Gastro-Policy-Talk in Elbmarsch
On 18 November 2019, METRO continued the series "Gastro-Policy-Talk" at the Marschachter Hof, in Elbmarsch near Hamburg. Protagonists from politics, gastronomy and business discussed the opportunities but also the political and regulatory challenges the industry is facing. The outdated traffic infrastructure, digitisation opportunities and challenges, as well as red-tape and tax burdens were the main topics of the evening, which was moderated by René Kaplick from The Gastro Pirates.
Dirk Schipper, a member of the Elbmarsch community and entrepreneurial connected to the "Devil Soups" - food trucks, pointed out right from the start, that the Elbmarsch region was plagued by traffic jams and transportation problems. He received consent from Tobias Siewert, adviser for (digital) infrastructure at the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Lüneburg-Wolfsburg, "the current infrastructure for traffic does not fit the current traffic volume". "Alternative ways of transportation, such as electric water ferries are not the solution," says Michael Schäfer, Mobility and Infrastructure Officer at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, Transport and Digitalisation of Lower Saxony. He and Hans-Peter Meyn, chairman of the municipal council Elbmarsch and farmer, agreed that the surrounding highways need to be expanded and renovated in order to relieve the traffic permanently. However, as has been repeatedly demanded from the circle of participants and in view of climate change and growing environmental awareness, more investments should be made in the public transportation systems, e.g. via a railway line Hamburg-Geesthacht-Lüneburg.
Besides the local traffic infrastructure, digitisation was an important topic of the evening. The Elbmarsch is already well equipped for the digital future with a self-financed fiber optic expansion. Yet, local restaurateurs lack the necessary know-how to digitise their business. Heiko Esser, Regional Manager at METRO Germany, elucidated the digital tools that METRO offers its customers via the platform DISH (www.dish.co). The Chamber of Industry and Commerce as well as the representative of the Ministry of Economics of Lower Saxony informed about the financial support programs of the state for small businesses, which were barely used. That is why the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Lüneburg-Wolfsburg offers its assistance to small businesses when applying for the subsidies from now.
Another core concern for the local restaurateurs was the high red tape requirements for the gastronomy sector. Heiner Hillermann, host and managing director of the Marschachter Hof and also initiator of the "Elbmarscher Wirtestammtisch", agreed with the attending restaurateurs that the catering industry would be "destroyed" by extensive red tape. In particular the working time regulation should offer? more flexibility.
All attending restaurateurs pleaded for tax relief of the hospitality industry. It was recommended to support and sign the online petition from DEHOGA Bayern, which is addressed to the federal government, for a general adaptation of the VAT to 7% for all meals, in-house or take away, catering, etc. The catering industry would benefit massively from a reduced VAT rate of 7%. Which again would lead to more money being available for employee compensation and to make jobs in the catering industry more interesting again.
At the end of the evening, it was clear that: there is a need for closer collaboration between the restaurateurs. Many wishes and concerns of local restaurateurs have not been heard by representatives from politics and business, yet. Michael Schäfer from the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Lower Saxony called on the restaurateurs of the Elbmarsch to elaborate their concerns with concrete proposals for implementation and to submit them directly to the state government. With pressure from local caterers, more success in the political priority setting can be achieved in the future.