L’Homme Tranquille in Le Mans looks like any other restaurant, but there is a difference: here, not everyone pays the same price.
There are clients solidaires, who can afford to pay full price for a meal, and clients bénéficiaires, who pay €1 for a main or €3 for a three-course meal.
The restaurant reopened in October after being bought by the association L’Esprit de Barbara.
‘Nobody can tell who is who’
The association’s director, Samir Tine, wanted to create a venue where people from all walks of life could mix.
“Nobody can tell who is who,” he said. “The food on the plate is the same for the doctor on the next table.”
He even shared more than one example of beneficiaires and full-price clients who have struck up conversations and ended up keeping in touch.
“The restaurant is near the station, so people staying in hotels on work trips often come here to work, and there are some very entertaining conversations.”
Continuation of work in lockdown
The association was created after France’s first lockdown, when Mr Tine, who worked for Pôle emploi at the time, joined other volunteers in serving meals to the homeless and to other vulnerable people.
After lockdown they wanted to continue, but with a professional chef and waiters.
They were on the lookout for an opportunity for a year and a half before the owners of L’Homme Tranquille said they were looking to retire.
Get used to going to restaurants and mixing
In 2021, the association had launched a café solidaire, where people can go for social and professional support, and where they must go for an assessment before benefiting from the low-cost meals.
“The idea is also that somebody who is not used to going to restaurants can start to reintegrate into society.
“We have our regulars who come every week.”
Any leftover food is donated to charities, which organise maraudes – rounds where they feed people living on the street.
It is also possible to purchase a meal for someone by donating to the association.