Restaurant operators have long been relying on green alternatives, offering vegan food, and recycling or self-composting. Initiatives that METRO would like to honour with the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality. The goal is to put the spotlight on hospitality operators who deserve to be recognised for their commitment; at the same time, the competition is expected to inspire the entire industry. The message: just get started. Passion instead of perfection. But is ecology as a business aspect really suitable for mass production in the HoReCa sector? We spoke with Ingrid Hartges, Managing Director of DEHOGA (German Hotel and Restaurant Association) and member of the jury for the METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality, about challenges and opportunities in the field of sustainability in gastronomy.
Sustainability in gastronomy is more than just nice to have.Ingrid Hartges, DEHOGA Bundesverband
Ms Hartges, do you think that the concept of sustainability can attract customers to restaurants? Or is that just a ‘hygiene factor’ for hospitality operators?
As diverse as the wishes of the guests are, so are the gastronomy concepts and their success factors today. No doubt about it; guests are becoming increasingly interested in sustainable products. In recent years, more than 1,000 companies with successful certification for sustainable corporate management have made it clear that this aspect is an integral part of their corporate philosophy. They score points with their guests and employees alike. The key is to actually practice it consistently, authentically and all the time .
Can ‘Zero Waste’ really work? Some people criticise it as a marketing ploy, because emissions and other environmental burdens are still produced at other upstream locations. What do you think?
There are already a few restaurants in Germany that do not produce waste. It also works to the fullest extent. But only time will tell if such a concept will be successful in the long run. Moreover, ‘Zero Waste’ is certainly not that easy to transfer to the entire industry. Not all restaurants will be able to obtain their goods completely unpacked and plastic-free or go without printed menus and only offer plant-based food. The desires and ideas of the guests are too diverse in those regards. Furthermore, it is also a matter of complying with strict hygiene requirements, and rightly so. But there is no question: In light of the enormous ecological challenges, resource conservation, avoidance of food waste and professional waste management will continue to gain significance. The same applies to the fact that the goal of producing less or ideally no waste at all needs to start at the manufacturing of products, not at the waste bin.
How Much Power Does the Consumer Have – Keyword Supply and Demand?
The range of hospitality services always also reflects general social trends. When the moment comes that consumers demand responsible and environmentally conscious behaviour from businesses, hotel and hospitality operators will definitely reflect it in their products and services. Ecological aspects are often already an important booking criterion today. One thing is certain: Sustainable living and economic activity are the responsibility for society as a whole and concern us all.
In your own perception, how impactful is sustainability in the hospitality sector?
Ecology and economy are no longer mutually exclusive. Environmental and climate protection are naturally of great importance in hospitality and hotel industry. Tourism is particularly dependent on sustainable management and an intact environment. Accordingly, sustainability in the hospitality sector today is more than just “nice to have ”. In light of rising costs in the energy sector or for waste disposal, resource-friendly operation management is also necessary from a commercial point of view. Proper energy management and the use of highly efficient, energy-saving technology help to save electricity costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. With the DEHOGA Energy Campaign and the DEHOGA Environmental Check based on it, we support the companies in these endeavours. In that regard, we have summarised tips and information in our brochure ‘Sustainable Management in the Hotel and Hospitality Industry’. After all: Sustainability works.
About ... Ingrid Hartges
Ingrid Hartges has been Managing Director of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (DEHOGA Bundesverband) since 2006. The fully qualified lawyer represents the interests of the hotel and catering industry, her focus is particularly on the topics of taxes, working hours and bureaucracy reduction. It is also committed to combating food waste.
The METRO Award for Sustainable Hospitality is embedded in the German Sustainability Award (DNP), which honours exemplary sustainability achievements in business, municipalities and research. The jury, consisting of METRO affiliates and external experts, makes a preliminary selection from which 3 finalists are chosen. In 7-minute pitches, they present their company to the audience, which will then vote at the end.