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Chef Laura: RIM Café Rene’s recipe for success


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Winter is the perfect time for cocoa.  The chilly Colorado nights and palpable holiday cheer make the hot chocolate taste extra yummy.  When I make it at home for the kiddos, it’s a pretty standard set up.  If we crave a treat, I might plop a few marshmallows into the Swiss Miss.

But there’s a place in South Philadelphia who takes hot chocolate from neutral to noteworthy.  RIM Café, housed in a quiet corner of the Italian Market, is just a stone’s throw from the famed cheese steak rivals: Pat’s and Geno’s.  If you didn’t know what treasures lie inside, you could easily walk by, missing a life-enhancing experience.

The hot chocolate is so scrumptious that explaining it with mere words would be disrespectful – so I won’t.  Sweet tooth aside, what keeps me returning to the RIM Café is the owner René.

René doesn’t just own RIM Café, he is RIM Café.  With a thick French accent, he invites you to pull up a stool to his counter.  Part mad scientist, part Marlon Brando, René uses an oversized lazy Susan as his work surface.  The spinning disc mesmerizes customers as he provides endless samples of his decadent and unusual creations.

René defines passion.  His motto is “Make it Happen!” and he applies that joie de vivre to everything he does.  A couple weeks ago, I wrote about making it happen.  René’s version is not about a sense of urgency but about making the customer happy.  

After you place your order, he devilishly laughs “I’m gonna make it happen for you!”   Spinning his turntable like Herbie Hancock, Rene gets ready to Rockit

He’s passionate about all aspects of his business – products, innovation, décor, and most importantly…his customers.  René is a whiz at social media, too.  He leverages Facebook in a way that makes you truly feel like his “friend”. 

René is also one of the worst salespeople I’ve ever encountered.  Collecting your money for services rendered is an afterthought.  Instead of Always Be Closing, René subscribes to Always Be Chatting…and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Over spoonfuls of soft ganache and sips of chocolate volcanoes, René will talk to you about, well, everything.  No topic is off limits: politics, business, travel, sex, music, religion.  I could listen to this man for hours, not because I agree with all his opinions, but because of his enthusiastic delivery.

I don’t think René hired a team of marketing consultants to learn how to run a successful business.  Besides, they’d probably advise him to: hurry up, stop swearing, and “No more kissing your customers!” 

Marketing consultants would certainly teach René the importance of the 4 P’s:

  1. Price
  2. Product
  3. Promotion
  4. Place

Knowing this slightly opinionated Frenchman, he would teach them the two they forgot:

  1. People
  2. Passion

It’s his love for his customers and his craft that make René a happy and successful business owner. As he’s “making it happen” for his patrons, he’s also “making it happen” for his bottom line.

If you’re ever in Philly, head to RIM Café.  Grab a stool to watch a master chocolatier and passionate businessman spin his magic right before your eyes.

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Laura Cook Newman

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at www.ThreeHotsAndaCot.net

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