Branch Day de SwissDrink, in Berne, with high-level speakers


Drawing lessons from this crisis, for individual companies and the trade association

The theme of the first SwissDrink Industry Day on 12 January 2022 in Berne was: "Fit for the future: Why are networks becoming so important?". This event took place despite the omicron wave but required great flexibility from the organisers. Indeed, because of the coronavirus, the moderator had to be cancelled two days before the event and a speaker on the same day. However, this did not change the general confidence of the industry and the will to learn from the crisis.

"Today's meeting is important and also good for morale," said SwissDrink President and National Councillor Alois Gmür in his greeting. He added that it was time to focus on the lessons to be learned from the pandemic. The economy was doing well, but the sectors affected by the federal government's restrictions had suffered. The requirement to present a vaccination certificate should be abolished as soon as possible, as it is damaging to the catering industry and suppliers.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has led to the industry itself thinking that it is up to the state to solve its problems, Gmür said. However, the solutions must be found within each professional sector. Problems must be tackled in a network, and this is where the professional associations come into their own, both as members and as interlocutors for the political world.

Dirk Reinsberg, Committee Director of the German Association of Beverage Wholesalers, stressed in his speech that an understanding of networks, both analogue and digital, must be developed. He showed how his trade association had used networks for the development of the coronavirus rules in Germany, for the recording and settlement of turnover tax, for commodity data, the promotion of mineral water and the encouragement of reusable packaging. He encouraged those present to think more in a networked way to increase efficiency.

The President of GastroSuisse, Casimir Platzer, made his speech online via a digital connection. He expressed his regret that the restrictions of this pandemic primarily affect the restaurant industry and that the Confederation is ignoring other areas of life. A new lockdown would be disastrous for the industry: "Let us hope it never comes to that again. According to an industry survey, 80 per cent of the industry's players have suffered losses in turnover because of the compulsory presentation of the vaccination certificate. This had a particularly disastrous impact on end-of-year business. Around 90% of events and banquets were cancelled in 40% of the establishments.

The pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses of the professional associations, which have too often been pitted against each other. That said, the umbrella organisations have now come together again and spoken with one voice. What is clear to Mr Platzer is that "it will only work if we are all united". The Confederation was ill-prepared, which is why GastroSuisse wants to support the treatment of the pandemic and the urgent revision of the law on epidemics with a popular initiative. "We must learn from our mistakes and incorporate this knowledge into the laws," says Platzer. He added that the crisis would continue to affect the industry for a long time to come, but that "we remain confident.

Roland Müller, Director of the Swiss Employers' Association, stressed that networks had to exist before the crisis to function during it. This is what happened with the umbrella organisations and the social partners. Ideologies could therefore be put aside and solutions to problems could be found quickly. In addition to the social partners, Müller praised the state system with its direct democracy and federalism, and the reasonable political measures taken by the Federal Council as a whole, as these had enabled Switzerland to emerge from the crisis more successfully than other countries. A real crisis organisation must therefore be put in place to deal with the next crisis.

In any case, the role of the umbrella organisations has been strengthened. They have collected the proposals and problems of the member associations and put them in the hands of policy makers. The network and the corresponding data are indeed the 'war chest' needed to overcome such a crisis. But besides politics, it is also important to be represented in decision-making bodies, so that decisions can be taken quickly.

After the meeting, the hundred or so participants were able, instead of an aperitif, to devote themselves to their analogue network during a lunch in compliance with the health rules imposed.