he situation in Yorai Feinberg’s Jewish restaurant in Fuggerstrasse is absolutely typical of the new Berlin. That is where we had an appointment with Stefan Franzke, CEO of Berlin Partner. There are definitely no tourists sitting at any of the tables in the restaurant, which is the size of a living room in a typical old Berlin apartment block. The diners are businesspeople drinking Coca-Cola with their meals. You listen in to scraps of conversation without wanting to: “Accelerator, seed capital, Silicon Valley, strategy…” People are talking English and Hebrew.
The culinary community is now an integral part of creative Berlin. It is the foundation on which the success we as a city are currently enjoying is built
“Yes, the links between Berlin and Tel Aviv as well as New York have become closer”, Stefan Franzke confirms. And the head of the Berlin business promotion agency has played a role in making that happen. Start Alliance Berlin is the vehicle the city proactively uses to attract startups interested in testing out Berlin and the European market. Franzke not only casts his nets out to Tel Aviv, New York, Shanghai and Paris. Following the Brexit vote, he has been doing a great deal of fishing on the Thames. All these efforts are bearing fruit. The city boasts 500 new digital startups every year. Berlin is way out in front of the rest of Germany in terms of successfully raising startup capital. London, Paris and Berlin are the top three in Europe. Franzke sees the basis for this boom in the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity that every business visitor gets a real sense of when visiting Berlin.
“The culinary community is now an integral part of creative Berlin. It is the foundation on which the success we as a city are currently enjoying is built”, of that Franzke is convinced. The holder of a doctorate in mechanical engineering, who headed up the Federal State of Lower Saxony’s innovation agency for many years before starting in Berlin, quotes some figures.
They emphasise the importance of the restaurant business to Berlin. There are 1500 restaurants in the city. There is a high level of fluctuation, as everywhere. DEHOGA, the hospitality industry association, has provided a total figure of 2000 new openings and closures in all segments of the hospitality industry.
As everywhere, that is often attributable to a lack of experience and business qualifications on the part of startup entrepreneurs. Franzke therefore regards restaurant business training as being absolutely key: “There are 3500 trainees in addition to the roughly 50000 jobs.” Many of them want to become master chefs, some – like Berlin’s most well-known chef, Tim Raue – have made it right to the top this way.
That’s why Berlin Partner – that is not only the Berlin taxpayer but also around 270 Berlin-based companies – launched the annual “Berlin Master Chef” awards. Franzke: “Berlin Partner is using this project to profile the capital’s upmarket restaurant culture and the diversity of its culinary community as important economic and image factors and as the city’s marquee feature.”
The sustainable success of every single one of the “Master Chef” award-winners is just one aspect of how the world now visualises the city. In his conversations with potential investors Franzke no longer has to point out the 25 Michelin stars awarded to berlin restaurants. He much prefers to talk about the lively food startup community that is trying out new things here in Berlin, ranging from craft beer to Israeli startup Bitemojo’s digital city guide. “Berlin is incredibly adventurous”, says Stefan Franzke and then lists half a dozen new company names that I have never heard of before.
As has happened in the fashion and the artistically creative communities, dedicated communication platforms have been launched. Berlin Food Week, Eat Berlin, Stadt Land Food and the startup, Food Market, also attract companies from the industry to Berlin as investors. “Here too we are seeing major companies like METRO getting actively involved in Berlin, because of its climate of innovation and creativity.”
The new Ecosystem is therefore playing an increasing role in marketing Berlin within Germany and abroad as well. Berlin Partner brings Berlin’s cultural and culinary diversity and its open-mindedness to life in foreign countries too as part of the capital city’s ‘beBerlin’ campaign. Be it Stuttgart, Munich, London, Tel Aviv, Brussels or Los Angeles – the capital’s marketers always take culinary Berlin with them wherever they go. The tourism promoters at visitBerlin also guide conference visitors to the culinary community’s hotspots. “The 31 million overnight stays in Berlin, incidentally twice as many as recorded in 2006, in turn have a positive impact on immigration by international restaurant business startup entrepreneurs”, is how Franzke describes an important economic correlation.
He himself goes out dining with a large number of visitors to Berlin in the culinary community, which keeps on surprising him. Be it Berlin entrepreneurs invading the culinary hotspots in their organised “Delicious Riding” motorbike convoy, inquisitive Chief Digital Officers of DAX-listed companies, ungrudgingly amazed business development promoters from other German states or an Israeli media delegation – visitors to the city frequently communicate their enthusiasm very personally to the city’s chief business development promoter. “So there’s one thing I have to honestly admit“, Stefan Franzke then acknowledges at the end of our conversation. “At the beginning, I wasn’t really aware of how incredibly important the restaurant business is for enabling people to establish a bond with Berlin.”