"Be curious and open - and rigorous in your implementation“

Five questions for Dr. Christine Demen Meier (Head of Entrepreneurship & Innovation Department Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne)

What can you contribute as a mentor? What experience can you share?

I have always enjoyed passing on my knowledge, and letting others benefit from my experiences. I am sure that the mentored know more than I do about their domain. So my strength is in understanding the weak signals in the market. I am able to discover the links, which could be forged between different elements or opportunities. However, it is not easy to be mentored by me. People need to be prepared to accept my comments, which are often straight and not always diplomatic.

Where do you see the biggest need for digitization in the food and hotel industry?

The hospitality industry has 3 major concerns: to increase revenues, to decrease costs and to satisfy the customer. In Europe, the heaviest costs are staff wages, followed by food costs. However, I would like to highlight that the big change in the consumers’ behaviors will be the major challenge that the hospitality industry has to face. Digitalization should not just help to reduce costs but also be a great means to enhance the customers’ experiences.

Are there any innovations that have gotten your attention recently?

Two major innovations interest me: the first one is the Robot Pepper, which will be implemented shortly in all of the Pizza Hut restaurants. The other innovation is the “holograms”, which give the possibility to have real conversations with well-known people. All the opportunities in artificial intelligence impress me and I hope to have the chance to see these technologies integrated into our industry.

What is your professional advice for every startup?

To always have in mind which problems the start-up will solve, for whom it solves them and obviously if the potential market is sufficient. Of course I have some other pieces of advice, such as paying close attention to the team component, to talk with a lot of people but to keep your aim while accepting that there could be a change of path. Be curious and open… and if necessary rigorous in your implementation.

How important is the cooperation of EHL and METRO to foster the digitalization of the hospitality sector?

The cooperation to foster the digitalization of the hospitality sector involves several areas.

For example, we want to investigate the willingness to use new technologies as well as possible existing limits in their implementation. Therefore we are currently distributing our questionnaire in four European countries (Germany, France, Italy and Spain) aiming to collect 2 800 questionnaires. The first results as well as recommendations will be delivered on 15th of September 2016.

Next to that, students get the opportunity to participate in a Student Business Project, providing consultancy solutions for real-life industry mandates, as part of EHL’s Bachelor program in International Hotel Management. In this context, METRO mandates 6 Students Business Projects per year. The 3 topics for this last session were 1) The Model Restaurant of the Future 2) Metro Cash & Carry Social Media 3) Dashboard creation for independent restaurants.

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