Being innovative is placed high on the agenda of most entrepreneurs. Whether you’re in art, computer technology or healthcare: it’s completely ok to invest a lot of time and money in order to come up with refreshing ideas or unique products. The same goes for the food and beverage industry. It might not be the first sector that pops up in your head while thinking about state-of-the-art enterprises, but still…
Think about the last time you went out for dinner. What food and drinks did you have? What did the restaurant look like? Then think about a moment you went out for dinner about ten years ago. Do you notice any differences? Pretty sure that you do. For instance: did the waiter pour you a glass of wine back in the days? Ha! That’s so 2000!
One of the most progressive restaurants in Groningen, without any doubt, is one-man restaurant De Haan. “To me, being innovative is about being different. My restaurant is quite extraordinary when it comes to service”, restaurant keeper Dennis de Haan (29) explains. Why? Restaurant De Haan only has one employee, and that’s Dennis himself. He’s the chef cook, waiter and host, and when his guests leave the restaurant, he cleans the kitchen himself. Besides, it’s the first restaurant in Groningen that combines self-service with great luxurious food and drinks. “When it comes to efficiency, everything has been thought of to make this concept work, so yeah I guess I’m being kind of innovative in that way”, Dennis continues. The young chef and entrepreneur started De Haan in June 2016, and night after night his restaurant has been fully booked ever since.
Bartending and robotics
Before restaurant De Haan, also the popular café De Uurwerker encourages you to roll up your sleeves if you want to order something. “Talking about innovative ways of bartending, I’m also thinking about Mr. Mofongo and its robots”, Dennis adds, “have you seen their new wine bar? It has a unique atmosphere, very unlike other bars in town.” At De Haan, you have to pour your own drinks but Mr. Mofongo takes self-service to the next level. Not you, nor the bartender, but a high tech robots arm does the job. A short demonstration shows how the bartender enters a particular wine on his touch screen and short after that, a robot starts moving in the wine storage beneath your feet. While the robot is busy pouring your wine, on the floor a movie shows where the wine comes from (including a map) and what it smells and tastes like. How vinovative!
Those are two excellent examples of innovations in restaurants and bars, but according to Dennis, it’s not that easy to try new culinary concepts. “Things like molecular cooking used to be a trend, but those trends never last long. Nowadays, handcrafted and regional products are really popular. People are not impressed by fancy but unrecognizable food-art anymore. They just want to eat delicious authentic food, prepared with high quality, local ingredients. Someone I admire for doing that, is Dick Soek, chef at restaurant Piloersemaborg in Den Ham. He manages to cook with the finest, local ingredients in a real good way. I think he is also very innovative. Not because of his fancy, modern tricks, but because he serves authentic, pure food.” Funny, that going back to basic works so well in this tasty context. For Dennis, no big innovative actions are to be taken at the moment. De Haan is a huge success and why change a winning formula? “I just started this restaurant, and I’m very happy to see that things go so well. Next year, I might need two extra hands. But that’s it for now”, Dennis adds.