Italian restaurateur Arrigo Cipriani, whose family legacy in authentic fine dining stretches across the globe, says he was stunned to learn that LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, one of the richest men in the world, seemingly imitated his brand.
“I’m very surprised that he thought he was able to copy my soul. You cannot copy that. Absolutely, there is no way you can,” the 89-year-old second-generation Cipriani CEO told Fox Business in an interview this week from the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice that his late father Giuseppe Cipriani founded in 1931 and of which he was named after.
The alleged knock-off Arrigo Cipriani is referring to is Restaurant Cipriani in Saint-Tropez, which opened its doors on July 7. Despite the new digs bearing his family’s well-known last name, Restaurant Cipriani in Saint-Tropez is not the product of Arrigo or his son, Giuseppe Cipriani, who is the chairman of Cipriani. Instead, it’s owned by French luxury giant LVMH, of which billionaire Arnault is the chairman and CEO.
LVMH was allowed to open a restaurant with the name Cipriani thanks to a trademark the brand registered for in the EU in multiple categories, including hospitality.
Arrigo is understanding of LVMH’s right to own a business with his family name, but his issue, he says, comes down to the finer details. He claims the new restaurant has ripped off the very precise elements his father Giuseppe and the generations after him successfully created: the logo, furniture, and design, down to the tableware, tablecloths, the chairs, and menu items.
Arrigo claims photos of his restaurants – there are nearly 20 Cipriani Group locations around the world in places like Venice, Moscow, New York, Las Vegas, and Abu Dhabi – next to Saint-Tropez’s Restaurant Cipriani show glaring similarities. Mainly, Arrigo balks at the wooden chairs, the arrangement of the round dishes and glassware, and the look-alike carpaccio, a popular dish invented by his father in 1950. Giuseppe’s carpaccio consists of paper-thin raw filet mignon with a white sauce drizzled on the meat in a lattice design.
“Arnault, if you do a place, copy the chefs, copy the table, copy the bellini, copy the carpaccio, name it Cipriani, you’re confusing people,” Arrigo tells Fox Business.
The 89-year-old also reminded us his father created the Bellini cocktail, inspired by the fifteenth-century Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini. The drink is sold at most bars and restaurants, including LVMH’s Cipriani.
Reps for LVMH and Arnault did not return Fox Business’ requests for comment.
“The chairs designed by my father – you cannot change them. He created things with the vision of wanting his customers to feel free. So the chairs designed by my father, they are at the right height. The tables are at the right height. The forks and knives, they’re small because they balance in your hand and you don’t even know you use them. The plates are round. Everything is studied to make the customer comfortable,” Arrigo explains.
Despite Saint-Tropez’s Cipriani’s alleged similarities, Arrigo laughs off any questions about being angry or wanting to take the matter to court. The latter, he says, he has “no interest” in doing but points out it would ultimately be a decision for his son Giuseppe to make.
“I’m not angry. I’m surprised,” he said. “I thought that Mr. Arnault was much more intelligent than that. He’s used to a different kind of luxury.”
Arnault, who oversees 70 luxury brands, including Louis Vuitton, Moet Chandon, Sephora, Dior and, most recently, Tiffany & Co., is too subject to copycats, Arrigo argued.
“You can copy a handbag. Still, a copy is always a copy, even of the best handbag in the world. It’s strange that a man who is always afraid that people will copy his handbags and he thinks of copying my plates in Saint-Tropez. He will realize soon that he made a mistake.”
“I already hear customers that say nothing is the same, the food, the service is not the same. People that go to Harry’s bar or any of my restaurants know exactly what they came for, what they want. You go to another place even if it has the same name and they don’t get what they’re expecting then they’ll never go back. That’s it. I can assure them.”
Reviews of the LVMH’s Cipriani on TripAdvisor are mixed but some repeat Arrigo’s claims. One alleged visitor from July commented, “Avoid this Cipriani restaurant its a fake its not owned by the Cipriani family! They copied Giuseppe Cipriani’s restaurants.” Another critic claimed their dining experience was “disappointing.”
“It’s definitely not a real Cipriani,” another reads. “It is using the name as a franchise.”
A more recent review, however, refers to it as the “best summer spot in Saint Tropez.”
At the end of the day, the Cipriani CEO says he’s confident people will recognize the imitations used by the Cipriani restaurant in France all on their own. And in the meantime, Arrigo says his family will continue to perfect their expanding brand for their customers.
“I’m not flattered by imitation,” Arrigo said. “I’m flattered by the customers saying how good we are and how wonderful the food is. That’s the only thing I’m flattered by.”