In response, the government minister responsible for artisanship, commerce and tourism, Sylvia Pinel, introduced an amendment to a consumer protection law that would allow restaurants that prepare their food on the premises to affix a logo to their menus saying “house-made.” Lawmakers recently toughened the measure, however, making the logo mandatory. The implication was that, at least for connoisseurs, menu items without the logo will be considered factory-produced.
The logo, which is yet to be designed, will allow restaurants to “better inform consumers and promote quality in the restaurant business,” Pinel said in a statement.
With the Socialist government enjoying a comfortable majority, her measure was considered almost certain to pass. That was a disappointment to Fontaine and other on-the-premises advocates, who vowed to continue their battle for full disclosure.
“It is only a first step,” he said.
The trade and hospitality union that groups the largest number of restaurants in France hailed the Pinel amendment but said it did not go far enough. Its president, Roland Heguy, told reporters that his organization would continue lobbying for a designation of “artisan restaurant,” which would be granted when all the dishes are prepared on the premises.
About 20,000 French restaurants qualify for the designation, he estimated, out of about 150,000 establishments that sell food. But a similar designation created in 2007 for chefs who pledge to keep factory-made food down to 40 percent of the total never gained acceptance; only 600 chefs signed up.
In reaching her compromise decision, Pinel was accused of bowing to the lobbying of large restaurant chains — the kind found at highway rest stops — most of which depend on fast-frozen dishes to broaden profit margins and guarantee quick service.
“Today we cannot deny the diversity that exists in our country,” she told a skeptical radio interviewer. “We have to work with everybody in the profession, to find a compromise solution.”
Daniel Fasquelle, a National Assembly member from the conservative opposition, accused the government of trying to “bury” the subject with a fuzzy compromise that he said is likely to change nothing. He vowed to introduce a competing amendment that would bestow the title “restaurant” only on establishments where dishes are prepared on-site.