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Land of Opportunity
May 27, 2011   
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Maurice Beurskens, Head of Target Group Management HoReCa, Customer Management Division of Makro Cash & Carry Polska, talks to Jolanta Wolska.

How easy is it for a foreign company to do business in Poland and how has the economic crisis affected the hotel and restaurant business?
Poland has been fantastic for our company. There are many opportunities here. Retail has been growing fast in the last few years, although there is still a lot to be developed. The area for which I am responsible, that is hotels, restaurants and catering, is growing rapidly, despite the fact that last year was a tough year for our customers. I am very optimistic when looking at future trends and the Euro 2012 soccer tournament around the corner.

I think Poland was very fortunate. Despite the fact that the crisis had an impact—there were fewer tourists—the local market was strong. Last year was difficult because of the heavy and long winter, which particularly for the fast food part of the hospitality business was very challenging. The passing away of the Polish president in April had a huge impact on customers, and then there were floods a few weeks later. Poland was really unlucky in 2010. But then business in Warsaw and Cracow was still up from the previous year.

Why did your company decide to become a member of the WDA?
We feel that the WDA is really helping the hospitality industry to promote the city. There is definitely a need to promote the city not only in Poland, but also abroad, and to make tourists aware that this city has a beautiful identity and there are lots of things to see and enjoy here. And everybody can contribute to this promotion.

We also work closely with various industry associations, such as chef associations. Makro is part of the Metro Group, which is in 31 countries, and we started to work with the other countries to see what we can do by using internet portals and various other communication channels. Of course, we will continue to support the restaurant business.

What does the training branch of your company involve?
I am also responsible for our customer training center in Warsaw. We opened the center in October 2008 and in 2009 we trained 4,500 chefs. Last year we reached close to 5,500. We train both young, talented chefs who are still at school and our regular customers on 22 different topics. These include traditional Polish cuisine, pizza and pasta training, fish and meat training and also kitchen hygiene.

This year we are developing a lot of new training packages for the hospitality industry, to support our customers to be ready for Euro 2012, not only on menu topics and that which takes place in the kitchen, but also on aspects of service, such as guest satisfaction training conducted in Polish and English. We also plan to focus on product innovation, both in food and non-food areas.

Are you enjoying working in Poland?
I love it! It is far better than I expected. Poland does not market itself very well outside, so when you are offered the choice to work in Poland, you don’t immediately jump for joy.

When I came to Warsaw exactly a year ago I was pleasantly surprised and I straight away felt I could live here. It is wonderful here, it is a place of great opportunity. People are very friendly and much more open than I expected. I am having Polish lessons three times a week. I speak five languages, but Polish is the most difficult of them all. I still have a lot to learn, even though I am making some progress.

The country is really beautiful. I have already traveled quite a bit, I love the Mazurian area especially. It is still the best kept secret, as very few people abroad know that Poland is such a great tourist destination. Basically, only Cracow is recognized and the rest is undiscovered.

Warsaw is absolutely marvelous. There are so many hidden secrets here. I love the Praga district, as it has a bit of a wild image, there are really fantastic restaurants and nice arty places. This city is one of the greenest cities I have ever lived in. I have never seen so many parks in the heart of a city—and this is fantastic, this image as a healthy city to live in. A beautiful city with many parks, this is the image that should be promoted abroad.

Makro Cash & Carry Polska is part of the worldwide Metro Group and has been in Poland since the mid-1990s. Makro stores supply a wide range of food and non-food goods at warehouse prices for bulk-buying and small-quantity purchases by business. The Makro HoReCa center looks after the hotel, restaurant and catering industry, including the provision of comprehensive concepts for gastronomy, ideas for business as well as support and training to businesses in that industry.
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