Edouard de Broglie is a French entrepreneur specialized in innovation and corporate social responsibility (CSR). A teacher, lecturer, researcher and author of several specialized works, he is the founder of the Ethik Investment Group (2003) and the Dans le Noir? Restaurant (2004).
This international chain of restaurants has presence in Paris, Nice, Nantes, St. Petersburg, London, Barcelona, Auckland NZ, Melbourne, Marrakesh, Madrid…
Dans Le Noir? offers its visitors a unique sensory and human experience, because the clients must dinner in complete darkness, guided by blind servers.
I had the pleasure to meet him some years ago and go to his restaurant in Barcelone.
Today I want to introduce to all the Red Ivory visitors his beautiful idea to do a social company that creates a better world.
Which was the reason to create a social company as Ethik Investment Group?
I don’t consider it really as social business. But as a company that put social innovation in the heart of its business. All companies are social enterprise. Big car makers create thousands of jobs and incomes to such numbers of families. They have a strong social imput. We, of course, fight for a more inclusive society and a more responsible economy but because we are citizens of our time and our customers understand and appreciate this. Innovation is not just technology. Social innovation is a huge sector to develop. At the end of the day I don’t know a better attitude in life than making profit being useful for people! We live only once! I’m just happy with what I do.
Fruit of your idea of creating this business, Dans Le Noir ? Restaurant was born.
It is a truly unique concept, since the experience of dining in the dark gets rid of the sense of sight that is perhaps one of the ones that gives us the most pleasure.
That is the point. We don’t want people to eat in the dark everyday or even often … It may be a one life time experience. But so interesting. Everybody should do it once. It’s a unique sensory experience due to our famous surprise menus. It’s an experience to socialize as darkness help to kill shyness and preconception sight may build in our head, communication become more authentic and easy. It’s also a close encounter with difference and disability. We reverse everything the time of a dinner. We become the blind, they become our eyes. As I say often, better an experience than a long speech. Strong impact! On the all a great team building experience and a deep personal self-questioning.
Dans Le Noir? Restaurant is now present in different cities and countries: Paris, Nice, Nantes, Bordeaux, London, St. Petersburg, Marrakech, Auckland, Melbourne, Barcelona and Madrid. How do the different people who go to dinner in the dark react?
Dans le Noir ? is a very cultural project. You need to find a public that has a social and a gastronomical culture. We closed for example in NYC after 2 years of operation partly because in general the population has no interest in social innovation (mostly lawyers and traders) and a very poor gastronomical culture. It’s not the case in a city like St Petersburg for example. Dans le Noir ? is 3rd/10.000 restaurants on Trip Advisor.
The majority of the waiters are blind. I know that you needed to connect with the blind Association. How was this experience?
All of our guides are blind or visually impaired. We connect with blind organizations to identify the best profiles as they know their “clients”. Not all blind people can do this job. It’s hospitality business and we are a company, not a charity. the selection includes mobility test and interviews to be sure the applicants are motivated and have good contact with people.
And the menus that Dans Le Noir? Restaurant offers include also vegetarian and organic products?
As we have surprise menus, we need to manage all kind of allergies. We of course have a vegetarian option (vegan menu).
We have a very advanced policy in term of organic ingredients. In our main restaurants 80% of the food is Organic. Fish comes from sustainable resources and we try to have a good traceability for meet. We even invested in Paris with other retailers in a giant farm 20km from the city to produce our own organic fruits and vegetable and we recycle our organic waste, building a model of circular economy.
Your kind of business and company has created value. Must now all the companies add the value to themselves and their projects?
I think social innovation but also business areuseful for the people, the nature, the planet offers a great field of entrepreneurship. It will be a driver for innovation in a world where customers will have new expectations. But that’s a long story. I need to find some time to write a new book on the subject.
What are the future plans of your company ?
So Many ! We just opened a new concept in London called “The Taste of Silence” (www.tasteofsilence.com ) where people make their first steps in BSL (British Sign Language) in a very convivial environment.
We’ll be soon in Cairo 800m awayfrom the pyramids in Giza. Patrons will be able there to eat the food of the Pharaoh’s time. We made deep research with archaeologist at the national museum of Cairo. We opened very interesting workshops in Paris to better understand perfume. They are driven by a visually impaired lady having a Master of perfume at the ISIPCA (the best perfume school in Europe). Also our Blind Sommelier Fabio in London organizes every Tuesday a fascinating wine blind tasting.
Finally we’ll launch in December a new activity at Dans le Noir ? We worked with the best game designer to offer an “Escape Game” Dans le Noir? People will have to use their senses supported by a blind game master to fulfil their mission.
We created in Paris with a Radio Station, a concept of radio interview in the dark for personality, one hour in a pitch dark studio. It goes weekly for a year now and we make an average of 80.000 podcast downloaded in addition to the regular auditors in the Paris area.
Lot of fun and exciting development.
Have you thought about changing the world through politics?
I did … but I escaped … quickly. I need my freedom of speech and my ability to transform what I think in action. I would more consider more exciting to be a researcher … or maybe an adventurer. It’s for me more interesting to inspire with concrete projects than to run for politics.