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What is a Bouchon?

Learn about the history of and how to start a bouchon, as well as what kind of food you can find on the menu at one.

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A bouchon is a specific type of French food restaurant, which heavily focuses on meat dishes. Learn about the history of and how to start a bouchon, as well as what kind of food you can find on the menu at one.

What is a Bouchon?

A Bouchon refers to a type of restaurant primarily found in Lyon, France where traditional Lyonnaise cuisine is served. A bouchon will typically serve a variety of traditional meat dishes, like coq-au-vin, pâté, sausages, and roast pork. In order to be declared a true Bouchon, a restaurant must receive a national certification from the Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons. A traditional Bouchon is generally charming and unassuming in its décor and style.

What is the history of the Bouchon?

Lyon, France is well known for its culinary expertise and many food critics hail it as the center for gastronomy. The city even has the highest concentration of restaurants in France. The bouchon has been a part of Lyon’s history since the 16th century in the city’s silk worker district, where small inns cooked meals for tired, traveling workers. The cooking style was created by a group of female chefs who designed these homemade, filling, and warm meals. The term “bouchon” likely comes from the pride of these chefs who sought to create a nice, relaxing place to eat unique foods.

What is typically on the menu at a bouchon?

Part of the Lyonnaise tradition ingrained in a true bouchon is using and serving as much meat from any given animal as possible. This is why a true bouchon often serves untraditional menu items, such as hooves, brains, or blood sausage. Other menu items often found at a bouchon include tripe soup, bone marrow, chicken liver, donkey snout, or even odd fish types, such as stingray. A popular salad served at a bouchon contains bacon, croutons, a mustardy dressing, and a poached egg.

How do you start a bouchon?

A bouchon would be considered a small restaurant concept with more adventurous eating fare. You may not be able to get a national certification for a true bouchon, but the possibilities are there should you attempt to follow the tradition. Those matters aside, if you want to open a bouchon, your main expense will be sourcing high-quality and unique meats for your menu. 

Since the Lyonnaise cuisine is part of what defines a true bouchon, you will need to serve the traditional cuisine, which may mean studying or enrolling in French culinary classes, if you do not already know how to cook this style of food. Moreover, a bouchon is usually in an unassuming location or setting with a laid-back, friendly atmosphere.

How much does it cost to start a bouchon?

Depending on your location, equipment, and supplies, the average cost to starting a bouchon could be between $175,000 and $700,000. Typically, the average price per square foot is between $100 and $800 with a median cost of $450. 

Since a bouchon is usually a smaller restaurant with unassuming decor, the start-up costs could be on the lower end, and possibly closer to the average of $375,00 for starting a restaurant.

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