25th Anniversary: EFSS Origins and Purpose

In 2024, we mark a significant milestone as we celebrate the 25th anniversary edition of the European Foodservice Summit. Learn more about the origins of our conference, including its founding figures and the core objectives behind the launch of Europe’s first cross-border conference and networking platform for restaurant operators.

Back in 2000, the very first European Foodservice Summit titled “What comes after what comes next?” was launched to create a platform that would give Europe’s hospitality leaders insights, background knowledge and inspiration for their international strategies. (Re-)connecting and networking are also a central part of the international conference.

A good 20 years and various creative claims later, the EFSS is still all about thinking forward and out of the box, anticipating customers’ demands, identifying emerging trends and social as well as technological changes. How to adapt foodservice operations? How to prepare for upcoming challenges? It was the event’s intention to give profound answers to those questions from day one.

The Summit, preparing to take place for the 25th time, has set content quality standards year after year. The tried and tested dual strategy was to take a look at the industry from the inside and the outside and let the best minds in Europe and beyond have their say. Considering that the foodservice industry will inevitably always interact with the society around it and that the world is becoming increasingly networked, it is necessary to never lose sight of the big picture. Hence, the focus was not only on case studies and cross-industry market research on the foodservice industry alone and players from long overseen regions were brought onto the stage.

Unforgotten is the first – and amazing – appearance of Russia’s Rostislav Ordovsky-Tanaevsky Blanco on stage in 2003. The founder of the leading Russian foodservice group Rosinter made no effort to conceal that – and why – the company had been in difficulties more than once. Equally memorable was the appearance of Nadine Beshir from Egypt in 2011. She spoke about her coffee bar project in 2011 during the Egyptian revolution. It was moving, an emotional highlight. Another exceptional highlight is foodservice’s own sales ranking of the top foodservice players in Europe for many years presented by former foodservice editor in chief Gretel Weiss and now in the hands of Katrin Wissmann, executive editor european foodservice media.


The founding trio

It was indeed an ambitious project at the time to launch an English-language conference from Frankfurt of all places, says Gretel Weiss, remembering the beginnings in 2000. But the publisher and former long-standing chief editor of renowned German trade journal foodservice and its international sister magazine foodservice Europe & Middle East, founded in 1998, was convinced that a print medium, whether analogue or digital, was not enough for the industry. “We didn’t only want to identify trends, showcase pioneers or make the market transparent for all interested international players with reliable data and analyses. We also wanted to support the professional exchange between companies and create a sense of family!” The German trade magazine wanted to take its success to the next, European level.

“Us” means the Summit founding fathers: the congenial cross-industry and supranational triumvirate of Gretel Weiss, Dr. David Bosshart, who had just become CEO of Swiss Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and is a popular lecturer around the world, and Prof. Christopher Muller, the internationally recognized luminary of multi-unit management, who held a chair at Cornell University at the time. Other experts were soon brought on board, or better onto the advisory board. Their task was to identify relevant issues and hire qualified speakers. Quality management was the top priority! No entrepreneur with no time to lose will sit down for two days to listen to trivialities. Response to the Summit’s debut event at the GDI headquarters exceeded expectations.


Networking & friendships

It is a full house at the Summit every year, with more than 20 countries from Europe – and for long now also the rest of the world – a regular presence at the event. Cross-border friendships add highly appreciated extra value for the Summit’s guests.

The question is what else makes the event so special for leading industry players and their teams to always return? Above all, it is the choice of speakers, who not only have the professional expertise but can inspire everybody.

A little fascination will not hurt as demonstrated by speakers like Samy Molcho, Reinhold Messner, Marije Vogelzang and Andy Holzer or industry heavyweights such as Starbucks founder Howard Schultz and New Nordic Cuisine mastermind Claus Meyer.

One of the many memorable moments was when Kjell Nordström took to the stage, one of the most popular economic experts in the world, teacher at Stockholm School of Economics, best-selling author and personality with a magic charisma. At his second Summit he had the audience enthralled. An epitome of a performer, he illuminated the secrets of contemporary monopolies to a captivated audience. He made his listeners reflect on phrases like: “In the past, people lived their lives by chance. Today, we live our lives by choice.”

In moments like these, everyone in the audience has forgotton about their smartphone. Moments like these capture the Summit’s atmosphere, hosted masterfully on stage by Chris Muller. His closing words at the end of the Summit have become iconic. What we learned …! One of his phrases says it all: “It’s not about the money, it’s about the mood!”


For many years, the Casino Lake Side on Lake Zurich was the place to be in September for Europe’s top restaurant operators – this year, for the first time, the European Foodservice Summit will take place at the historic Felix Meritis right on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht.


We look forward to seeing you there! Register now