Gastro Policy Talk on Usedom Island
At the first “Gastronomic Island Talk” at the Akzent Hotel Kaliebe in Trassenheide (Usedom) on 1 April 2019, contacts from the worlds of politics, the restaurant trade and business discussed the opportunities and challenges of digitisation in the region. Digital ordering systems and staff planning, immediate feedback from customers and visibility among national and international guests: these are just some of the many benefits that digitisation brings to the hospitality industry.
The restaurant and catering industry is one of the least digitised sectors, although restaurant guests are increasingly using online sources and tools to obtain information and communicate with restaurants. The internal work processes are also often not yet structured in the best possible way.
In his opening speech, Krister Hennige, chairman of the regional association Ostvorpommern of DEHOGA Mecklenburg-Vorpommern e. V., insisted on the personal responsibility and the will of the restaurateurs to promote digitisation within their own company. “The company owner must position him- or herself efficiently within the company and with a minimum of digitised processes. Only in this way will he or she be able to survive the necessary change and successfully survive in the market,” said Krister Hennige.
A special focus was on the digital status quo in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. The state government considers itself to have a particular responsibility here and informed the audience about regional support programmes. “The focus of our support is deliberately on the qualification of our employees and on the implementation of new technological innovations,” said Dr. Stephan Rudolph, State Secretary in the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Health of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. As a result of the discussion, he committed to making the state’s funding opportunities available to the hotel and restaurant industry on a more transparent platform. In addition, a “Summit on the Future of Competition” was planned. The aim here was to list the concrete measures needed to support the regional restaurant trade.
Tobias Woitendorf, deputy managing director of the tourism association Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania warned against taking the subject of digitisation lightly. “If we want to remain one of the most popular destinations, we need to upgrade digitally. Our guests search for restaurants online, book their rooms via apps and share their experiences on social media. The tourism industry must be able to meet these expectations,” Woitendorf explained.
There are already a large number of digital solutions that can reduce the workload for restaurateurs. This was demonstrated by Ole Grünert from HOSPITALITY.digital together with the Berlin restaurateur Ludwig Horn using the example of solutions from the online restaurant platform DISH. “This tool allows me to analyse exactly where there are still weak points in the company and take care of them. It makes my work more efficient,” Horn explained. Grünert said, “By 2020 we want to reach half a million restaurateurs in Europe and provide them with mostly free digital solutions. The new tools create headroom for the guests and the gastronomic experience.” Torsten Haasch, managing director of the IHK Neubrandenburg added: “Digitisation has the potential to make the hospitality industry more attractive, also to potential employees. Our task is to improve the conditions for the next generation, the digital natives, and to counteract the downward trend in trainee numbers.”
Another concern was the issue of infrastructure and above all the housing problem in Usedom and the region. In tourist areas such as Usedom, however, in many places apartments would only be rented to guests. Thus, the already tense situation surrounding the search for staff intensified. The speakers and around 40 guests were unanimous in their opinion that it was necessary to develop solutions in the interaction between the catering trade and associations that would benefit not only hotel chains but also smaller catering businesses.
With the “Gastronomic Island Talk”, METRO continues a series of political talks that was successfully launched at INTERNORGA in mid-March. The discourse platform in cooperation with DEHOGA brings together restaurateurs, politicians and associations to transparently discuss the challenges of small and medium-sized restaurateurs in the region at eye level. “Our aim is to be a strong partner to restaurateurs. We promote exchange in order to raise awareness among the various decision-makers about the needs and concerns of the hospitality industry and at the same time create mutual trust”, said Heiko Esser, Regional Manager NORD of METRO Germany.