The Papaya restaurants are also starting the summer with cautious optimism. ‘Fortunately, we were not closed for a single day. We were able to stay present and be there for our guests despite the lockdown,’ says Michael Näckel. He and his wife, Phornphilai Näcker, have owned 3 Thai restaurants in Berlin for 21 years. They managed to keep all 47 employees on; work was done in shifts. ‘We were able to offer all the dishes from the menu,’ Näckel says. That was important, especially for the regulars. The work also had a training aspect: ‘It's important in our business to retain the basic tension to do a good job.’ The terrace business, however, was ‘rather questionable’ from a purely economic point of view. The Papaya restaurant in Friedrichshain, for example, is only allowed to put 4 tables and benches on the narrow pavement instead of 9.
Papaya focused on distinctive products from the restaurant for home cooking, in addition to selling dishes for takeaway. ‘We bottled and branded our homemade pastes that are needed for Thai dishes.’ This was well received and is to become permanent. An obvious customer group was targeted more specifically: ‘We offered special fish dishes to our Thai guests,’ Näckel says. Pla Thu, for example, or short mackerel, is a kind of national dish in Thailand – but almost unknown in Germany. The coronavirus-related restrictions created space for new ideas: ‘The pressure released some extra creativity. We just took the leap, tried things out and kept on developing everything.’ Näckel noted a lack of imaginative offers elsewhere, especially in places with German cuisine: ‘For example, you can make small schnitzels, fry them darker and package them as German tapas to eat as finger food.’ That’s the DEHOGA district chairman for Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in Näckel talking; he always has an eye on the industry and the surrounding area.
Restaurateurs looking for new ideas just might strike gold at the gastronomy initiative #gemeinsamdurchhalten. It offers extensive knowledge and products for out-of-home sales. The German Hotel and Restaurant Association DEHOGA is also on board in Germany as a partner and advisor. Michael Näckel’s gaze is directed towards the near future as well as the medium term for good reason. ‘We hope to get off to a better start now. But we also have the next autumn and winter ahead of us. Operations and teams should stay healthy, whatever happens. No one should risk closures due to illness and loss of confidence among guests,’ he said.
Papaya, like Vuglec Breg, is an example of how new business fields can be developed with special products, packages and attractions and how innovations can arouse guests’ interest. METRO also initiates and supports restart initiatives and collaborations in several European countries. Restaurateurs can find suggestions and information for ramping back up as well as for optimising their business model online at www.metro-wholesale.de/empowering-hospitality-for-a-strong-restart – to strengthen the HoReCa industry for a successful restart.