You are very active both in politics and voluntary work. Which political offices do you hold and in which other organisations are you active?
Among other posts, I am a councillor for Heerdt-Handweiser and chairman of DEHOGA Düsseldorf/Neuss. I am also a member of various supervisory boards such as Düsseldorf Tourism, Düsseldorf Marketing, Düsseldorf Congress and many more
Do you have a different approach to politics because of your professional career as a business owner?
Being business owners, we have a different point of view on certain issues because we are much more goal-oriented and practical. We get straight to the point and bring this abstract world of politics into “real” life.
In this context, do you see yourself as a mediator between politics and the restaurant and catering trade?
Yes, because I think that we business people, because of our practical approach, can build bridges between the often abstract world of politics and the practical world of the restaurant and catering trade. And that is true on many levels.
Do you think that if more politicians were independent business owners, things would change or be different?
I do believe that there would be differences with regard to regulation or legislation. Of course, there is a need for organisation and administration, but if you work in the business, you often find that some regulations are simply unnecessary or that some things could be regulated in a more straightforward way.
What are the biggest problems affecting the restaurant trade at the moment, and where do you see possible solutions?
The biggest challenge I currently see in the restaurant trade is the excess of red tape and the resulting documentation requirements. Depending on the size of the business, it may be necessary to hire additional staff just to take care of this. Things like that can sometimes lead to cost explosions, which of course we cannot and do not want to pass on to the customer. It’s getting harder and harder for the industry. I think we should talk in politics about how we can reduce red tape and thus make life easier for restaurateurs. I feel that policymakers do not always understand our industry.
What do you mean? Do you have an example?
The question is whether the person who is supposed to take care of my concern actually even understands my concern correctly. Does the person know, for example, about the problems of inflexible working hours or temporary agency work? I think that there should be greater awareness so that the respective industry can be understood with its concerns and needs.
If you had the opportunity to make three wishes as to what should be improved politically for the restaurant trade, what would they be?
Firstly: Very clearly, the reduction of excessive red tape. Secondly: More trust in restaurateurs. And thirdly: the adjustment of the VAT rate! We buy at 7 percent and have to sell at 19 percent. I’d like to see more fairness here.
You have been awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for outstanding social services. What was the impetus behind your commitment?
Social commitment has always been very important to me, especially for children. We collected DM 7,000 at the first summer party in 1992. I was so impressed with the response that I started to organise an annual summer party, the proceeds of which are donated to the children’s hospice Regenbogenland – Lichtblicke and the outpatient children’s hospice every year. I also support the DSC 99 Düsseldorf, which does a lot for youth work and children’s sports. It also gives me great pleasure to support social projects in my district wherever I can.
And, there are still customers from that time who come to me today and who didn’t always have a lot of money to eat out in their student days, and so they got a plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine in my restaurant, things have always been that way. Today, many of my former customers have become very good friends of mine and visit us here regularly.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a restaurant owner? Would that even have been an option for you, not to become a restaurateur?
So, at the very beginning I really had the idea to study fine arts. That was actually the idea after school – to do something creative. But I decided to do a commercial apprenticeship, which helped pave my way into the restaurant business. And: I didn’t regret it!