“I was 20 years old and I had no idea what I was doing,” rewinds Adrien Bricout, today a reference for French culinary art for over a decade. His latest addition is called Frenchy. He sat with us and let us look into his vision to import and introduce this market to high quality wine, oysters and champagne, while creating a unique and truly French customer experience in his multiple locations in Prague. Newly, you can meet him every day at Manifesto Market Andel. With parents coming respectively from Champagne and Burgundy, he was meant to make wine his destiny.
Adrien, every French wine lover in Prague definitely knows you, but can you quickly introduce yourself to our readers?
My name is Adrien Bricout, I arrived in Prague in 2012 and soon opened my first venue, a wine shop called La Cave d'Adrien in Vinohrady. After some time and ups and downs, we stabilized and started to expand by opening a second place in the city center called Ava by Adrien, in a different and very trendy area. Ava is a combination of wine and cocktail bar with a very special offer. My family has helped me a lot. Right now I run the business with my brother and two more investors. I come from a wine family, which is for the fourth generation producing wine in the region of Burgundy. We have a family Château that produces the wine so I find myself as a 100% wine guy. My father was born in Champagne and my mom was born in Burgundy, so that's my DNA.
"My father was born in Champagne and my mom was born in Burgundy, so that's my DNA.", reveals the owner of several French wine bars Adrien Bricout Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
What inspired your decision to choose Prague as a place to live and do business, and specifically a high-end wine business?
I have family members who were living and working here. When I got sick of Paris in 2011 I was looking for an escape from the city (I would better say a literal “escape” because I'm proud and I love my country), because I wasn't happy there. I started looking for a place to fulfill what I call happiness and sadly I couldn't find that feeling in Paris, but I found it in Prague. And it was not because of a woman but because of the city itself. And I truly say I really like Czech people. Even though I heard a lot of criticism before from Italians, French, Spanish guys, saying that Czech is not the gastronomy country, that people are not nice, etc. But I'm sorry if you make an effort to learn the language you understand it much better. Speaking the local language (Czech) enables you to fully discover the beauty of this country and the people. So I just fell in love with the country and found a way to open venues here, borrowed money, and I am really happy where I am. There is no way that I'm going back to France, at least for the next 10 years.
And why am I so sure? Because I have traveled to every single capital of Europe, but Prague is the one that most matched my expectations. Prague is for making money and work and Paris is for joy. That's my vision. For me Prague is la ville à taille humaine - human sized city. It doesn't take you more than 30 mins to cross the city. That's why I don't like Berlin or London, because commuting from one part to another takes so much time. Same with Paris, which I love, but I left. So I love Prague. It takes 20 minutes to get everywhere.
You are the face and owner of three sought-after wine bars. Tell me about your beginnings.
I am 100% owner of La Cave D'Adrien. For Ava by Adrien we are 4 partners there, but I am the main face and investor. The other one is my younger brother Vladimir, but don't worry he is also fully French and can't forget my head of finance Agatha Ferry is the brain of the company. Our recently opened Frenchy is owned by me, Vladimir and Agatha.
So to talk about my beginnings, #$@&%*!... that was hard. I have never pretended to be a sommelier, who just has some courses about wine, and then pretends to be an expert. I grew up in the vineyards so I can do the blind tasting. I have a nose, and for me everything's natural, like recognizing the type of wines… I just know. So with my places, it's not as simple as opening a shop and filling it with wine and doing business. I feel it is more like sharing my culture and family tradition, because I am bringing the most prestigious and family wines.
I am gonna be honest with you, I was losing money for 5 years. 2 of those years were putting everything I had, almost ending up with nothing. I was thinking about what I am gonna eat, where I gonna sleep, what I am gonna do if I lose it. In 2016 I went almost bankrupt. I was struggling with money, because my concept was entirely wrong. My first (and only) wine shop wasn't enough, so we needed to change the concept to a venue to survive. I woke up every day at 5 am with ideas, stopped hiring people, started working by myself harder and I realized that without being 100% in my business, it would not really work. You just need to be with the right people and having the right conversation and the right ideas.
What was the biggest challenge of all the challenges?
My biggest challenge and mistake was thinking that wine shop La Cave d'Adrien would work by itself. But it wasn't enough. When we survived, I realized that I needed to stop hiring people. It was absolutely crucial that I was in the business by myself surrounded by only the right people. And then we have style and smile to welcome new customers. Style is no more about money, everybody can afford to look nice and elegant. I have an image of my company and I care about every single detail a lot. And a smile is very crucial for the sale. If you smile, you can sell double. So long story short, my beginnings started in 2001. I was 20 years old at that time, I had no idea what I was doing. I just wanted to do something, being the black sheep of the family, as the only one who left to study abroad. I decided when I was young to achieve things on my own. Now I am 31 and I can say it's happening.
Every place of yours has a different name, offer and concept. What is your branding strategy? Why didn't you want to keep only one name and brand?
Everything goes with “by Adrien” and everything is in French style with high quality products yet without being overpriced. Right now it's really hard, because the prices are increasing incrementally but I am still keeping my pricing levels. My strategy is to have a French DNA based on having a nice and large wine list, mostly all of them imported by me, my friends and family.
