On the back of a very good summer season, the group expects to do better than the record set in 2007/2008.
After having officially announced his replacement by Stéphane Valéri as president of the Société des Bains de Mer, Jean-Luc Biamonti spoke to the press on Friday 23 September, at the end of the annual shareholders’ meeting. With a big smile, the SBM Chairman and CEO said he was delighted, and should leave his post with a sense of accomplishment.
And with good reason. SBM is doing better than ever, with the 2021-2022 financial year producing a 57% increase in turnover and an operating profit of 35.4 million. This improvement applies to all of the group’s sectors of activity, largely thanks to French customers, just ahead of those from the Middle East and the United States.
The clientele is also younger. In 2019/2020, 44% of customers were under 50, today that figure is 53%. The Société des Bains de Mer is delighted, its modernisation policy is bearing fruit, especially as it represents an investment of 5 million euros per year.
Seasonal workers, a fly in the ointment
As is true for all stakeholders in the hotel and restaurant industry, the challenge for the company is to attract seasonal workers, who have been sorely lacking since the Covid-19 crisis. “These are tough jobs, where you have to be prepared to work at night and at weekends,” Jean-Luc Biamonti concedes. As a result, the group’s restaurants were unable to operate at full capacity this summer, despite a high number of customers. The best example is Em Sherif which, instead of being open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, was only open from 5pm to 11pm, five days a week.
These are tough jobs, where you have to be prepared to work at night and at weekends
The group is therefore looking at solutions for next summer in order to boost its appeal. One way is to improve the quality and quantity of accommodation for seasonal staff. Wherever possible, SBM also tries to retain the best seasonal workers by offering them a job for the winter. “Take a seasonal worker who has done a fabulous job. If we let them go, we can’t be sure that we will be able to get them back the following year,”, says Jean-Luc Biamonti, who has broached the idea of owning a hotel in a ski resort like Courchevel, where seasonal workers could go in winter.
In the meantime, the group has already started to adapt to the “fierce competition”. In future, seasonal workers’ spouses may also be accommodated in an apartment in Monaco, like the workers themselves. Salaries, on the other hand, are not due to rise. “They have been massively increased in France, but unlike in France, SBM staff’s salaries are indexed to inflation,” the press conference was told, while stressing the different bonuses that industry professionals have received.
A string of openings next summer
When asked about progress on the Café de Paris, Jean-Luc Biamonti admits that “it is not easy to carry out work of this magnitude at the present time”. And despite a slight budget overrun due to increased prices for building materials, the 9 or 10 shops will be completed on time, i.e. by the end of June or beginning of July 2023.
It is not easy to carry out work of this magnitude at the present time
In terms of energy savings, “we are fairly well ahead”, says Jean-Luc Biamonti, who nevertheless recognises that “we will have to do more”. Lower temperatures in winter and less air conditioning in summer… SBM promises to make every effort even though it is easier to apply these restrictions in the home. In the SBM’s establishments, “customers come looking for well-being”, he reminds us.
Moods should reopen at the same time as the Café de Paris. The CEO also mentioned a “Beach Project” for the summer of 2023, whose name has yet to be decided. A festive restaurant should open in place of the former Larvotto hairdresser, with the group planning to invest 3 million euros.
In the Monaco Info studio at the end of the day, Jean-Luc Biamonti looked back on his work over 10 years with a certain sense of pride. “We have turned around a company that was heading off the rails”, he said, frankly, before an optimistic conclusion: “I believe that SBM has a very bright future ahead”. He should therefore (barring unforeseen circumstances) hand over a Société des Bains de Mer in good shape to Stéphane Valéri.