French connection | Dotan Shalev talks Paris bars during Beijing visit

By Jim Boyce | Dotan Shalev of Paris venues Little Red Door, Lulu White and Bonhomie spoke at Lido bar Mimi e Coco yesterday about his trade experience in the City of Lights.

Shalev focused on taking a holistic view and the art of “crafting an A-to-Z experience.”

He gave Disneyland as an example of such all-encompassing crafting and cited legendary PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in New York as helping to inspire a similar mission in the cocktail world.

Little Red Door, a regular on the world’s best bars lists, opened when Paris was about bouncers in suits, bartenders looking down on customers and customers, in turn, feeling lucky just to be there, said Shalev.

The LRD instead focused on creativity: the aim was for customers to visit, enjoy themselves, and leave inspired and with lots of ideas.

The first breakthrough came with the menu, which, given the bar’s dim lighting, was hard to read.

“One idea is to use images to evoke reactions,” said Shalev. LRD worked with artists who made images inspired by the bar’s cocktails.” Customers had the option of ordering simply through images.

Another strategy is to change customer perceptions from the start. Giving a drink to customers standing in line—he gave the example of eucalyptus cold infusions—kick-starts their experience before they even get in the door.

Shalev said two further goals are being part of the community, such as by promoting the local area, and engaging customers.

For the latter, he gave an example from Bonhomie, where adjoining tables of strangers are given the same drinks and, when tasting them, invariably start talking to each other.

Kudos to Paca Lee for organizing this session—and for some delicious snacks and drinks. If you haven’t been to her new venues in Lido, check them out. Ramo is on the first floor, Mimi e Coco is upstairs, and both offer plenty of outdoor seating (map here). And during March and April, cocktails and wine are rmb35 from 3 PM to 7 PM daily, while 12-inch pizzas are two-for-one on Mondays.


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