An interview with the cabin warden
An interview with the cabin warden
Work in the catering sector can often be somewhat hectic. Nevertheless, throughout his long career, Hans Traffelet has never faced such turbulent times as in the past 18 months. I meet Hans Traffelet in his office and talk to him about the current business situation, the introduction of the COVID certificate in the catering sector and the lack of qualified workers in his chosen industry.
After a five-month lockdown period, we were finally allowed to reopen the Gurten – Park im Grünen on May 31, 2021. How did the restart go, in your opinion?
All the staff were really happy to be able to return to their usual jobs after such a long period. After the reopening, we were pleased to welcome our regular individual guests relatively quickly. We nevertheless observed a certain reticence among guests and most people preferred to stay outside in the fresh air. As a result, our Bahnhöfli take-away stand benefited from the altered behavior of our guests.
The events side certainly involved a great deal of administrative work initially. There were numerous questions concerning protective measures, permitted room capacities and operating constraints, and all these questions needed to be examined with the event organizers. Furthermore, we received a number of large-scale business requests at very short notice, which gave rise to certain challenges with regard to planning. Together with our excellent team, we nevertheless succeeded in resolving all these issues.
During the course of a normal year, the Gurten – Park im Grünen generates 50% of its sales through B2B events and 50% from private guests. Has this changed since the reopening?
Initially, the proportion of private guests increased. But the reopening was quickly followed by summer vacation, which contributed to this situation independent of the question of the coronavirus. Since the end of summer vacation, the business sector has recovered and we have returned to a normal level of reservations. As a result, there has been no major change in the sales situation.
Last summer, the Gurten – Park im Grünen benefited from the motto "Vacation in Switzerland". What was the situation this summer?
It still appeared that people were afraid to travel abroad and preferred to spend their vacation in Switzerland. We certainly benefited from this. In terms of the weather, this July was the worst for a number of years, to such an extent that certain key events for us, such as the Gurten Festival and the Theater Gurten, did not take place. We nevertheless generated 25% more sales than in the previous year. So we could not justifiably complain about the summer.
How did you deal with the capricious weather conditions? Did the number of guests fall below expectations?
Honestly, visitor frequency was not necessarily below expectations. Naturally, non-stop rain over a number of days is hardly a blessing for us as a destination with numerous outdoor attractions. But middling weather, when it is too cold for a dip in a lake but too warm to visit a museum, is ideal for us. We refer to slightly cloudy weather and temperatures of 22°C as ideal Gurten weather. So it wasn't too dramatic for us that the weather didn't live up to the expectations of high summer.
What does the reservations book look like for the restaurants and events?
I hardly dare to say it, but the situation is excellent at the moment. Our four brunches, that we serve every Sunday, are currently booked up three weeks in advance. In August and September we were asked to organize numerous small-scale and large-scale events, almost like in pre-coronavirus times. We have noticed that events are reserved at much shorter notice than in the past, due to the different requirements and uncertainties. It is therefore very encouraging for us that it will still be possible for us to sell unreserved rooms for company Christmas dinners.
Would you venture to make a forecast for the coming winter?
Over the past 18 months, I have learned not to go out on a limb and have become correspondingly more circumspect with forecasts. Provided that there is not another lockdown, I am actually really confident. In my opinion, the current demand would suggest that we have been through the worst of it now and are slowly but surely returning to normal.
Since 13 September, a COVID certificate is required to visit restaurants and event venues. What impact has that had on the Gurten – Park im Grünen?
With the introduction of new protective measures we have constantly been faced with new challenges at short notice. But with a super team behind us and the support of our parent company, Migros, we have fortunately been able to deal with everything without any trouble. The introduction of the mandatory certificate gave rise to a different atmosphere in the company. Contact with guests without a mask is so much more informal and pleasant, and that can clearly be felt on the Gurten too. To date, we have not really felt the fall in turnover and frequency widely anticipated within our industry. Quite the contrary: Numerous guests have told us that they feel more at ease in restaurants since the mandatory certificate was introduced.
