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Forerunner of digitalisation

Focal Point / Trade Letter

@Adobe Stock/Gregory Lee

How do you modernise a sector comprising a large number of small business owners? How can the work of restaurateurs be made easier and the customer experience enhanced? HOSPITALITY.digital provides answers - with digital solutions and new technologies.

Restaurateurs primarily work offline

When Ludwig Horn takes his guests' orders, he leaves his notepad and pen behind the counter. Instead, the Berlinbased restaurateur uses a digital tool called Orderbird. The order is logged on a mobile device and sent to the kitchen via Wi-Fi, and the bill is then generated on a tablet. The restaurant owner has digitised his processes.

This makes Ludwig Horn something of an exception among hotels, restaurants and caterers (HoReCa). While digitisation has made its way into most areas of life, the work processes of small and medium-sized food service businesses in particular are still predominantly analogue. And this in an industry with millions of customers contacts a day at its approximately 11,000 hotels, more than 73,000 restaurants and upward of 13,000 caterers in Germany. As for the customers, digital technologies are now the standard.

However, restaurateurs are put off by the prospect of high costs and the time needed to convert to digital solutions. Ludwig Horn is nonetheless quite sure: 'There is no need to be scared of the digital transformation'.

The owner of two restaurants speaks from experience. Ludwig Horn switched to digital solutions a year after setting up his first restaurant on Landwehrkanal in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin: 'Over time, the number of customers steadily increased and it became more difficult for me to steer procedures in a controlled and efficient manner.' This all changed when he began to use digital solutions. For example, order placement was accelerated and payments were made easier with the introduction of the Orderbird cash register system. In addition to Orderbird, the Berlin restaurateur uses the personal assistant solution FragPaul, a tool which digitises areas such as time logging, work rosters and payroll accounting.

HOSPITALITY.digital promotes innovation and digitisation


Tools such as Orderbird and FragPaul are the first milestones in the modernisation of an industry which has barely changed over decades. HOSPITALITY.digital was created in 2015 to promote innovation and digitisation within the HoReCa sector.

HOSPITALITY.digital turns leading technologies into user-oriented applications, thereby promoting innovation within the food service industry and in the trading sector. The solutions developed by HOSPITALITY.digital allow restaurateurs to take their first steps in the direction of the digital world with little expense and prior technical expertise. To this end, HOSPITALITY.digital offers free entrylevel solutions such as tools with which restaurateurs can generate their own food service homepages or tools for onlinereservations. All the tools are developed together with restaurateurs.Their feedback is then used for optimisations.

Zoom in

Field trial in 500 restaurants in Europe

This is what the project METROpolitan Pilot is all about. HOSPITALITY.digital brings innovators and restaurateurs together for field trial purposes. 500 restaurants in 5 European cities of gourmets have been able to use digital tools in their daily business since 2016.

The restaurants are testing close to 70 tools in all food service areas, from online table reservations and smart menus to innovative waste management. The start-ups then optimise their products on the basis of the results of the pilot project. Once a tool has successfully gone through the programme, it can be offered to a larger number of customers.

In 2017, HOSPITALITY.digital received the Innovative Approach Award, which is part of the EuropeanCommission's Startup Europe Partnership initiative, for this project.

Be it in Barcelona, Berlin, Milan, Paris or Vienna, with METROpolitan Pilot we are making it possible for customers to use innovations and put their suitability for daily use to the test.

Tim Kruppe, Director of Digital Projects at HOSPITALITY.digital.

Taking ideas to market maturity with the METRO Accelerator

Another of HOSPITALITY.digital's projects is the METRO Accelerator powered by Techstars, which supports entrepreneurial teams from around the world in the development of digital solutions. For example, one of the start-ups sponsored is FragPaul. HOSPITALITY.digital has conducted 3 rounds of the accelerator programme for the food service industry since 2015. Start-ups have until 15 June to apply for the fourth round being held in 2018. There was also a first accelerator programme held in the area of trade in 2017. In each round, 10 startups are selected from among a large number of applicants and are mentored for a 3-month period.

The aim of the accelerator programme is to turn entrepreneurs' ideas into marketable products, offer these products to a wider target group and bring the start-ups to the attention of investors. The start-ups benefit from METRO's strong expertise in the HoReCa sector and from access to more than 21 million customers around the world.

BENEFITS OF DIGITAL FOOD SERVICE TOOLS

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A modern digitisation policy needed for restaurateurs in Europe to go digital

METRO is seeking to help half a million restaurateurs digitise their processes by 2020. To create the world's largest digital HoReCa community, METRO founded the Digital Club. This platform, which is open to all small and medium-sized food service businesses, affords them access to digital solutions and enables them to share their knowledge. The right political parameters also need to be established in order for digital tools to be put to use successfully in the food service industry.

A modern digitisation policy needs to strike the right balance between promoting digital solutions and protecting users' privacy and personality rights. In addition, entrepreneurs need support if they are to continue to demonstrate commitment to promoting new ideas. The existing instruments for promoting start-ups need to be expanded and bureaucratic hurdles need to be dismantled. In the area of venture capital financing, investors need better conditions to allow start-ups to actually realise their bold ideas.

With METROpolitan Pilot, the accelerator programme and digital tools, HOSPITALITY. digital has taken the first steps in making life easier for restaurateurs and in creating new customer experiences. It is now a question of raising awareness of innovative and digital solutions throughout the industry - so that restaurateurs like Ludwig Horn are no longer the exception in the future.

Copyright image in header @ Adobe Stock/Gregory Lee

Clara Salarich-Ortega

Information about the author

Clara Salarich-Ortega works as Manager EU Affairs in the Representative Office of METRO AG in Brussels clara.salarich@metro.de