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Mathias Brandweiner Austrian Mathias Brandweiner is sommelier and restaurant manager at the POTS restaurant of the 5-star Ritz Carlton Hotel in Berlin. Raffaella Usai spoke with the passionate host about the new Corona rules, the celebratory mood of his guests and urgently needed staff.

What is the current mood in the gastronomy industry?

Brandweiner: The first period after the lockdown was difficult, but since mid-June business has been back in full swing. And since then it has only been going uphill. The many enquiries for weddings, birthdays and family celebrations are striking, and we can't answer them all. There is a great need to catch up. And even on days that are not normally the busiest, we are busy at lunchtime and in the evening and even have to turn guests away.

Do your colleagues feel the same way?

Brandweiner: Yes, the general mood in the gastro is positive. I am in contact with many sommeliers, I meet them regularly at tastings. Everyone is optimistic and happy that a certain normality has returned and the place is fully booked.

Since 23 August, the 3G rules for indoor restaurants have been in force in Germany. Since 18 September, restaurateurs in Berlin also have the option of applying the 2G rule. How do you handle this in your establishment?

Brandweiner: The safety of our guests is extremely important to us and we always strictly implement the Senate's regulations. But we are an international house with guests from all over the world and want to remain as open as possible. That means we will stay with the 3G rule for the time being and even offer our customers a test opportunity on site. We have given a lot of thought to making the procedure as pleasant as possible. So you can have a test at our place and then relax on the terrace with a glass of champagne while waiting for your result. In autumn and winter, you can then use the terrace heaters.

Have your guests ever complained about the new rules?

Brandweiner: No, no one so far. People are used to it by now, many show their vaccination certificate or test result without being asked. People just want to enjoy life again.

Have you observed a change in drinking behaviour?

Brandweiner: The guests mainly order more expensive wines. We have never sold as much champagne as in the last few months. People want to celebrate, dining out is celebrated. Many want to treat themselves to something special here and now.

Which wines are particularly in demand in your restaurant?

Brandweiner: In our restaurant we have a purely German wine list, with a few exceptions like the champagne, which I already mentioned. And there I can say that Große Gewächse are going like hot cakes.

That all sounds very positive. So there are no more problems?

Brandweiner: Yes, there are! We have an acute shortage of staff, the market has been swept clean. It was already critical before the pandemic, but now it's a real problem. We could definitely cater for more guests if we had more staff and that is of course very frustrating. Unfortunately, many people have no understanding at all for the situation in the catering industry and sometimes react very indignantly when they have to be put off. I also know some restaurants that can't reopen due to a lack of staff or have to extremely reduce their opening hours.

The fun factor should be maintained and I'd rather the guests order a second bottle than get upset about the prices.

Have you adjusted your prices because of the Corona pandemic?

Brandweiner: We thought about it for a long time and originally wanted to raise the prices. In the end, we decided against it for the time being because we wanted to wait for the occupancy rate. We have extremely high standards for ourselves and always want to offer our guests the perfect service. Therefore, we wanted to first observe whether we can maintain our quality under these difficult conditions. But in autumn, we will probably not be able to avoid raising the food prices. The wine list, however, will remain unchanged. The fun factor should remain and I'd rather the guests order a second bottle than get upset about the prices.

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