I don't want to have franchises, because Prague is too small for that. Each place is different, because it is in a different part of Prague. Each shop sells different things, but they are all connected by my name and DNA. In Ava by Adrien, you can stop by for nice cocktails or wines having great seafood and oysters. While La Cave d'Adrien is turning into a small club after 10 pm. The decoration and interior are different, but all still very French. Each one of them offers a different “twist” and unique soul. So each of them deserves their own name and logo.
Now, I don't have four different social media managers, just one amazing girl who is doing a fantastic job. Marta started working for me as a waitress seven years ago and during that time we discovered her abilities and now she runs all my social media.
To reveal big news, there will be four places by Adrien soon. I am opening a new place right now next to my first one. It's gonna be more oriented to fine dining and be more exclusive.
How did you come up with the latest name Frenchy?
Actually we found it pretty fast together with my colleague Agatha, we wanted something simple, French, nice and beautiful. So FRENCHY. The rooster in the logo is hand-painted by my French friend Baptiste de Brugière who is a Head Designer of the Škoda company… Fantastic, talented guy.
Andrien and his brother explains: "Everything is 100% made in France, imported directly from farms, fresh non-pasteurized products..." Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
What would you recommend to your new customers to try first?
Two options. Champagne with the freshest French oysters, of course. The second option for meat lovers is a platter of dry charcuterie and full-body red wine. Or just start with a glass of rosé or white wine with a cheese plate. The most iconic French combination would be the smooth white wine with a strong Camembert cheese. Everything is 100% made in France, imported directly from farms, fresh non-pasteurized products. And I insist on that.
Was it difficult to initiate Czech people to the high quality of French wines, Champagne, oysters and cheese? How do you make sure people feel and distinguish the difference?
If I look back at the situation from 10 years ago, it was completely different. People know languages, they travel, discover, they taste authentic products and they decide what they like. And when they come back from being abroad, they are looking for the same quality here in Prague. You just can't fool your customers. The younger generation speaks great English and more and more Czech people have a link to the countryside, with quality farmer products and delicious local wines. So everybody knows what is good and what is not, but still everyone has a different taste and palate. So I just make sure that people come back to us and that is proof that they know the difference.
Let's say you like to go for holidays to Italy. So when you come back to Prague, you'll want to have a nice glass of Prosecco. And you know what you want to get. So back to the question, your only homework is to travel. And then come home and drink and eat and cook what you love.
We also have a wine club of about 70 members, mostly couples. We are meeting once per month and I try to educate and share more knowledge with those 70 most regular clients. Those guys are super nice and curious, we talk, have fun and they are the ones that want to hear your recommendation.
How do you manage your time and is there something like work life balance? Any free time?
Sadly no, not so much. I like to delegate as much as I can, however, I cannot really delegate everything, which is pretty tricky to me. I am working 6 days a week, 10 hours per day fully involved in my business. And these hours are just when there is a low season. During the high season I am working almost 7 days a week, 12 hours. So I have a very small private life.
"Style is no more about money, everybody can afford to look nice and elegant ." adds Adrien. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
On the price-quality balance, have you ever put more weight on the price? And what is your strategy with the price-sensitive customers overall?
No, definitely no. I'm sorry, I'm suffering so much with prices. Sometimes I would like to send my bills to the customers (smiling). Because having loans and dealing with the increasing prices is hard. You don't want to have a bar where people would be freezing, right? My bills have doubled, but my prices have not. I still keep the same prices as before the pandemic, I don't know how much longer I can keep them, but I'm doing the best I can to not increase them. I feel pretty much like a money dancer ????.
You are also connecting the quality of your offer with lovely music, bands, artists… Do you think that this is a way to build and keep customer loyalty?
Maybe yes, yes, why not. What do people like when they go to a bar? To have fun. Live music is a very French thing. It's refreshing. I am inviting talented people, musicians and artists from everywhere. France, Italy, Australia, and I am even connected to loads of incredibly talented Czech musicians. Our database is huge, and I am really happy that more performers are coming to us. We booked the best of them for the year ahead and hired them like resident musicians.
How do you use social media to support your business? Which channel is doing the best job to bring people in?
We use Instagram a lot. We do live streams and daily instastories. For each venue, we have a different account, to connect with our fans every single day to show them French vibes and our novelties. Sharing the atmosphere of the moment is also very important.
For the champagne and wine lovers, Frenchy is the place, where you can broaden your palate. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.
What was the main reason why you joined Manifesto in Prague, after running your standalone concepts?
Because I was a regular customer at Manifesto Florenc, also a guest of Manifesto Smíchov, so as soon as I had an opportunity I didn't hesitate, I just jumped in. I love the concept, the design, and being a part of it is just so great!
What are your plans for the future in 5 years from now?
My dream is to have 10 places in Prague, 1 in Paris and more free time.
"My strategy is to have a French DNA based on having a nice and large wine list, mostly all of them imported by me, my friends and family...", says Adrien, the CEO of Frenchy. Photo: Vaclav Miskovsky.