If you’ve ever been in the western part of France, you may have visited Renne. And if you’re a foodie traveler or coffee lover, you might very well have had coffee at the Joyeux Cafe, a highly rated stop on Trip Advisor. (A second Joyeux Cafe recently opened in central Paris.)
The food and the service are lauded, but there’s something else that makes this cafe special — most of the waitstaff and kitchen staff have some form of cognitive disability, Down syndrome, or autism.
As reported in The Local, “‘Joyeux’ means joyous, and owner Yann Bucaille Lanzerac said he plans to spread the joy to at least four more outlets across France, giving disabled people the chance to show what they can do and earn a living. Foodie and chef Charles has been dreaming for years about cooking in a real restaurant. “I’m really happy,” the 36-year-old with autism told AFP as he prepared gluten-free chickpea stew and osso bucco. “I’ve wanted to cook for a long time, so my dream has come true. I was sick of just being a dishwasher.””
The restaurant owner came up with the concept when trying to think of a business that would employ disabled people. (In France, disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed.) Three managers provide training and guidance for a team of twenty employees and serve a menu that includes vegan and gluten options. Working hours are adapted to the time that each person can comfortably work at their work station. For staff unsure how to use things like the coffee machine, numbers and pictograms are used for labelling to make sure the process is clear.
When an order is taken each customer gets a piece of “Lego Duplo”. When the customer’s order is ready, it is delivered on a tray matching the colour of the lego.
The new Paris restaurant is already bustling at lunch time, and the owner would like to open several more restaurants staffed with people with disabilities. As Yann Bucaille Lanzarec observed, “Personally, I get much more joy being with people who are different than in a world of the survival of the fittest where everyone’s trying to win, to succeed, to be the best.”
You can read more about the original Joyeux Cafe, “Servi avec la Coeur” at this joyfully animated website. And check out this YouTube video put out by Joyeux Cafe here in French.