While most restaurants buy fresh ingredients and prepare their dishes from scratch, the guilty secret of the restaurant industry is those who buy in pre-prepared dishes from wholesalers and just heat them up.
Now the French government wants diners to know exactly what they’re getting, through the fait maison (made on the premises) label.
France’s minister for trade and small businesses, Olivia Gregoire, announced in an interview wit La Tribune Dimanche, that she was in favour of requiring France’s approximately 175,000 restaurants to explicitly indicate whether items on the menu were prepared on the premises (fait maison) or not.
The ‘fait maison’ label, which was created in 2014, means that the dish was cooked on the spot. It also means that the dish was made with unprocessed ingredients, and that the only processed ingredients are those listed HERE.
Currently, it is voluntary for restaurants to put the label on their dishes, but Gregoire told La Tribune Dimanche that she would like it to become compulsory by 2025.
According to Gregoire’s office, in a separate interview with Le Figaro, making the label a requirement will help to “enhance the status of ‘master restaurateurs’, protect customers, and preserve French gastronomy,” the latter of which gained intangible heritage status with UNESCO in 2010.
Gregoire also told La Tribune Dimanche that the French government was planning to require that France’s consumer and fraud protection agency (Direction Générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des Fraudes, or DGCCRF) to increase checks on misleading use of the label or non-compliance.
Speaking with Le Figaro, Grégoire’s office explained that part of the government’s motivation to mandate usage of the label is to correct the “inequity between restaurateurs who play the game by buying and processing fresh produce and those who buy everything from wholesalers.
“This is especially important amid inflation, when fresh and unprocessed products are much more expensive than processed ones”, the minister’s entourage explained to the French daily.
As for restaurant owners, so far there has been support for the minister’s plan.
The union for hospitality industries (union des métiers et des industries de l’hôtellerie, or Umih) told Le Figaro that they support the measure. A spokesperson for the union commented that it is “important to raise the profile of the traditional restaurant industry, which is of high quality and generates jobs.
“[The industry] is a symbol of the French art of living and is the pride of our country”.
As of 2023, 7,000 French restaurants offered ‘entirely home-made dishes’, meaning those that fit the requirements of the ‘fait maison’ label.
Alain Fontaine, the head of the French Association for Master Restaurateurs, told Franceinfo that making the label compulsory would “reassure customers”, particularly with the Olympic Games coming up in 2024.
“It’s important for tourists and average customers to know what they’re going to eat, and whether it’s homemade”, Fontaine told the French daily.