In this episode, Michael McKay had the pleasure of interviewing Thomas Krennbauer, Country General Manager of Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG. Krennbauer is a graduate of the University of Linz and has held various roles at Coca-Cola, including serving as General Manager for the Adriatic Region, Poland, and Head of Marketing for eight countries in the Nordics & Baltics Division.
As one of the most respected executives in the food and beverage industry, Thomas shared his insights on a wide range of subjects, from corporate branding to Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG's partnership with EHL in Upper and Premium HoReCa training.
The significance of having solid local supply and value chain capabilities for hospitality companies cannot be overstated. This is because organizations that leverage local logistical expertise can promote sustainable practices, reduce the carbon footprint, enhance the guest experience, and create a sense of community.
By leveraging its partnership with its Switzerland bottling partner, Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG, the globally renowned Coca-Cola brand is able to use its relationships with restaurants, hotels, cafes, wholesalers, retailers, and customers to drive sales in the local market. According to Krennbauer, Coca-Cola has a global brand awareness of 94%. According to him, there are hardly any people on the globe who haven't heard about the brand or tried it yet.
The Coca-Cola brand was first produced in Switzerland in 1936, thanks to Max Stooss, a Swiss entrepreneur. Since then, Coca-Cola has been produced locally. Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG generally operates as a franchisee of the organization and as the official bottling partner across 29 countries. The company serves customers in different markets, including all of East Central Europe, South East Europe, and the African markets of Egypt and Nigeria.
Having been started more than 80 years ago, Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG has had time to develop a very strong local supply and value chain network. In fact, Krennbauer notes that 90% of all the raw material inputs (RMI) are locally sourced. Due to this expertise, the organization has become "truly Swiss," with a total annual contribution to the Swiss economy of more than 1 billion Swiss Francs.
Despite the adverse financial impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent recessions, Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG has expanded and taken significant steps in corporate branding. In addition to the usual carbonated soft drinks like Coke Zero, Mezzo Mix, Fanta, and Sprite, Coca-Cola has added some new items to its selection. The company now produces Coca-Cola Iced Tea, Fuze Tea (a blend of fruit juice, botanicals, and tea), Coca-Cola Coffee, flavoured water, and energy drinks. According to Krennbauer, this is part of the company's 24/7 portfolio movement.
Coca-Cola's new corporate branding objective is to cater to its customers' diverse needs and preferences by providing them with the ideal product for every occasion, around the clock, all year round. In light of the ever-evolving tastes and demands of its consumers, the organization strives to place them at the forefront of its endeavours for maximum satisfaction.
By developing a powerful brand that is closely associated with local sourcing and sustainability, Coca-Cola has created a sense of community and established itself as a responsible corporate citizen. In the long term, this has the power to attract more customers who value sustainability and local sourcing, ultimately driving demand for locally sourced products and ingredients.
As the hotel and tourism market continues to develop rapidly, stakeholders need to progressively attract and retain top talent. The problem is that companies operating in mature markets like Switzerland are constantly competing for talented people in a multitude of ways. Moreover, most of these candidates possess similar skills, making it challenging for organisations to identify and recruit the best candidates.
As part of its ongoing partnership with Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG, the EHL Hospitality Business School has been focusing on elevating the level of expertise for professionals working in upper and premium HoReCa. HoReCa is an acronym for the hotel, restaurant, and catering industry, commonly used to refer to businesses that provide food, beverages, and accommodation services to customers.
The EHL-Coca-Cola partnership aims to provide comprehensive, innovative, and hands-on training, with the inherent objective of merging Coca-Cola's extensive industry knowledge and expertise with EHL's wealth of hospitality management insights.
While speaking with Krennbauer, one develops a clearer picture of why Coca-Cola decided to partner with the EHL Hospitality Business School on training matters. Michael asks him how important it is for Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG to find the right people and talent and why it has become increasingly hard in some business sectors since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his response, Krennbauer says, "Talent is our priority number one because, at the end of the day, the business is run by people, and people are a top priority for us. When we talk about talent, we consider it across all the functions we can offer in the company—finance, manufacturing, logistics, marketing, and sales activities. Coca-Cola is a commercial organisation, meaning that this is an area where we are permanently seeking great talent from the Swiss market. However, this is somewhat a bit of a challenge these days, which is why I think we have a lot to offer as a company."
Based on Krennbauer's response, there is minimal doubt that acquiring and retaining talented employees is going to be vital in the future of the hotel and tourism industry. However, industry professionals must first acknowledge the challenge and develop innovative methods of building and attracting top talent to the fold.
When asked why he thought seeking exceptional talent from the Swiss market was becoming difficult, he states that the marketplace has become highly competitive due to the entry of digital companies.
"The marketplace in Switzerland is very competitive. A lot of businesses are quite attractive, especially to young professionals. This means that the competition between firms is fierce. Internet-based companies (digital companies) are also very attractive these days since they have become somewhat trendy. Therefore, it becomes very competitive for fast-moving consumer goods companies like Coca-Cola HBC Schweiz AG and many others in the business," Krennbauer says.
Given this reality, it becomes important for hoteliers and other companies in the hospitality industry to learn how to find the right people. Companies also need to find candidates who possess positive attitudes and are driven by ambition. It is vital to consider self-motivated individuals who want to develop themselves and who are inspired to talk and work with customers. For Krennbauer, this means having a "commercial mindset." He notes that, whether an employee is straight from university or has a couple of years of work experience, they should have a strong growth mindset and a sense of customer centricity and customer service excellence.
This has been one of the major motivations behind the development of EHL's and Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland's new training programs in the premium HoReCa sector. The training is multi-faceted–there is a sales force programme, a Premium HoReCa VIP programme, and a Premium HoReCa academy programme.
One of the most interesting angles is that the Premium HoReCa VIP programme targets business owners and management-level professionals in the premium HoReCa sector. Many of Coca-Cola's customers have gaps in their qualifications and, therefore, lack the understanding of how to run a business successfully. The company addresses this by inviting them to become partners and giving them an opportunity through the EHL partnership to be educated and progress in their careers.
The École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) has partnered with Coca-Cola HBC Switzerland to develop three training packages for its business customers. Our objective is to empower our trainees to identify and shape trends within the Premium HoReCa sector.
The curriculum targets enrolments in Upper and Premium HoReCa training so that stakeholders can better understand customers' changing needs in the post-Covid era. We offer three tailored, interactive modules as follows: