#EUGreenWeek – METRO supports upskilling in hospitality

14 June 2023
For more sustainability and resilience in food supply chains

For one week, as every year since the initiation of the EU Green Week in 2010, European environmental policy is entirely in the spotlight in Brussels. Policymakers debate with NGOs, citizens and businesses on progress, concrete projects and challenges – this year focusing on the European goal of climate neutrality by 2050. And METRO is smack in the middle of this transformation: How can we make the hospitality sector more sustainable and resilient? To answer this question, METRO invited MEP Marlene Mortler, representative of the EU Parliament, Dr Wolfgang Trunk, Team Leader at the European Commission’s DG Environment, Brussels-based restaurateur Quentin Guinand, as well as the managing director of the European HoReCa association HOTREC, Marie Audren, who, together with Volker Gläser, CEO Hospitality.Digital, discussed which skills are necessary to meet the increasing requirements for hotels, restaurants and catering businesses.

Sustainable management and digitalisation in the hospitality sector go together

MEP Marlene Mortler
In her keynote speech, MEP Marlene Mortler emphasised the significance of sustainable resource management and digitalisation in the hospitality sector. A better digital infrastructure was key to successfully position the hospitality sector on its path towards a green transition. Mortler stressed the importance of reducing unnecessary food waste by incorporating responsible food handling practices and coaching, ensuring appropriate portion sizes and purchasing amounts. Looking at the EU’s agenda, sustainable management, and the responsible use of resources were a key priority for the hospitality and tourism sectors. But, the MEP said, food and consumption were very emotional practices and consumers did not want prohibitions, hence overburdening them with legislation could not be the solution. To conclude, she encouraged all restaurateurs to actively drive innovation and make use of the “Lifelong Learning in the EU” programme as skills could only be acquired in practice.

Tackling food waste and promoting sustainable packaging

With a bundle of new policy initiatives under the European Green Deal, sustainability demands are on the rise. On the EU’s path to a green transition, businesses are expected to adapt their models to new requirements for packaging, food waste and food safety. According to Dr Wolfgang Trunk from the European Commission, (sustainable) packaging will therefore have an impact on the hospitality sector. While agreeing that sustainable solutions will minimise food waste and packaging waste, he also emphasised the importance of training the staff to ensure food safety and waste reduction. Trunk trusts in start-ups to come up with fresh ideas and to find solutions for current challenges. For example, he highlighted the potential of digital water marking on packages, which provides valuable information about the products and can help improve traceability, shelf life, and waste management.
Dr. Wolfgang Trunk

Digital tools play important role in upskilling

Dr. Volker Gläser
Dr Volker Gläser, CEO of Hospitality.Digital, highlighted the need to attract and retain employees, especially young talent, in the hospitality sector. He stressed the importance of operational efficiency using digital tools such as table booking systems, pick-up and delivery services, and optimised websites. The Covid-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for digitalisation in the sector, making it even more crucial to embrace sustainable practices and build resilience. According to Gläser, digital tools can significantly contribute to upskilling SMEs in this sector while making them more sustainable at the same time – and they can provide valuable information to customers and restaurateurs. Another aspect of upskilling, he said, was knowledge transfer, like the open-source platform “My Sustainable Restaurant” by METRO, which provides deep insights on how to run one’s business efficiently and sustainably. Finally, Gläser strongly advocated for EU investments in knowledge transfer and in funding start-ups that focus on sustainable practices and digital solutions for hotels, restaurants, and caterers.

Addressing the skills shortage and changing consumer mindsets

Marie Audren, CEO of HOTREC, addressed the challenges posed by the skills shortage in the hospitality sector, with a significant amount of the workforce missing post Covid-19. Business owners in hospitality needed to develop and implement skills that aligned with sustainability goals and educate their staff to work with tools that help run a restaurant sustainably. Attracting young people to the sector and promoting apprenticeships and lifelong learning were crucial for a green transition. However, she also acknowledged that implementing sustainable practices could be challenging for small businesses due to tight margins and scarce resources. Therefore, restaurateurs needed to engage with customers and foster understanding and acceptance for the necessary changes and procedures.
Marie Audren, CEO of HOTREC

Repackaging, education, and sustainable sourcing

Quentin Guinand, Restaurateur
Restaurateur Quentin Guinand provided insights into the daily challenges faced by restaurants, particularly in the repackaging of food. As he explained using examples from his daily business, it took time, financial resources, and knowledge to properly repackage food. The role of chefs in ensuring proper cooking techniques and the importance of training the main team to follow sustainable practices would become even more important in the coming years. He suggested that reusable packaging be prioritised over single-use options, both for consumers and businesses. An example of such initiatives: takeaway outlets offering reusable plates while charging for single-use solutions in order to educate and motivate customers towards reusable packaging and to reduce waste. Sourcing from local producers and informing customers about sustainable options, such as platforms like the Sustainable Fish Guide are also part of Guinand’s sustainability strategy for his business.

Green and digital transition with digital tools by DISH

It is clear that the hospitality sector is undergoing a transformative journey towards sustainability and resilience and is looking to get fit for the future. The perspectives shared by our panellists highlight the need for sustainable management practices, digital tools, upskilling, and consumer education. By embracing these principles, the sector can build a resilient and sustainable future while meeting the demands of changing consumer mindsets and behaviour as well as new legislative requirements.

Digitalisation in particular can drive sustainability and resilience in the hospitality sector, where businesses are mainly SMEs or micro-enterprises. Take DISH POS by METRO for example, a smart cloud-based cash register system for restaurants which helps teams manage, optimise and simplify operation flows to generate higher revenues. With DISH MenuKit, restaurateurs can calculate the optimal price for every recipe, while the tool also provides insights into all ingredients used in a recipe and therefore also helps reduce food waste. These tools and many more developed by Hospitality.Digital ensure that small businesses are not left behind in the digital and green transition.