A ladle of ... strong intuition

New trends are always shaking up the industry and we are tracking them down. In our series ‘A ladle ...’ we periodically present exciting projects and personalities from the food and gastronomy scene. Today we dive into the world of trend scouting and talk to Andreas Wuerfel, CEO of Hospitality Digital Inc, the US business unit of Hospitality Digital, a subsidiary of METRO AG that develops technologies for the hospitality industry and retail.

Andreas, to ensure success in the restaurant and wholesale business, focusing on upcoming trends and innovation is key. How do you approach that and what are past lessons-learned?

Broadly, we live in the age of copious information. More sources, more facts, more opinions – information has become ubiquitous, dime-a-dozen, if you will. That’s why I find relationship building and trusted sources key to capturing quality insights. Who introduced me to a particular expert? How well does my source know the subject matter? Do they come from the industry, bringing deep insights rather than base knowledge?

While, say, “Mr. & Ms. Google” are a great no-cost way to tap into the first wave of trends and insights, I prefer adding direct expert conversations with individuals living and breathing the subject matter at hand.

These insider conversations often start relatively casually. Meeting at conferences, sharing knowledge prior or after a panel or roundtable. From that come new e-introductions, follow-up calls and insightful meetings. Many times, I see how others share very similar pain points with us. To learn more about how they try to solve for them gives us an edge.

While, say, “Mr. & Ms. Google” are a great no-cost way to tap into the first wave of trends and insights, I prefer adding direct expert conversations with individuals living and breathing the subject matter at hand.

Andreas Wuerfel


You travel between the US and Europe to spot transformative ideas and technologies. What is top-of-mind right now?

At meta level, global supply chains are undergoing fundamental change. Part driven by efficiencies from innovation, part affected by socio-political and geo-economic forces, this affects everyone including METRO and all our customers. Conversely, innovation holds tremendous promise in our goal to get better faster at serving our customers’ unique needs.

One example – on both sides of the Atlantic, I see how more people travel more often, quick to changing places. Each bring interest in local cuisine while also influencing new local restaurant concepts and menus previously less known. And a new generation of experience-centric guests looks for new cool restaurants but is also quick to move on. So, from supply chain transformation to the future of consumer pallets, all of this changes what and how our restaurant customers come to shop for in our stores, how we stock our shelves, and what technology we’re using to best serve an increasingly diverse and dynamic set of menus and tastes.

This is why, from multichannel enablement to data-driven restaurant OS systems, we’re looking at the complete range of digital innovation options – across our own supply chain all the way into customer premise.


How can corporates benefit from new ideas and innovation scouting? Would you have specific examples relevant to METRO?

Both from a restaurant operator as well as wholesale and FSD perspective, the US is a crucial innovation lighthouse market for us. At minimum, looking at how our US peers and their restaurant customers understand and utilize innovation helps us solve for the age-old “I don’t know what I don’t know” dilemma. What should we be aware of but didn’t know to ask? Seeing first-hand new US store concepts emerge is a good example. Or engaging with US startups today working on tomorrow’s digital offerings.

Of course, the US market also affords us upside to our own digital restaurant solution building. For instance, we looked at most key US restaurant tech companies, in support of our own customers-side POS, website builder, Cockpit, and MenuKit initiatives. All of this runs under a designated “bridge-to-Europe” focus as we’re transferring the essence of our US insights and expert conversations into hands-on advantage for our project teams in Germany. Often, we learn something new – sometimes we find we’re actually ahead of our US innovation peers. Either way, it’s always an important conversation to have.

On that note, for our NX-Food team, we interview food ecosystem experts from inside my rolodex. These are smart conversations about smart things affecting not just the US food industry but likely also our own markets down the road. These interviews are a good example of how transferring the best ideas and innovation often starts with a conversation.


More Information about METRO´s innovation management see the Annual Report 18/19


About… Andreas Wuerfel

An active intrapreneur and evangelist, Andreas Wuerfel is CEO of Hospitality Digital Inc., the US business development practice of METRO Group’s international digital hospitality and retail solutions team. He also serves as METRO Group Director US Strategic Partnerships, with focus on international corporate innovation and business development across hospitality, retail, and food sectors.

Twitter: @andreaswuerfel

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/andreaswuerfel

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