At the “Café Joyeux” in Paris, only disabled people are served

From the outside, the logo, a cheerful, round head in yellow, smiles at the guest. Upon entering, you will be greeted with a hearty “Bienvenue au Café Joyeux”, “Welcome to the Fun Cafe”. The small fast food restaurant is located in one of the central business and banking districts near the Paris Opera. It’s rush hour there around the clock: Mathilde takes the order at the checkout, speaks slowly and very softly, and carefully types what she wants in the checkout. A pleasant contrast to the busy outside world. Mathilde takes some time to smile happily at the visitor from under her service hat, even a little shyly. A young woman has Down’s syndrome.

The café in the Parisian opera district is one of seven “Cafés Joyeux” in France, and more are planned. They are all located in central, well-visited spots in the middle of downtown. President Emmanuel Macron even came to inaugurate Café Joyeux on the Champs Elysees. The Joyeux coffee shop opened in Lisbon in November and the first branch in Brussels will appear in June. Cafes Joyeux employees are people like Mathilde: people with autism, people with trisomy 21, people with mild intellectual disabilities. In order to serve the meals correctly, the operators of the Joyeux café have come up with an ingenious trick: each customer – here called the guest – receives a Lego brick in a certain color and size when placing an order. The same Lego brick is on the tray on which the order is prepared. In this way, the operator can easily find the right customer and the duty manager can easily track the still open orders.

Behind the idea is a Catholic entrepreneur

The idea came from the French entrepreneur Yann Bucaille-Lanrezac. The practicing Catholic made a fortune from his family business, Emeraude, before devoting himself to full-time community service with his wife in 2010. The couple moved with their four children to the North Breton coast and founded the ‘Emeraude Solidaire’ foundation there to support projects for disadvantaged people. Among other things, it offers sailing cruises for the elderly, the homeless, prostitutes and the disabled. On one such trip, Theo, a young man with autism, asks him for a job. After this meeting, Yann Bucaille decided to start a social enterprise that would give jobs to people with disabilities. In 2017, he opened his first Joyeux coffee shop in Rennes, Brittany’s largest city. In 2020, he was awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor, awarded by the former Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Nicolas Hulot.

The attempt to cause a scandal has failed

In 2020, a journalist for Basta! Magazine tried to initiate a polemic about the “reactionary Catholic galaxy” to which Yann Bucaille belongs. In it, she showed that his foundation “Emeraude Solidaire” is linked to projects and people who oppose abortion, gay “marriage” and surrogacy. Yann Bucaille explicitly rejected her accusation that the use of “Emeraude Solidaire” for people with disabilities was ideologically abused. The attempt to scandalize Cafés Joyeux was unsuccessful; the institutions still enjoy the sympathetic interest of local and national media – the concept impresses with its pragmatism.

In March 2022, Yann Bucaille was awarded the Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 by the Boston Consulting Group. He convinced the jury with the criteria of innovation, social and environmental impact and economic profitability of the structure. According to Yanna Bucaille, eight coffee shops currently generate sales of five million euros. In addition to revenues from the café, the company finances itself by selling its own brand of coffee with fair trade coffee, which is processed in France. “I only buy coffee for home there now,” explains Augustin, a regular. The “Emeraude Solidarité” foundation primarily provides financing for start-ups for new cafes. Any surplus is used to open new cafes and train employees. In fact, in the recently established in-house restaurant management school, employees can obtain a recognized restaurant management qualification, enabling them to find work elsewhere. Currently, there are 83 disabled employees at Cafés Joyeux, supervised by 35 managers and catering specialists.

Shared flat is possible

According to the government’s Autism Plan 2018, there are approximately 700,000 people with autism and 65,000 people with Down’s syndrome in France. Unemployment among them is three times higher than in the average population. Only 0.5% of employees are employed in the labor market. people with intellectual disabilities. “Many of them are absolutely capable of working in normal companies and want to,” says Camille Lorthiois in an interview with Tagespost. A young woman opened Café Joyeux in the Paris Opera District in 2018. For her, the company’s goal is to promote cooperation with extraordinary people. “Unique because they are not like most people, but also because they have great personalities.” The recipients are not only people with disabilities: “In today’s world we are afraid of differences, others, the unknown. Café Joyeux shows that living together is possible! ” Places are there to build bridges and enable fruitful meetings. “Especially in the Parisian financial world, with its race for success and results, Joyeux shows that weakness is part of our world and gives it great value,” says Lorthiois confidently. Camille Lorthiois also explains the huge success of the Joyeux café with the theme of the café: “beautiful, real, good”. In fact, the cafes are designed with great care, in yellow and gray colors, with loving detail at every corner and end. The daily changing menu features fresh, local, organic produce, prepared on site.

Solving social and environmental problems

The French-style social and solidarity economy aims to solve social and environmental problems that affect society as a whole. This applies not only to classic providers of social services, but also to companies from various sectors of the economy that take their social responsibility into account in a special way. One such social enterprise supports Cafés Joyeux, which employs people far from the labor market. The supporting company has the status of “Entreprise Solidaire d’Utilité Sociale (ESUS)” (company solidarity with social benefits), which has been guaranteed since 2014. This status allows, inter alia, access to subsidies from public funds and tax reliefs. In addition to focusing on welfare benefits, ESUS must have a democratic and participatory corporate governance and reinvest most of its profits in the company. The individual earnings of the management of the company are excluded.

According to the Secretary of State for Social, Solidarity and Responsible Economy, which is part of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the social and solidarity economy in France accounts for 10% of gross domestic product. 14 percent employees work in the structure of the social and solidarity economy. Often it is people who look for a special meaning in their work. For Camille Lorthiois too, the social and solidarity aspects were decisive: “Of course you can find meaning everywhere. But I would never apply for this position if it were a casual cafe. The decisive factor for me was the idea of ​​giving jobs to those who often cannot find a job anywhere else. What convinced me of Café Joyeux is that the company is both outgoing and professional. “

The printed version of Tagespost supplements the current news on die-tagespost.de with basic information and analyzes.

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