Independent restaurateurs the world over face increasing pressure from chain restaurants, with one of the major differences between the two that large chain operators are adopting technology rapidly as part of their global growth strategies.

Recognising that independent restaurateurs need to embrace technology in order to keep up with the competition, the METRO Chair of Innovation (a research centre at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, a Swiss-based hospitality university) has released its latest research. It’s hoped that this will help to create an innovative learning community to support and motivate independent restaurateurs to learn and receive training on digital tools.

The research has led to the creation of Learning Communities, and it has taken into account their most significant business challenges, topics of interest, current level of digitalisation as well as preferred training format.

The study included interviews with more than 50 independent restaurateurs, academics, experts and restaurant associations. A survey of more than 2,300 restaurant owners, managers, chefs and METRO customers was also completed across France, Italy and Spain as they were selected to represent the European countries for the study. These interviews and survey data were then analysed to help create a Learning Community concept.

Survey results indicated that the main challenges for independent restaurateurs included offering home delivery service, doing administrative paperwork and managing their staff. Their main topics of interest for training, however, centred on managing food, beverage and other supply costs, mastering cooking techniques and forecasting demand. This gap between challenges identified and topics of interest helped inform the Learning Community concept, which offers a solution that trains restaurateurs on what they want to learn while gradually introducing more critical topics and more peer to peer interaction.

“The Learning Community concept not only provides targeted and pioneering training concept on relevant technologies, but also tackles all primary challenges that independent restaurateurs face in their daily operations,” stated Dr. Christine Demen Meier, Chair Holder, METRO Chair of Innovation. As demonstrated by the research team composed of Dr. Christine Demen Meier, Caroline Guigou and Isabelle Vetterli, this innovative educational solution also uses gamification elements to enhance the learning experience, keep participants engaged in the process, and help them develop the ability to comprehend digital content.

“The first study with the METRO Chair of Innovation showed us how restaurateurs use technologies and if not, what the reasons behind are. Restaurateurs often avoid new technologies due to a lack of time, knowledge and resources. With this follow-up study, we dived deeper to find solutions that start exactly at this point: What learning concepts and support can we give restaurateurs so that they can keep their finger on the pulse of the times and integrate learning into their everyday life with little use of resources?”, says Frédéric Schumacher, Director of Innovation at Hospitality Digital, a company of METRO AG. “We strive to help restaurateurs to integrate digital tools that simplify their work processes, so that they have more time for the essential.”

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