“It was important to find a unique location for our first outlet in French-speaking Switzerland.”

“It was important to find a unique location for our first outlet in French-speaking Switzerland.”
10 December 2018, Alexis Leuthold. in conversation with Daniel Frei.

“It was important to find a unique location for our first outlet in French-speaking Switzerland.”

Since the beginning of December, two years after the start of its transformation, the west wing of the passenger building at Lausanne station has been open to users, with the former Buffet de la Gare restaurant now taken over by the tibits vegetarian restaurant brand.

I took this opportunity to talk to Daniel Frei, CEO and co-founder of tibits about his gastronomy concept. 

How do you feel about opening the first tibits restaurant in French-speaking Switzerland?

I’m excited to be opening a restaurant here. It’s been three years since the Buffet de la Gare at Lausanne station closed and three years since we started working on the tibits project there.

People have been calling for a tibits in French-speaking Switzerland for a long time now. It took us some time to find the right location and a lot of effort went into deciding on the right way to set ourselves up in this magnificent building. We’re all really pleased to finally see this project become a reality.

You already have outlets at stations in German-speaking Switzerland. Did you feel it was important for your first eatery in the French-speaking part of the country to be located in a station too?

As far as we were concerned, the important thing was not necessarily to be in a station but to find a special location – a unique building. Besides, stations are ideal because they are places where people meet, places that are buzzing all day long. That’s what we like about them. We are also keen to be involved in improving the overall station experience, as we have managed to do in Lucerne. So we’ll be offering a range of 40 dishes in our buffet, all of which will be freshly cooked, and we can only do this if the restaurant attracts a high number of customers every day.

The public are often sceptical when you announce you are going to open a new outlet somewhere, but later on it proves a great success. How do you explain this?

I don’t feel we’ve received negative feedback in general. The Buffet de la Gare in Lausanne is a place that is steeped in tradition. This tradition is also associated with meat, so we can understand why our decision may have met with some criticism. Of course we hope that we will be able to win over even the most sceptical of customers with our delicious food and our welcoming atmosphere.

Do you adapt your concepts to the regions where you set up your restaurants? And if so, how are you doing this in Lausanne, for example?

Each tibits restaurant is different but you will always find our “food boat” along with our bar and our children’s corner. We do adapt to the places and buildings where our outlets are located. We put down roots in the local area and cultivate good relations with our neighbours, and we do everything we can to make a positive impact on our environment. We also liaise with local suppliers. In Lausanne, we will be working with local vegetable growers and The Goodlife Coffee Company – a coffee roaster based in Moudon – while our bakery products come from La Branche – an organisation in the village of Mollie-Margot. We also offer various wines from the Lavaux region and have links with local breweries. Our tempeh is sourced from a small business in Champvent. What’s more, we would like to carry on the local culinary traditions, which is why we have developed a tibits recipe for the hotpot known as “Papet Vaudois” and our own “Malakoff” fried-cheese balls and will also be offering a Vaud-style cream tart and even traditional grape jam tartlets.

Do you have any future projects in the pipeline in Switzerland in general, in French-speaking Switzerland or in stations in particular?

We currently have two projects under way that have something to do with stations. One of them is the expansion of our restaurant at Bern station to cover two floors, while the other involves opening a restaurant on Meret Oppenheim Platz next to Basel station in 2019.

That’s a lot to be getting on with and, after venturing into French-speaking Switzerland, we don’t want to rush things. For the time being we’ll be focusing on opening our restaurant in Lausanne and filling our guests here with enthusiasm!

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Daniel Frei.
Daniel Frei.
Daniel Frei, an economics graduate from the University of St. Gallen, was born in the Spanish city of Barcelona on 19 May 1969 and grew up in Rheineck in the canton of St. Gallen, where he attended Heerbrugg Cantonal School. He then went on to university, completing a Master’s degree in business administration in 1996. Together with his brothers Reto and Christian, he entered the venture.ch business plan competition in 1998 and won two prizes for his work. Daniel later teamed up with gastronome Rolf Hilti and together they put their idea into practice and set up the start-up “tibits” in Zurich, which now boasts 450 employees and nine restaurants across Switzerland along with two in London and now the first one in French-speaking Switzerland in Lausanne.

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Alexis Leuthold.
Alexis Leuthold.
Alexis Leuthold has been Head of Property Management and a member of the Management Board of SBB Real Estate since September 2018. He received a doctorate in law and an Executive MBA from the University of St. Gallen and has held various positions at SBB Real Estate and in Legal and Compliance since 2006. Alexis Leuthold blogs about various topics and trends from the real estate industry with a focus on the retail and rental business as well as the station of the future.
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