The event was opened by Olaf Koch, CEO of METRO AG. In a short thought experiment, the audience was asked to remember their best gastronomic experiences with their family, friends and colleagues. As the audience all discovered, the most beautiful meal together took place at the favorite restaurant around the corner and not in the system catering. Nonetheless, independent restaurateurs face major hurdles. Digitisation, skills shortage, red-tape and the complex VAT system are just a few, which were emphasised again and again.
Minister Pinkwart is aware of these problems and right from the start praised METRO for being a pioneer in digitisation for many years now and for providing restaurateurs with digital tools. Because "digitisation should simplify," said the minister. Sebastian Minx also agreed that digitisation should simplify staff planing and improve customer service. Last but not least, the North Rhine-Westphalian "Entfesselungsgesetz" has contributed to the fact that the path to independent businesses has been debureaucratised.
However, Sebastian Minx still sees room for improvement here. He said that he has employed a refugee for a long time who has to apply for a work permit regulary because of the residency status. Since the responsible clerk has fallen ill, the work permit could not be extended and the assistant can not work since then. Minister Pinkwart responded with regret to this event. He then underlined that better working conditions had to be created in the catering industry, with staff paying into social and pension insurance.
Another concern of Sebastian Minx was the regulation of working hours. Currently, the maximum working time is ten hours a day. For restaurateurs and employees, however, professions in the catering industry would be much more attractive, if the maximum working hours were fixed to 48 hours per week. This would counteract the skills shortage right away.
Minister Pinkwart promised to take on the problems of gastronomy. He offered to co-operate with the participants to create a “Gastronomy-Package” in order to improve the environment for independent restaurateurs.