The team at the San Rocco Hotel & Restaurant in the mountainous hinterland of Croatia’s Istrian peninsula is working with METRO on developing and rating METRO’s own-brand food products. On a sunny September afternoon, outside of the restaurant opening hours, two tables are laid on the inner courtyard terrace of the centuries-old country estate belonging to the Fernetich family, the hotel proprietors. Head chef Floriana Ružić is at work in the kitchen earlier than usual. She brings the San Rocco philosophy to the table: seasonal, regional and refined. This earned her the Gault&Millau Croatia Young Talent of the Year Trophy for 2020.
Today, she has a special guest who has brought the main ingredients himself – a whole sea bass and a 1.8-kilogram steak. But this guest is no eccentric gourmet. Ivan Sermek-Marčec is Quality Assurance Specialist for own brands at METRO in Croatia. The food technologist previously worked in the dairy and beverage industries. The reason for his visit: ‘Products in our premium own-brand ranges METRO Chef and METRO Premium are regularly sampled by carefully selected professional customers.’
This isn’t always in the form of a tasting held on-site. ‘We usually send product samples to the chefs, who use them to prepare a dish and then send a completed evaluation form back to us,’ says Ivan. He has his laptop with him today. The San Rocco head chef, Floriana, will be awarding points today for various criteria. ‘Depending on the product, I can modify the evaluation forms in my app,’ explains Ivan. The criteria being assessed in this tasting are appearance, smell, flavour, texture and overall impression. ‘The point is to inquire about the attributes which are characteristic of the product. For beverages, for example, we also have criteria such as acidity and so on.’
Testing of non-food own brands too
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METRO standards and faith in the customers
‘The products have to live up to our own standards in addition to general quality criteria and food law requirements,’ says Ivan. For this reason, there are also internal tastings, he says, for example with colleagues from Quality Assurance and from Purchasing. These are followed by tastings involving customers or cooperation partners such as Aspira University College, which trains food service professionals. ‘Our sales force assists in selecting the test customers. They tell us who usually purchases products that are similar to those that we want to test.’
A number of customers, such as the San Rocco Hotel & Restaurant, are called on again and again based on their experience and their long-term customer relationship with METRO. ‘As an own-brand ambassador, we have the exciting opportunity to try out new METRO products of the quality that we need for gourmet gastronomy,’ explains Teo Fernetich, who runs the family business together with his sister Luana. The Fernetichs have been working with METRO since they established their hotel and restaurant.
Marks for products – the new as well as the tried and tested
Floriana evaluates the wholesaler’s own-brand products on a regular basis. Today, she will be rating two products from the METRO Chef brand, both of which come from Croatia: the steak and the sea bass. Floriana serves the steak two ways – as a tartare and cooked medium. The fried sea bass is lightly covered with crispy deep-fried julienne vegetables. In her overall assessment, she gives both products close to best-possible marks: 9.8 out of 10 points for the fish and an impressive 9.96 for the meat.
‘We test just about everything – fish and meat, cheese and sausages, olives ...,’ says Ivan. ‘On the basis of a complex key, the results flow into the decision as to whether the products meet the standard required for our own brands,’ he explains. This entails five to ten experts rating each product – new products still being evaluated for their market maturity as well as tried and tested products already on the market. The latter category includes the steak and sea bass featured in the tasting at San Rocco. This offers METRO customers the assurance that the quality of the established products is maintained – having been tested by professional colleagues like Floriana.
An assortment especially for professional customers. Own brands with excellent value for money and best quality. Local wholesale stores, Food Service Distribution (FSD), online marketplace and digital solutions tailored to the needs of the food service industry. METRO invests to support customers and make them even more successful. METRO's sCore strategy sets the goals until 2030. The successes are also reflected in the figures for the financial year 2021/22. To the annual report: www.reports.metroag.de