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Author Ditsa Keren
Ditsa Keren
Created on Nov 22nd, 2022
Fact checked by Deborah Leigh

Madame Sum, Dumplings that Manifest into whatever your Palate Desires

How did you come up with the idea of Madame Sum?

The story of Madame Sum began when three best friends and college roommates (present company included), studying hospitality management at the Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, decided to build a venture, within the framework of an events agency operating in Switzerland.

After pulling off a few events, we were contacted by a restaurateur in Zurich who enjoyed our work and offered us a chance to take over his restaurant for the winter break to do a pop up. 

We decided to go beyond our own possibilities and began to experiment with dumplings by combining them with western products and recipes. People were enthusiastic and eager for more after the pop up. 

But then, we went back to school and kept the idea on the back burner. 

Fast forward, one year later, we graduated and figured out we had nothing to lose if we focused on producing creative high quality dumplings. 

We opened the first Atelier and started product testing, offering events and pop ups. Our idea was to open dumplings bars. We found a perfect location for launching our concept. But just before signing the lease, Covid 19 broke out; so we realized it was not the best time to open a restaurant and commit to a hefty rental fee.

So, without basically any available cash, we pivoted right away and opened an online shop overnight. We advertised online and loaded up our cars for deliveries. Surprisingly, people were ordering from our website and we jumped from a couple of neighborhood deliveries per day to several dozen.

This Eureka moment led us to switch to direct consumer brand and to develop the brand all over the country. 

Are your recipes based on tradition, or do you create innovative versions?

Our recipes are both based on tradition and on breaking tradition. More often than not, they include an added “Madame Sum twist. To this end, we use local products and adaptations from Western cuisine. 

Some recipes are created in the weirdest of ways. Myself and my two co-founders are not trained chefs, but luckily, we are backed by some awesome ones. 

We imagine dumplings as infinite possibilities to create a new gastronomy. I’ll describe the two most far off creations that were surprisingly successful and became customer favorites overnight.

Arnaud, one of our co-founders, loves apple crumble and pitched the idea of an apple crumble dumpling, which we deemed crazy and ridiculous. But based on his grandma's recipe, he prepared the apple crumble for our team’s daily lunch, then surreptitiously made dumplings out of the leftovers. We all fell in love and launched the apple crumble dumplings to our community a couple of weeks later. . 

A similar story transpired with our lasagna dumpling experiment. Being Italian, I was not keen on altering my mother’s beloved lasagna. But our chef decided to give it a try. The dumpling was beyond the imagination of any lasagna fan: creamy, saucy, meaty, doughy. It’s an upgrade from my childhood lasagna. Sorry mamma! 

Who are your typical customers? Do you work mostly with businesses or individuals?

We work in different areas. The majority of business serves individuals, what’s called “direct to consumer. We also work with hotels, restaurants and cafes who feature Madame Sum products on their menu. Lately, we had the honor of collaborating with Michelin Starred Chefs such as Philip Heid and Laurent Eperon for the creation of various dumplings for their menus.

Part of  our core philosophy is that we love loud tables, we enjoy discussing food and conversing with good food fans. We are passionate about our product and our customers are aware of the amount of work, creativity and thoughts behind each dumpling. Our typical customers vary from young people to upbeat families who love high quality food and dining in style.

What is one thing that helped you in your entrepreneurial journey that you would do over and over again?

Building a strong brand from day one and adhering to our values.This fact was pivotal in cultivating loyal customers.The cohesion of our team members keeps us excited and focused on the company’s success. 

What are the standards of your choice of ingredients and how do you achieve the production of a premium product?

The secret of Madame Sum relies on two aspects. Firstly, the products we utilize need to be top notch. We make no compromise on high quality ingredients that meet the highest standards of local markets. We pride ourselves in maintaining quality and pay close attention to the choice of suppliers, the optimization process and the quality of the products. 

The second aspect relies on how we cultivate our business image, via marketing and branding. We’re definitely a young team and we strive to be transparent about the evolution of our company and the variety of the food on offer. 

Maintaining a young, enthusiastic and tantalizing rapport with customers, while preserving the elegance and exclusiveness of a premium product can be challenging. But the combination works for us and has helped us build an awesome community.

We use proprietary technology developed in house in our marketing strategy. One example is our dumpling addict club for loyal customers. Every new creation is tested by our “dumpling sommeliers” before even going to market. As their palate is clearly well trained for dumplings, they determine if the sample is up to standard with Madame Sum products. 

This strategy also ensures that our community stays involved in the process and willing to try any new product we release.

Do you cater to vegetarians?

Our menu includes many vegetarian recipes and 20% vegan versions. We constantly release new vegetarian creations that do justice to the quality of products we select. We work in partnership with Planted, a plant based meat substitute, which we use for the creation of three unique plant based meat dumplings.

It seems to me like the Pandemic helped your business get off the ground. How do you see the future of the Food industry?

The pandemic made us realize that there are different ways to operate food businesses and that it’s important to be able to stay agile and move fast. I believe the online food industry (mostly towards delivery) is going to move more and more towards direct to consumer, with delivery platforms (UberEats, Deliveroo etc.) working as enablers and logistics partners rather than the sole way to sell. The added bonus of direct to consumer is that it gives the brand the power of “owning” the customers and talking to them directly, to learn from their feedback and make improvements accordingly.

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