Moving Boundaries

Restaurateurs Who Dare to Do More, Not Less (Part 3)

Pioneers with cocktails to go in Düsseldorf, geese and furniture in Hamburg and roast delivery from Regensburg: a bar and 2 restaurants are models of creativity and success during the pandemic.

Only just opened, and already closed again. Or: Jumped through hoops to get Covid-19 compliant – and then impacted by the lockdown anyway. That has hit many restaurant operators hard. Now what? Bury their heads in the sand? Not these restaurateurs. Part 3 of the MPULSE series.

Ham hocks and roasts for the nation – at pub prices

In mid-December 2020, the traditional Bavarian inn Weltenburger am Dom in Regensburg launched a new line: the Bratenbox, or ‘roast in a box’. Now fans of hearty Bavarian fare can get roast pork and German-style beef roulades, poultry and vegetarian dumplings not only in the city and environs, where pick-up is offered as Weltenburger 2Go, but by post throughout Germany. Weltenburger’s takeaway service has been up and running since the spring of 2020. ‘We started by setting up a pick-up option,’ says Managing Director Daniel Forster. ‘We got plenty of positive responses from guests who were not close by.’ The drop in business by 50 to 100 meals each day instantly made itself felt at this industrial location.

BratenBox

© Photo Credit: Daniel Pielmeier

Of the 240 Bratenboxes that went out, a grand total of 10 were ordered by men.

Daniel Forster, Weltenburger am Dom
Thus the Bratenbox was born, the first batch finally shipping out in mid-December. With prices of €13-18 per portion, Forster is targeting people who have ‘a hankering for Bavarian food on a Sunday’. ‘The prices should always be about what 2 people would spend at an inn like this.’ Unfussy, good food that people treat themselves to frequently. 240 boxes containing an average of 4 portions each were sold in a month. The service gained popularity and reach through friends and regional Instagrammers like Simone of @pinkpersianunicorn, Barbara of @die_greenburgs and Daya of @muttimachmal. Social media channels were an especially effective way of reaching women. Discount codes added traceability: ‘Of the 240 boxes that went out, a grand total of 10 were ordered by men.’
Practically everything had to be reimagined for the Bratenboxes. That included the finishing in the kitchen at home for dishes like the ‘Weltenburger Bockbierschnitzel’ – the pork cutlet coated in a breading made of pretzel crumbs and served with the local sweet Händlmaier mustard, Asam Bock beer sauce and fried potatoes that is the restaurant’s top seller. But getting it in shape for shipping was no easy feat, as Forster explains: they experimented with 8 breading variations, with employees spending 4 weeks conducting frying tests on their home stovetops. They had to set up the delivery logistics and source containers, cartons and cold packs. ‘Sustainability is very important to us,’ Forster says. ‘METRO supported us by providing cardboard boxes and a sealing device for us to test.’ All the elements they use are recyclable, if not 100% made from recycled materials. The only thing missing is an alternative to the plastic vacuum bags. Their main challenge is on-time delivery: ‘The parcel services no longer guarantee delivery because of the coronavirus.’ But if you place an order, you want count on your goose, ribs and dumplings arriving on time. As things stand, they are sending them express. Even right before Christmas and New Year’s, that went virtually without a hitch. ‘We’re not Amazon, but customers have very high expectations in terms of speed and convenience.’

The Weltenburger am Dom plans to keep the Bratenboxes in its range even after the coronavirus. They can fill the kitchen’s slow period between 2 and 5 pm. It’s not only the guests who are satisfied; Forster is also pleased with the start-up launch under less than ideal conditions: ‘Each component on its own is unprofitable. But they all dovetail in a way that makes it viable.’ 
BratenBox ---- Photo Credit Daniel Pielmeier

© Photo Credit: Daniel Pielmeier

‘My Sustainable Restaurant’

METRO launched the ‘My Sustainable Restaurant’ concept – a pragmatic how-to guide encouraging sustainability in the hospitality industry – as a way to make sustainable approaches tangible and practicable for HoReCa customers.

