With Victor Lugger, Tigrane Seydoux co-founded the Big Mamma Group ten years ago around a simple idea: offering good Italian cuisine, simple and accessible, in modern and welcoming trattorias. Today, at the helm of twenty-four restaurants in five countries, the duo does not intend to stop there.
In September, he decided to join forces with a new shareholder, the London fund McWin, which valued his group at 270 million euros. Why this choice?
When we were created, we were supported by businesspeople who believed in our project, big names in French capitalism (in particular Xavier Niel, Editor’s Note). It was great to get started, but the shareholding was very diluted and fragmented. After ten years, we felt it was the right time to reorganize our capital with a unique partner specialized in restoration and internationalization, to continue developing in an even more ambitious way.
In ten years, have you “gentrified”?
Big Mamma’s initial promise was to offer a moment of happiness to our customers with a trip to Italy with very good value for money and experience. We thus created popular trattorias, accessible to everyone, with very good quality products, authentic, simple, entirely home-cooked cuisine, in welcoming locations and with warm, smiling service. Then, over time, opening in different neighborhoods, cities, countries, we slightly evolved our vision and our offer, with a set of restaurants where each address is different, has its own personality and positioning. This allows us to now have a whole range of addresses that go far beyond the popular initial trattoria. Depending on the location, the bill varies from almost a single to triple. Because, in certain locations, we can multiply services and, therefore, with volume, offer lower prices. Or because rents are not the same everywhere. Abroad we also have a more sophisticated positioning than in France, more premium. The average ticket is 30 euros in France, double that abroad. And our ambition is to continue investing in some luxury restaurants and reach tickets that cost around a hundred euros, especially if we develop in the United States as we plan. What doesn’t change is that we continue with the ambition of creating the best restaurants in the city. And we put a lot of energy into it.
Doesn’t this come at the expense of value for money?
No, in each range we want to offer the best quality-price ratio. I want a customer who pays 20 euros to have the impression that it was worth 40. Or to say to themselves that it is worth 80, but only pays 50. It is this perception of quality that we are looking for. However, we are not magicians, all this is possible because we produce in volume and because we work directly with 200 producers in Italy, eliminating all intermediaries, with our own logistics.
Making more and more volume, isn’t it difficult to maintain quality?
No, quite the opposite. Take mozzarella as an example: the first quality criterion is freshness. As we buy more than before, instead of having two deliveries a week, we now have four. And this is true for other products. Growing up helped us with quality.
Where are you in terms of turnover?
We ended 2023 with just over 170 million euros. We did 65 in 2019 before covid. We are in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Monaco, we have five restaurants in England, three in Germany, soon three in Madrid and one in Italy. Several of our restaurants each achieve more than ten million euros in turnover. We also have a delivery activity, under the Napoli Gang brand, which generates the equivalent in revenue of a large restaurant. We are even the leading player in pizza delivery in Paris on platforms such as Uber Eats, ahead of historical players, both in volume and value.
“I want a paying customer
20 euros are worth 40”
After importing Italian cuisine to France, you opened a restaurant in Milan. French people trying Italian cuisine in Italy is a bold bet, right?
This is our twenty-fourth restaurant. Every time we opened a new location, we felt a pit in our stomach. But here it was even more so because it was a great challenge, a little crazy, opening an Italian restaurant in Italy. Obviously we weren’t going to sell Italian authenticity to Italians! On the other hand, we brought our know-how of good Italian cuisine, but with a special touch. For example, we imagine a tasty Italian-style tarte tatin as an appetizer, with three different types of tomatoes that we picked at the foot of Vesuvius. And it works very well. We also offer fresh pasta prepared on site by our chefs, whereas in restaurants Italians are more used to eating dry pasta. Finally, we have a 100% Italian wine list, which paradoxically is not done in Italy because it is more chic to offer French wines. We opened on December 1st and the feedback has been good, even if we won’t declare victory too quickly because catering is a long-distance race! We have 225 seats, more than 700 square meters in area, on two floors with a beautiful mezzanine and five meter high windows. It’s a very beautiful place, in the artistic district of Milan.
One of the main problems in restaurants is staff turnover. How do you deal with it?
HR policy is really essential for us. The average length of service for all our teams is three years. And the average management seniority is four and a half years. We have a strong corporate culture that allows everyone to grow and progress: 87% of management comes from internal promotion. We also closely monitor the satisfaction of our teams: it was 80% last year. This is essential because we cannot have happy customers if our staff are not. This is also why employee ownership, for me, is important because it is a way of sharing.