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Posted: January 02, 2014

Chef Laura: RIM Café Rene’s recipe for success

One man's flair for people and passion

Laura Cook Newman

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.

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

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Readers Respond

Let's go By Ta Tee on 2014 01 09
thank you again for your great article, i'll be here waiting for you Chef Laura to make you very special Drink & bring you more memories Merci beaucoup & Bonna Année By René Kobeitri on 2014 01 08
I'll be in Philly in a couple of weeks and will make my usual pilgrimage to RIM Cafe. Rene, you've been warned. (And please save me a front row seat.) Merci beaucoup! By Chef Laura on 2014 01 08
We love making it happen at Rim Cafe! Not only is Rene is a master chocolate maker, but he is also quite the DJ, bongo player, and photographer. The decor at Rim Cafe is unlike anywhere else in the city, looking as though Paris and Valentines Day exploded all over a chocolate shop. Definitely a must see place in Philly! By Rachel and Ben on 2014 01 05
Thank you, Chef Laura, for this beautiful article. You have captured the magic of what is RIM Cafe. It is an amazing experience and I am blessed to be a part of it. By Belle on 2014 01 03
I've been to the Rim Cafe many times and Rene is a good friend to the local filmmakers in Philly. Its a great little shop and I highly suggest it to anyone traveling to the city. Make it Happen! By Steve Felt on 2014 01 02
I'm not sure it could have been said much better, regarding Rene's secrets to success. I don't know of many places that so many people of different ages, can agree on. Everyone is attracted to energy and excitement. This place seems to mold around any night, chilling with friends, birthdays, and girls night out. Rene has the energy that makes it an experience to get your drink, enjoy watching people seeing their drinks being made for the first time, and tasting the amazing creations. Belle only adds to this amazement, with the artistry of her ideas and own creations, with a quiet and not so quiet { smile } friendliness that draws you in. If you're in Philly, a stop here should not be passed up. Soak up the mixed, wonderful chaos of Rim's decor and energy, to leave with a smile on your face, a nice memory, and even a few pictures on Facebook. smile By Gloria A Medina on 2014 01 02
Good article. Wish I knew about this before our last trip to Philly. Definitely next time! By Pater Familias on 2014 01 02
Like what you said! By Doug Miller on 2014 01 02
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