What would be necessary to achieve an improvement in the recruiting of employees? Can the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, which was passed at the beginning of June, have a positive effect?
I believe that we need a general immigration law – not necessarily an immigration law aimed at skilled workers. People who want to come to Germany to work are either qualified as skilled workers or disqualified by such a law – which then means that they cannot come. And that’s despite the shortage of labour we’re experiencing. Why don’t we let people who want to come to Germany with the intention of doing something also work here? The restaurant and catering industry is one of the most important employers in Germany and in addition it is tied to its location. It’s not like in the automotive industry, where a new plant is built abroad with the help of subsidies and then jobs are lost in Germany. The restaurant market is growing – and we urgently need workers there.
You were just talking about the bureaucratic hurdles that have to be overcome. What role does red tape play in your everyday life?
A very big one! You have to meet the requirements of every authority in Germany that is responsible for you. This includes the certified cash register, working time documentation, customs, hygiene lists, tips etc. If you go to the bakery quickly to buy five loaves of bread and take cash out of the waiter’s wallet to pay for them, this always involves documentation. If everything is meticulously documented, a lot of working time is lost. And if you don’t do it properly, you have a problem really fast. The red tape in everyday business is immense. If this time could be used for good offers, customer service and new business ideas – that would help restaurateurs. I hope that various digital tools will soon be ready for the market. I believe that they will make work easier and create cost efficiency in the future. This opportunity of digitisation must be recognised and harnessed.
Do you think the restaurant business is ready for digitisation?
I believe we have a great generational shift ahead of us. A long-established Italian restaurant owner, who has been running his business for 30 years and has always done everything with pen and paper, he won’t be digitised. But at some point, he will retire and his successor, who grew up with a smartphone, has a completely different affinity for digitisation. He really doesn’t want to pick up a pen and a piece of paper. The chances of digitisation are hard to slip into old, rigid structures, but this process of renewal will take place automatically.
Sustainable restaurants – this topic is increasingly moving into the focus of society. How far has the restaurant trade come in this regard?
The topic of sustainability is always a nice marketing gag for many people. Of course, sustainable approaches should continue to find their way into the restaurant trade, this is essential for our future. Not letting the oven run continuously, not keeping the stove in operation without breaks, water-saving measures – all of these measures have already been introduced in the kitchens. We often pack up leftovers – but at home they are ultimately thrown away anyway after three days in the fridge. However, sustainability is not only about the environment, but also about cost efficiency. For example, a restaurateur who does not work sustainably has higher costs for waste disposal. The more sustainably I work, the less costs are incurred, the more sustainably I also work in economic terms. Not all restaurateurs have grasped this concept yet.
In addition to the topic of sustainability, new food trends are constantly stirring up the restaurant scene. Which development do you consider to be particularly important?
Things are moving too fast to be able to say: That’s the trend for the next decade. I still believe, even though it’s no longer a new idea, that “back to the roots” is on the rise – what you ate at Grandma’s, these down-to-earth dishes. Feeling at home and being familiar with things is an incredible need for people. Another topic is barbecue, we see this worldwide. There are only a few food trends that work all over the world. The barbecue trend will continue.
What development do you wish for with regard to the restaurant landscape in Germany?
I would like to see a great deal of diversity in the restaurant landscape. On the one hand, to give restaurateurs the opportunity to present their roots. But also, to create a large variety of offers for the guests. (Laughs) And above all I would like to see a reduced VAT rate, because this could solve many financial problems. Therefore: A bit more togetherness with policymakers – that’s what I hope for for the restaurant trade. On the other hand, this sense of togetherness requires that restaurateurs comply with the policy and administrative rules. This is the foundation of working hand in hand, which is how we create future-oriented solutions for the industry.