The Maison Kayser French bakery chain opened its 11th New York site on March 15 in the Manhattan’s Midtown neighborhood. Needless to say, the company is continuing to convert Americans to the art of good bread, and is now working on new openings in Miami and Los Angeles.
It is midday in New York, and customers are bustling into the new Maison Kayser bakery on the corner of 6th Avenue and 56th Street. One orders a raspberry tartlet while another chooses a ham sandwich. Behind the counter, a young employee dressed in a striped sweater and suspenders introduces the curious onlookers to the bakery’s latest product: the “chaud saucisse”, a Lyonnais version of the U.S. hotdog. Expect a sausage served in a baguette, slathered with Mornay sauce — a béchamel sauce made using eggs and cheese —sprinkled with grated gruyere and grilled in the oven.
Midtown is made up of a collection of office blocks south of Central Park, and offers a strategic position for the French brand. “We want to win over a new clientele,” says Awa Tall, manager of three Kayser bakeries in New York. “We’re looking for businesspeople who don’t have much time for lunch.” In an effort to satisfy fast-paced foodies, the company has developed several hot dishes to take away, including the “chaud saucisse,” a ham and cheese croissant, a croque monsieur and a selection of quiches. A number of sesame, poppy seed and spelt breads — the “fancy breads” so adored by the American public — have also made an appearance in the bakeries, but baguettes and croissants are still the flagship products. Each site sells an average of 400 baguettes and 250 croissants per day. “The new bakery will generate its income from Monday to Friday,” says Awa Tall. “Unlike our site on Bleecker Street in the West Village, a more family neighborhood, which is busiest at the weekend.”
The authenticity of a French bakery in New York
Customers in the Kayser bakery get a front-row seat, watching a young man in a white apron prepare a new batch of baguettes. The breads and viennoiseries are made on-site, but the pastries are delivered every morning. “We want our customers to enjoy the same quality and authenticity of a traditional French bakery,” says Louis-Jean Egasse, CEO of Maison Kayser in the United States. However, the cookies and brownies in the window betray an American influence. Louis-Jean Egasse explains, saying that “When you establish a company in a new country, you have to make compromises.”
Maison Kayser is set to open three other bakeries in New York before the end of the year — including one on the corner of 51th Street and Lexington Avenue, planned for this summer. The French brand then hopes to move beyond the north-east and expand its presence across the country. Two new bakeries are being developed for Miami and Los Angeles, both of which are home to a large French population. “The Americans are easy to convince because they’re so curious,” says the Maison Kayser CEO, confident about the future of his business. “If it’s good, they’ll keep coming back!”