner Groupe Le Duff, of Montreal, says he’s learned to listen to females as well–specifically, to his 12-year-old daughter. Accompanying Costner to a La Madeleine, the girl asked him, “Dad, what do we do here?” right off the bat, Costner recalled.(The café’s “buffeteria” concept seemed confusing to her.) Then, spotting all the bakery goods and other menu items, she asked, “Dad, what do they sell here?”

Partly as a result of such questions, La Madeleine is undergoing a facelift including new menu boards, kitchen upgrades, and 10 percent more seating space. The most noticeable change: instead of ordering and moving through a line cafeteria-style, patrons now will order at a central point, take a table, and wait for their grub to be delivered. Just like at Pei Wei, say.

The changes are being implemented first at the Preston/Forest location, where Esquerre munched on a croissant the other day and talked about his new position with the company. While he’s been gone from La Madeleine since selling the chain in 1998, the native of France’s Loire Valley said he’s taking on the advisory role because Costner is the first top executive in years to “really understand” the fast-casual eatery he founded.

“I’m going to be in the dishwashing room; I’m going to be with the people. Then you can evaluate the scene,” Esquerre said. “My motto is ‘Listen, Adapt, Surprise.’ I learned that from the women. This is what I call love.”

Costner said annual sales for La Madeleine, which has 60 cafes in Texas, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Louisiana, are between $115 million and $130 million.

12 comments on “Founder Patrick Esquerre Returns to La Madeleine as a Special Advisor

  1. Women generally, have considerably more common sense than men. More business’s should take advantage of a woman’s insight at board meetings and especially, sales meetings.
    Want to make a success of your business? Ask a female employee what she’d advise doing concerning a given situation. And then, listen to her and do what she recommends!

  2. Which century are you living in, Twinwillow? I haven’t read something that sexist since Rush Limbaugh was carrying on about Hillary Clinton years ago.

    If you reverse the genders in your statement, perhaps you will see how utterly offensive your statement truly is. Or perhaps you won’t. I’m not sure that your insight goes past the tip of your nose.

  3. Patrick’s return to La Madeleine appears to be in a Colonel Sander’s role.

  4. Bob: So happy to offend your ignorant, sexist ass. Now, pull your little dick out of it so you can finally see the truth.

  5. I don’t know if women have more common sense, but we do have a different way of looking at things. The car manufacturers know that and design certain cars with women in mind. We make a lot of purchasing decisions so yes, it’s a very good idea (and makes a lot of business sense) to include a woman’s perspective in designing or re-designing anything.

  6. Does anyone else smell a little desparation here? It sounds like they’re copying their competition, i.e. Corner Bakery and Panera.

  7. Patrick Esquerre is a brilliant mind and loves Dallas (heard him say so at Savor, lol). Congratulations to him, Lord knows La Madeleine needs him.

  8. Twinkwillow, if that’s what you meant, then that’s what you should have said. Beda did not prove YOUR point–she made her own point, and she made it persuasively. And she made it without being coarse, vulgar, sarcastic, or offensive.

  9. I wonder if Costner took notice of Patrick’s failed venture after leaving La Madeleine. Perhaps Twinwillow provided some of her insight at that time!