In addition to the differing opinions concerning the introduction of the mandatory certificate in restaurants, newspapers are currently devoting considerable page space to the lack of qualified workers. What is the situation on the Gurten with regard to this?
Fortunately, a large majority of our staff are long-standing, loyal employees who we were able to keep hold of during both lockdowns. As an employer, we attach great importance to presenting not only a mere workplace, but also a place where everyone experiences the greatest possible sense of wellbeing. Our employees should constantly play their part and be able to help shape the Gurten. In my opinion, this sense of purpose provides not only monetary satisfaction. At present, the labor market has dried up and we don't receive many good applications in response to job advertisements. It is therefore all the more important that we, as an employer, can offer a good overall package that makes us stand out from our peers.
You hear that various companies in the city have already begun to limit their offer or shorten business hours. Would these solutions also be considered by the Gurten – Park im Grünen?
Until now, we have made every effort not to have to resort to such measures. Fortunately, we have still not reached that stage and we can currently handle our guest demand with our existing staff. Having to limit the offer or shorten business hours really hurts and that would be our last resort in the event of a labor shortage.
What is the Gurten – Park im Grünen doing to combat the lack of qualified workers?
As I have already said, we want to inspire our employees. We try to do this by encouraging them to help shape and develop our offer. To this end, we organize four information afternoons per year at which our management team provides transparent information about sales, costs, upcoming projects and current campaigns. There are also regular workshops on topical issues. Each and every one of our employees knows that they can achieve something through their work. I could show you numerous examples of ideas that have come not from our management team but from our employees. Quite simply because they were better!
In recent months, we have noticed that times have changed in the recruitment process. These days, we must sell ourselves as a company to potential employees. It is mostly now the case that the most sought-after employees choose their employer and not the other way round. We therefore make ourselves attractive and work with the HR department to develop a recruitment concept that should enable us to communicate the right messages via the right channels. We are therefore convinced that we will continue to inspire new professionals to work with us for Gurten – Park im Grünen.
Does the Gurten – Park im Grünen provide a special employee loyalty program?
We implement a range of measures designed to foster the commitment of our employees to our company. First and foremost, belonging to the Gurten family is something special. Every day, we work in a great environment and can look down across Bern where our friends work. As part of the Migros Aare Cooperative, our staff enjoy a wide range of benefits. Everyone can visit the club school courses on a regular basis and free of charge, take advantage of a fitness membership at preferential rates and benefit from strongly discounted cell phone subscriptions for themselves and their family.
We support the career planning of our staff as well as the continuing education and further development of all dedicated members of the "Gurten family". Finally, I firmly believe that if we succeed in conveying the meaningfulness of their daily work to our staff and value them accordingly, they will want to stay with us in the long run.
Why do you think people would want to work on the Gurten?
Only a Gurten employee can really answer this question. I could naturally give you a number of reasons why people would want to work on the Gurten. We have a great workplace, a super team and a highly functional infrastructure. Every employee can play their part and can enjoy great variety in their work thanks to our multi-faceted company. I have worked on the Gurten for 22 years and every year, there has been a new project that we implemented as a team and to which our employees were wholeheartedly committed. All in all, we offer an outstanding overall package on the Gurten from which many new employees can hopefully continue to benefit.
Thank you for your time and your detailed answers.
Head Marketing & Sales
Before taking up his post on the Gurten – Park im Grünen, Hans Traffelet was Managing Director of Mövenpick at the Casino in Bern for almost a decade. After joining the Migros Aare cooperative, he headed the culinary team for the reopening of the Gurten Kulm in 1999 before taking over the management of the company in 2003.
In addition to his duties on the Gurten, Hans Traffelet is Chairperson of the Casino Committee on behalf of the municipality, which is responsible for the strategic management of the Casino in Bern. The 58-year-old lives with his wife in Bümpliz and is the father of two adult daughters.