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Practical examples

Good Service Is Everything

Coffee and coffee specialities play a major role in any restaurant and hotel business. But is it enough just to rely on the quality of the beans, or is a comprehensive package the way to go?

We talked with Marc Ciunis, CEO of Hamburg’s EAST Hotel & Restaurant, to get answers.

Chefs best: Mr Ciunis, “Europe meets Asia.” That’s an exciting concept, and it’s in keeping with the times. Can you give us a quick idea of the philosophy behind your business?

Marc Ciunis: For us, the most important thing is for our guests at EAST to feel really good. That has various key components to it. First, we hire extremely friendly, nice people who approach the guests openly – that’s a priority. The restaurant staff introduce themselves by their first name and urge their guests to let them know if there is anything they need. From a culinary point of view, what makes us special is the quality of our wide range of sushi creations – many say that it’s the best sushi in the city, a fact that we’re very proud of.

Second, design plays an important role in our decor. The building that now houses EAST used to be an iron foundry that stood empty for about 15 years. We combined the red of the original stonework with modern design elements in warm colours – like the stained-glass windows, which produce marvellous lighting effects – to create an atmosphere in which people feel truly comfortable.
The candlelight adds a wonderful touch. Everything is really trendy, also because of the various lounge areas that we put at our guests’ disposal. They’re very cosy. The business also includes a club – uppereast – and a bar that are both doing well.

The music we play is interesting too: On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, we have a DJ who starts playing as the dinner rush winds down. That way, by 10:30 PM, the whole place is in a party mood. For a hotel, that is pretty unique.

CB: And then you move the tables to the walls and dance?

MC: No, not quite. There’s no dancing in the restaurant, but the bar area is a great place to talk before going upstairs to the club, where we play house music and disco.

CB: Who are your guests, primarily?

MC: It ranges from business travellers to weekend tourists of all ages. They stay here regularly – and naturally, eat in the restaurant. We also host a number of corporate events. Our conference area is very busy. We also host a good deal of our own events throughout the year, like the Spring Ball and Summer Ball. During these events, we do turn the restaurant into a club where people can rock out and dance the night away. That is really popular with our guests.

CB: How important are hot drinks to your business?

MC: Hot drinks play a major role for us. Starting with breakfast, coffee is still the most popular drink – followed directly by tea. We sell about two and a half to three tonnes of it every year. In the afternoons and in the conference area, orders are mainly for specialities like cappuccino and latte macchiato. We’re seeing a shift in popularity, from filter coffee to specialities, except in the breakfast area.

In the morning, many business people want their filter coffee. On the weekend, there is more demand for coffee specialities, even in the breakfast area. We have two baristas working in the hotel bar who do a lot of Latte Art, which is a hit with the guests. Coffee is simply an indispensable product for hotels and restaurants.

CB: What products do you use, and what makes them special?

MC: For coffee and coffee specialities we use filter blends, Alfredo Espresso, and Café Crema from Darboven. The products have an excellent flavour, and the quality is always extremely high – that never changes. After all, it is important to keep serving your guests at the same high standard so that they’ll want to come back. Darboven upholds that standard, and that’s why we decided to work with the company.

CB: There are various key components to the perfect coffee. What added value does the Darboven package offer you?

MC: Darboven’s service is one of its strong points. The field sales representatives even put us in touch with Thermoplan, our coffee equipment supplier. That company also works with Darboven, and in my opinion, it offers the best equipment available on the market today. Darboven also organised a tour of the roasting plant for our employees.

It was important to us for both trainees and permanent staff to get to see such production sites and gather background knowledge. Furthermore, our field sales rep is super-nice and always easy to reach. He responds to our problems immediately, and that means everything to us, along with quality.

CB: What components does the package include?

MC: It has many components. The sales representatives, equipment, coffee quality and the coffee cups are the most important ones for us. Darboven also offers table menu cards, but we don’t use those in our business – or at all, generally. Ultimately, we want the room to make an impression, not the promotional decor. The guests like that about us.

CB: How did you become aware of Darboven?

MC: It is a company with a long tradition in Hamburg. And because we are also a Hamburg company, it makes sense for us to do business with each other. Mr Darboven likes to drop by, and we’ve had some good conversations. That prompted us to choose Darboven as our new coffee supplier, and soon we had a partnership.

Source: chefs best ( / issue 04-05/2012