18 August 2021

METRO City Center Initiative

A study by IFH COLOGNE in cooperation with METRO AG

The Corona crisis has brought about major changes in the restaurant landscape. As a result, many restaurateurs now need to reassess their economic situation and adapt their concepts to changing circumstances. In addition to recruiting suitable employees, the right choice of location is becoming increasingly important and poses major challenges for many restaurateurs. Politics also plays a central role here. In order to shed light on these issues from the perspective of those affected, 250 restaurateurs in various trades and of different sizes were asked about their experiences, attitudes and requirements. In the following study, conducted in cooperation with METRO AG, you can find out what role politics plays from the perspective of the restaurateurs.

Study on inner city

The debate about the future viability of German city centres has gained further momentum in the wake of the lockdown months. Existing struc-tural challenges such as a monotonous offer, declining visitor numbers and rising vacancies were massively exacerbated by the closures. In their current study #Innenstadtinitiative (“City Centre Initiative”), IFH and METRO AG focus on the needs of small and medium-sized restau-rant businesses. 250 restaurateurs were surveyed in July 2021 on cur-rent challenges, their future plans and requirements for the city centre as a business location. The aim of the study is to identify initial ap-proaches to political action in urban and district development. “After the comprehensive analyses, it is now time for action. The order of the day for all local stakeholders is to work together to increase the attractive-ness of the cities and to fulfil new functions. In close cooperation with the municipality, retail businesses, but also with new partners such as the skilled trades as well as cultural and educational institutions, it is important for restaurateurs to take an active part in implementing new concepts for city centres,” says Boris Hedde, expert on city centres and managing director of IFH.

Result: restaurant sector as a trailblazer for inner-city revitalisation

Places to go out are a central factor for city centre development be-cause they have a positive effect on the atmosphere of the area and increase the time visitors spend there. Across all age groups, the mo-tives for visiting the inner city continue to be the culinary experience, going out and shopping. In order to make city centres fit for the future, catering businesses must therefore be given greater consideration in urban development. “The results of the study show that lively city cen-tres are not possible without restaurants, cafés and bars. That is why policymakers must pave the way and simplify, among other things, the allocation of rental locations to entrepreneurs in order to give small businesses a chance. The restaurant industry has its sights firmly set on the future and this is an opportunity for all stakeholders,” says Ivonne Julitta Bollow, Global Director Public Policy at METRO AG.

After the comprehensive analyses, it is now time for action. The order of the day for all local stakeholders is to work together to increase the attractiveness of the cities and to fulfil new functions. In close coopera-tion with the municipality, retail businesses, but also with new partners such as the skilled trades as well as cultural and educational institu-tions, it is important for restaurateurs to take an active part in imple-menting new concepts for city centres.

Boris Hedde, expert on city centres and managing director of IFH

Currently, about 60 % of the restaurateurs rate the situation as average to very bad. Nevertheless, the sector is looking to the future with moti-vation. Planning is made more difficult by the search for suitable and qualified staff (71 %) and dealings with authorities (52 %).

Another problem in the eyes of many restaurateurs is the allocation of locations. A large part of the respondents criticise that the rents for at-tractive locations are too high (46 %). The non-transparent allocation process “under the table” is also a problem for restaurateurs (43 %). The active promotion by policymakers of targeted mixed use and repur-posing of spaces on the part of tenants can remedy the situation in or-der to also offer attractive locations to small restaurant businesses. It is the owner-operated, small restaurants and cafés particularly that bring a city centre to life. Furthermore, a municipal platform for the alloca-tion of restaurant spaces can provide transparency about the local real estate market.

Location and district development as important factors for the future

Cleanliness and ambience (69 %), number of potential customers in the catchment area (68 %) as well as public transport connections (66 %) and good accessibility for suppliers (63 %) – the general conditions of the area play an important role in the choice of a location. That is why policymakers are called upon to create diverse mobility concepts for visitors and to promote the urban ambience. This requires clean pedes-trian zones, intact buildings and facades, sufficient green spaces and more liveliness in the city centres. In order to offer young and innovative projects in particular a chance in city centres, but also to support the exchange between businesses and the authorities, a municipal commissioner responsible for the restaurant industry can help. For 61 % of the respondents, simple legal framework conditions and approval procedures are very important. Acting as an interface between restaurant businesses and policymakers, constant dialogue can be ensured, administration and authorities are supported and, at the same time, mediation is provided for new businesses and when networking within the urban community.

The results of the study show that lively city centres are not possible without restaurants, cafés and bars. That is why policymakers must pave the way and simplify, among other things, the allocation of rental locations to entrepreneurs in order to give small businesses a chance. The restaurant industry has its sights firmly set on the future and this is an opportunity for all stakeholders.

Ivonne Julitta Bollow, Global Director Public Policy at METRO AG

The “City Centre Initiative” by IFH and METRO AG examines the status quo of the German restaurant industry and focuses on current challeng-es such as the shortage of skilled workers, high rents, and economic developments with a focus on the political framework. For this purpose, 250 restaurateurs in 20 selected major cities in Germany were surveyed by telephone in July 2021. Data from the IFH studies “Vital City Cen-tres 2020” (2021), “Future of Retail – Future of Cities” (2021) and “Co-rona Consumer Check” (2021, all studies in German) were also includ-ed.

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