A Johannesburg entrepreneur has turned dining into a fashionable experience with the launch of his French-themed restaurant in the upmarket suburb of Rosebank.
Louis XVI, which cost R3million to set up, is a reflection of French society and lifestyle, from the food, to the music and décor.
"We wanted it to be relaxed, upmarket and unique through this theme - a restaurant with a personality," said Raphael Benza, co-owner of Louis XVI.
"Also, there are not many French restaurants in the city and none in the Rosebank area where we are situated," he said.
The establishment boasts an authentic French chef, menu and staff of 17, with at least eight of them speaking French.
Behind the business are two active partners - Benza, who is of Liberian descent, Frenchman Stephane Cohen - and three finance partners.
The restaurant's menu is authentically French, with most of the food and wine being imported from France.
Benza is also co-owner of two clubs - Latinova and Moloko - from which his restaurant sources its clientele. This, said Benza, is Louis XVI's competitive advantage.
"By having this restaurant, we aspired to ensure we have a one stop shop for our clients. They eat here, walk to Latinova for a dance and walk to Moloko to party.
"So by having a French-themed meal, dancing in a Latino club (Latinova) and dancing in a club with African, American and European music (Moloko), you would have visited Africa, Europe, South America and North America through three ventures. These ventures are of walking distance to each other, thus adding more value for the clients," he said.
But in this time of high interest rates, high food inflation and several restaurants collapsing, one may wonder why Benza and his partners ventured in this direction. "Our target market is not affected heavily by the constantly rising interest rates. This is LSM 10, the wealthy people," said Benza.
Benza studied in marketing and communications, and information systems in New York, where he also honed his skills by promoting musicians and parties.
He came to South Africa in 2001 to promote a concert and later settled here.
His first business was known as Divine Lounge, a club situated in Rosebank which closed down in 2007 due to the construction of the Gautrain.