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A four-day week in food service: “It works,” says former chef Florent Laden.

“My servers are salesmen. Today they are happy at work, happy at home and selling more than a tired guy,” the 37-year-old boss and former Top Chef contestant explains to AFP. This year, the Auberge du Vert Mont restaurant received a Michelin star.

At the head of four establishments around Lille, he is hiring 65 people, compared to about 50 after his release, and he plans to recruit 100 people this fall, with about 20 people in the process of recruiting.

In June 2020, convinced by a Danish friend who specializes in happiness at work, he took the plunge by offering his employees a third day of weekly rest for the same salary in addition to the Sunday and Monday days off. This third day is given in turn: if it falls on a Tuesday, the next week is Wednesday, and so on.

“Here, I’m coming out of a four-day weekend,” testifies Paul Nigeon, a 24-year-old chef from Bloompot who paid €1,900 nett for 39 hours a week, who used to know 90 hours a week.

“I heard about it, but I didn’t think that a four-day work week would change my life so much. I have never experienced it in ten years in business, ”the young man testifies.

The chef, who has a bun, a tattooed knife on one arm and a fork on the other, also provides 6.5 weeks of paid vacation per year and will share a share of the profits.

Profitability and legal risks?

Thanks to three days of rest, the employee “rests more”, “crosses out the effects of time spent at home and on the road”, “is more present with his children” and “may save a day in kindergarten”, explains Alain Ralouis, expert at the specialist firm In Extenso .

However, if Laurent Fréchet, one of the leaders of the industry employers’ organization GNI, claims that this organization is a “good solution for improving recruiting”, it still remains marginal.

According to Bernard Boutboul, head of industry consultancy Gira, “only about 2% of France’s 200,000 restaurants” will study it.

“Many establishments tried the four-day week at the beginning of the 21st century and returned,” recalls Mr. Raluy. “After several months of observation, they noticed an impact on complexity, errors, and overall quality of service,” as the work was put together in a shorter time frame.

According to the expert, bosses fear an explosion of “legal risks”: employees can take advantage of this to work on the black market, the evil of the industry, in this extra day.

However, in the hotel industry, this organization is already applied mainly to night work.

In the kitchen, “we can distribute the work over four days with alternating schemes. But the premises remain dependent on the presence of customers, and we will continue to work for five days,” predicts Mr. Raluy.

“We would have been sentenced to death…


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