More at https://www.metro-wholesale.com/be-sustainable

Grand Pu Bar in Düsseldorf: expanding in the crisis

The Grand Pu was the first bar in Düsseldorf to offer cocktails for pickup and delivery – and they started as soon as the coronavirus crisis hit. They funnelled the mixologists’ drinks into transportation-friendly swing top bottles, accompanied by the ice and garnishes in vacuum packs. When drinks were ordered online, owner Daniel Kroschinsky delivered them in his car within a 4-kilometre radius – there were too many for him to take on his bike. Being first paid off in terms of publicity, with newspapers and national television covering service. ‘We were the only bar in Düsseldorf that delivered,’ Kroschinsky says. Potential guests grew curious. People out for a stroll grabbed drinks as they passed by. ‘The word was: Daniel’s back.’ It was the right signal from the small, high-end bar where the personal touch is valued as highly as quality spirits. Sales off the premises – combined with reasonable rent, a team of just 2 people and government subsidies – helped to offset financial losses.
Under the ‘new normal’ conditions, the summer of 2020 was every bit as successful. A new Tropical Mule created during that time is now also available in the half-litre stoppered bottle. The Moscow Mule variation with passionfruit-tea-infused gin, peach, lime and ginger beer became a new, bestselling signature drink. ‘People remembered us,’ Kroschinsky says. Not least because of special limited editions such as drinks in a Christmas ornament available during December. There are good reasons for remaining on people’s radar: ‘You can’t just sit in the starting gate for a whole year. After this lockdown, lots of new places will be opening up.’ Kroschinsky is determined to remain a top player in Düsseldorf’s bar scene. His dedication to his bar and his guests is paying off: ‘We charged our batteries and even managed to grow during the crisis. We’re in the middle of negotiations for a new place where we want to set up a shop in summer 2021.’
Grand Pu

© Photo Credit: Vitali Unrau

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© Photo Credit: Arne Meyer

Homing in on geese and furniture at Wein- & Friesenstube in Hamburg

Even before the first lockdown, Arne Meyer was already committed to keeping his product range diverse, apart from traditional restaurant fare. At his Marschländer Elblounge location in Hamburg, guests could enjoy the beautiful furniture and lifestyle accessories while dining, and then purchase them on the spot. When the lockdown struck, one thing was clear: it was time to set up an online shop. The New Home Style has been up and running since June. Meyer now ships lamps, chairs and other furnishings as far afield as Sweden and even in bulk to hotels. His non-food range is growing all the time and is making up for some of the revenues lost as a result of the pandemic.

After nearly 27 years as a solo restaurateur, Meyer is convinced of this: ‘All restaurateurs have a duty to keep reinventing themselves and realign their business.’ Not just so they can respond to crises adequately, but also to stay on top of trends and guests’ wishes, and to remain agile and viable. The trained chef continuously expanded the Wein- & Friesenstube he had taken over from his father, growing the venue from 20 to 150 seats. Catering and family parties are mainstays just as vital to his business as the Marschländer Elblounge and the TNHS furniture shop. The next project, his own hotel, is in the planning stages.

In late autumn, the Wein- & Friesenstube got its biggest publicity boost with ‘goose to go’, which can be ordered online or by phone and delivered by car in Hamburg. Nothing like that was available during the first lockdown. The restaurant is located on the outskirts of the city, too far to drive to pick up half a duck or a bowl of game stew. At first, Arne Meyer and his wife, Katja Meyer, were stuck in Florida, where they had gone for a holiday. Easter also passed with no letup in the lockdown despite the gorgeous weather. No possible way to earn money in the hospitality industry. ‘We opened up again on the very first day after that and we pulled out all the stops. It went well, even though we couldn’t do any parties.’ As the second lockdown loomed, Meyer made a decision: ‘We have to concentrate on one thing and get it right. That gives us entirely different planning options and different margins.’ Goose was the bird of choice, and of the season: ‘We sold 1,000 geese with sides, dessert and wine. That was the most in all of Hamburg.’ Meyer uncoupled the delivery service from his own business, with 5 drivers covering the whole city. The flat fee recommended on the website ranging from €7.50 to €30, depending on the distance, was theirs to keep. ‘The drivers were quite happy. The goose to go generated a lot of publicity, a huge demand and plenty of work. ‘The first thing we did was buy up hundreds of insulated boxes in all 3 of Hamburg’s METRO stores.’

Meyer sees geese as a good bet for the future of his Wein- & Friesenstube: ‘We are giving serious thought to the idea of offering goose all year round.’ There is certainly a demand. A customer from Australia has already put in a request for her trip to Germany. For Meyer, out-of-the-box thinking along with plenty of fun, energy and curiosity about the unknown are part of the job: ‘Goose with asparagus? Why not?’

Daring to do more, not less: part 1 and part 2

Header picture: © Vitali Unrau.

Wein- und Friesenstube

© Photo Credit: Arne Meyer


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