Restaurant Au P’tit Mousse Treats Their Customers Like Family
There is a marvel of foodservice efficiency perched in the Acadian Peninsula on New Brunswick’s Northeastern tip.
Lamèque Island’s Restaurant, Au P’tit Mousse, serves 9,000 plus orders a month. In a year, this accounts for a total of 100,000 annual customer servings at the restaurant’s highway location.
Fishing and peat moss industries drive Lameque’s economy with a population of 7,000 residents. Another 600 residents are connected with another bridge to nearby Miscou Island, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
The current Restaurant Au P’tit Mousse Restaurant first launched in the 1970’s as a Decker Boy franchise. Then owners, Médard and Marie-Jeanne Noel, changed the restaurant name in 1984 to Au P’tit Mousse and left the franchise. In 2004, the parents sold their restaurant to today’s co-owners, brother and sister, Patrick and Renee Noel.
In English, Au P’tit Mousse means “Deck Boy.” A deck boy describes a young person working the decks of commercial fishing boats, says Renee.
In 1995, the Noel’s built a larger and more modern restaurant, including a basement level reception room. Their business formula today, is to stay close to what customers like. This approach has created a regional success formula for attracting repeat customers.
Local favorites on the menu are Garlic Fingers, and especially with the young people, a serving of “Poutine.” Poutine is a plate of french-fries covered in cheese with a generous topping of hot gravy.
“They are our most popular sellers every week,” says Renee.
The restaurant’s main floor has 72 seats and customers may order directly from the kitchen. The basement reception room can accommodate up to 90 and is licensed for liquor as a special function area.
“We rent the downstairs room up to 200 times per year. This week, we have 5 events scheduled in this room. It helps pick up our food sales volume.”
“In 1995, despite the results of a local survey saying there was no need for a room rental service, my father built it anyway. My father decided to make this new room in case somebody needed a room to rent for something.”
“And at that point we created a need because we rented out the basement for birthday parties and to families. On a Sunday, about thirty people from Tracadie, 45 minutes from here, rented the basement to eat. We set up a buffet of what we serve upstairs and people like that. They go home after that. We are on an island, and there is nowhere else to go”.
“My mother still does the cooking for the desserts served only downstairs, so most of the desserts are homemade. We do not serve dessert upstairs.”
“Customers order at our counter and wait until we put your number up. You pick up your order then sit down to eat. We do not serve at the table. I have four employees working in the kitchen, but we all do whatever needs to done to serve our customers. Sometimes we all cook, or clean, or do the cash.”
“UNIPCO has everything I need. I just call when I have some problems with different things, and when I call, they help me. I am very good with UNIPCO,” says Renee.
Renee and her brother have two restaurant priorities including:
- Employee salaries and benefits; and,
- Friendly customer service, where customers are like family members.
“I’m focusing on my employees. They are an important part, because they are the ones who are doing the business for me. For example, I have one employee who has been working for us for almost thirty years. What I want for my employees is to be able to finance buying a car, or a house. That is what I’m proud of that I can give them a good salary and that they can have something to show for their work,” says Renee.
“I could not just be sitting in my office and looking at them, working for me and paying them only minimum-wage. That is not the way I see that. So it is important for me to contribute to the society, because they are the ones that are coming in and allowing me to make a living.”
“Giving back is the way that my father and mother did it. They have been working with the community a lot, and it is the same for me,” she says.
“I’m working with the Chamber of Commerce, and I am on a few community committees.”
The Noel’s marketing strategy is to work with all the local sports and festival events. They do no media advertising. The restaurant instead contributes gift certificates to local organizations. It joins local groups to promote events to their community with gift meal contributions, whether for fund-raising, for the local hospital or the hockey rink.
Au P’tit Mousse customers like the restaurant menu a lot. They show it by returning often for their favorite dishes.
“We closed for eighteen days in January to do some repairs in the kitchen. Somebody came in, and I know her because she eats here two or three times a week. So I asked her, had you been somewhere else for the eighteen days? No, she said, she did not eat at any other restaurant. I do not know why exactly, but we provide the quality and customers keep coming back,” says Renee.
“In Lamèque, our customers are like family because they come in the restaurant maybe three times a week. It is a different way to do business than in a big town.”
“The important thing for us is our service to the customer and we serve people the best way that we can.”
“We serve a hundred thousand people a year. That is a lot of people at this end of the world, she says.”