Trends in communal gastronomy and catering


Interview with expert Thomas B. Hertach, Director of Application Consultancy Services at Hupfer

Many companies are suffering from staff shortages. Lucrative orders cannot be accepted and important revenue is lost as a result. At the same time, customers are becoming more demanding and have the highest expectations of canteen cuisine. How will this trend develop? We asked someone who knows the sector inside out. Thomas B. Hertach is Director of Application Consultancy Services at Hupfer Metallwerke GmbH & Co. KG, a manufacturer of high-quality appliances for logistics in commercial kitchens. He has also managed the Culinaria network for 15 years.

Mr Hertach, tell us about the Culinaria network. Give us a brief overview of how it works and its benefits.

Thomas Hertach: The Culinaria network is a marketing platform for various companies in the commercial kitchen sector. It was founded in spring 2004 with the intention of offering events on gastronomic topics with a high level of practical relevance to different target groups target groups. The events are primarily orientated towards users of kitchens in gastronomy, the hotel trade and communal catering. However, planners and commercial kitchen equipment dealers have also benefited for many years from the high-quality and specialised event services.

Since its foundation, I have coordinated the majority of Culinaria network events and have acted as a contact person for press inquiries.

What do you think will be the biggest trends in communal gastronomy and catering in the coming years?

Thomas Hertach: For a good ten years now, the Culinaria network has been organising varied “culinary trend tours” by bicycle through major cities such as Berlin and Hamburg or through areas such as the Ruhr valley. Participants can learn actively from the operators of very different gastronomic enterprises and take a look behind the scenes and examine the underlying concepts.

But who knows all of the current and future trends? Gastronomy guests are becoming more critical with regard to the origin and sustainability of meals and ingredients. One thing that is “on everyone’s lips” and that cannot be overlooked is the trend towards eating less meat and consuming more vegetarian, vegan and regional components. At the same time, very high-quality and, in some cases, very expensive products such as dry-aged beef or organic ingredients are becoming more and more important.

In terms of technical kitchen equipment, the constant trend over the last few years has been the optimisation of operations with regard to efficiency, multi-functionality, diversity and energy efficiency.

What’s happening in the sector with regard to digitalisation? Are opportunities being missed?

Thomas Hertach: I have been complaining for ages that the different technology providers of the many island solutions in the communal gastronomy and catering sector all rely on their own, closed software solutions and vigorously resist being open to other manufacturers. The stupid thing here is that the operators and users in gastronomy companies then have to deal with a great many programmes in order to be able to track their complex kitchen processes, for example in the area of hygiene documentation. In the meantime, the industry, associations and institutions have agreed to a certain standard for digital interfaces. We will have to wait and see how long it will take until users can benefit from this in practice.

Our network partner, AWENKO 360, is already offering a solution to this problem: they have created a platform for technology providers that bundles together processes and content. Hupfer has been using this platform for many years and has unified the data of different manufacturers in its Marketing centre.

What dangers do you see inherent in the skills shortage? What can be done to improve the situation?

Thomas Hertach: The skills shortage that everybody is complaining about has many causes. Demographic developments play a considerable role, but those in charge, in particular in the gastronomy sector, are not completely blameless either. For many years, an apprenticeship in a small company, e.g. as a chef, was not exactly an appetising option, and the poor overall conditions – six-day weeks, part-shifts, many hours of overtime including at weekends, some unbelievable leadership shortcomings, and pay that did not reflect the work required – were enough reasons for many young people to break off their vocational training in the first few months. The drop-out rate was often more than 50 percent. Many of those who nevertheless finished their training left the sector shortly afterwards and tried their luck in other branches (e.g. food or technology). This negative trend seems to have been acknowledged and many companies are trying to train and recruit young personnel using modern methods. There has to be a complete change in the way we think. Exemplary companies in the sector have fewer problems recruiting personnel if they offer modern and flexible working times, good remuneration, modern conditions and show the appreciation for staff that is so very important.

In addition, the proportion of convenience food is becoming better and increasing, meaning that the deployment of trained chefs is no longer so essential in many current business types. Franchise restaurants are increasingly attempting to overcome staff shortages with well-trained and in some cases self-trained staff and career changers.

Nevertheless, there will continue to be situations that occur regionally and seasonally in which even the best companies simply can’t find the staff and cannot take on lucrative catering orders in some cases, due to staff shortages. A lot of companies, especially in major urban conurbations such as Berlin or Hamburg, know this situation all too well.

Many thanks for the fascinating insights and for taking the time to answer our questions.

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