Restaurateur hopes to offer cafe favorites as gourmet line

Although Cafe Lautrec closed in May 2007, the restaurant’s former owner Franc Alonso has been working on a plan to bring the distinctive flavor combinations to grocery stores and specialty shops and hopes to find the financial backing for nationwide distribution.

Alonso had been developing the concept before tough economic times forced him to sell the popular La Jolla eatery.

A registered dietician by trade, the dot-com entrepreneur bought the restaurant in 2002 when the Internet industry took a downturn. Located on Girard Street and once sandwiched between I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue, Cafe Lautrec was a Jewel institution for more than 30 years.

“In five years as owner,” Alonso said, “I met basically three generations of people who ate there.”

Special flavors

The menu featured one-of-a-kind recipes.

“If you fell in love with them, there was no place else to get that,” Alonso said.

Cafe Lautrec regulars refused to give up their favorite dishes even after the cafe closed its doors, and Alonso began receiving requests to prepare his entrees and sauces for individuals.

Based on customer demand, Alonso selected a handful of products with which to launch Cafe Lautrec Gourmet Foods. The lineup includes Egg Vinaigrette Dressing, Oil and Vinegar French Dressing, Bleu Cheese Dressing, Tostada Dressing, Chicken Liver Pate, Spicy Carrot Sticks and Dilly Onions. He is also looking at offering the restaurant’s bread pudding and seafood crepes.

In addition to developing a line of gourmet food products, Alonso has been exploring the possibility of offering Cafe Lautrec franchise opportunities. Although he sold the physical restaurant, he retained rights to the Cafe Lautrec brand and menu.

Getting to market

Alonso has spent the past three years bringing his dream closer to becoming reality.

He worked with a laboratory to make his products shelf stable and revised the recipes in order to accommodate the batch volume required to keep up with national distribution.

Networking with industry giants has been another key component of Alonso’s business plan. He has been in discussions with retailers like Albertson’s supermarkets, Costco and Trader Joe’s, as well as brokers that offered access to 30,000 supermarkets based on a taste test of his products.

“I truly, truly believe this is a winning concept,” he said. “This isn’t just a shot in the dark. I have three years of acceptance from some significant players out there.

La Jolla advantage

What gives Cafe Lautrec products an advantage over other food products is its association with La Jolla. The phrase engenders thoughts of the quaint seaside village, picturesque coast and vibrant SoCal cuisine.

“It’s an instant connection with consumers,” Alonso said. “To me, the number one obstacle, and I believe I have leapt over it, is to create name recognition. That’s the icing on the cake in marketing.”

To learn more about Cafe Lautrec products, contact Franc Alonso at (619) 417-0678.