Eindhovens Rondje: What’s happening in the Eindhoven hospitality industry?

WATT is always on the lookout for unusual concepts and ideas that deserve a bigger stage. This time we’re meeting with Kara Ernest of Eindhovens Rondje

Do you have a question about the hospitality industry? Then in Eindhoven you go to Kara Ernest. She explains how she took root in this scene and what makes the Eindhoven hospitality industry special. Because is it actually special?

First of all, who is Kara Ernest?
Eindhoven’s most burgundian of chatterboxes – both on and offline. Nearly 40 now and so damn happy! My journey from baby to adolescent was smooth sailing (for me), after that I was more rebellious. I was an active, fairly fearless and confident, young hockey fan and food lover. That combo soon became a love-hate relationship. On the hockey field, I was knocked down senselessly, which resulted in umpteen surgeries and a lot of pain and limitations. Those limitations meant that there was no way I could do the work I had been doing anymore (hospitality-related at TU Eindhoven). I was 100% disqualified and struggled for a long time with what I could and could not do. Eventually, I managed to make my hobby my job. Although I’m no longer physically working in the hospitality industry, I could actively work for the hospitality industry. The funny thing is, in retrospect, those very limitations made me into the extremely happy, free and always hungry person I am now.

Where did this love for the hospitality industry come from?
My parents! And for that, I am eternally grateful to them. They instilled in us a value of eating everything, tasting everything and, above all, enjoying good food. It’s a bit of a shame that I paid a little too much attention to Dad. He never stops eating and I unfortunately adopted that habit. Better take everything off the table, because I’ll eat until every pot and pan is empty. Haven’t cleared the table yet? Then it won’t matter if I hand my cutlery over to someone else. I’ll keep eating with my hands. How about sitting on my hands? Tried that… I suppose there’s just no hope for me.

Tell me more about Eindhoven Rondje?
It started as a hobby I was going through some tough post-op rehabilitation. I wanted to move out. Just having a bit of fun before and after the recovery process in the Bliksembosch district. After all, anyone could do that at that age. I wanted to get wasted, I wanted the career, to do sports, to get involved in society, everything that everyone else wanted, too. But I didn’t have any skills. I could eat, I’ll be the best at that till the end of my days. I wanted to make the Rondje I did at a coffee shop a bit bigger. I became more and more curious about what challenges entrepreneurs were ‘tasting’ behind the scenes. And whether I might be able to do something about that.

Social media was the biggest pain in the ass five years ago. I had all the time in the world, so I started with (online) courses, took a quick nap, and then voila. That makes it sound like it was easy, but it wasn’t. Quite the opposite. Physically, the brakes kicked in on a regular basis and once things started getting a bit better, Covid came knocking. Then, as a marketing professional, you were one of the first to shut the tap and door. That was painful, everything collapsing like a house of cards. Until I realised that it could well be the key to a big twist to the future. In fact, the only way the hospitality industry could assert itself was online, because every other avenue was closed. You can’t exactly see the sign in the window with the take-away offer from your couch, lol. Online, on the screen, that was cut-and-dried. I capitalised on that. I built a new website, an application and went viral on socials. I cast my net far and went from just hospitality to retail, culture, work and sometimes even sports. My circle got bigger and the impact of the second and third Covid waves was more manageable. In fact, I was growing. With the company and as a person.

What do we offer specifically?
We write FOR and ABOUT the hospitality industry.
FOR the hospitality industry, we create marketing communications and now manage some 15 social media accounts for different restaurants. That package can be supplemented with a variety of trigger services, such as food shoots and training sessions, so the in-house team can (and will) eventually take care of that. We also offer storytelling, copywriting and concept development. ABOUT hospitality covers everything that’s posted on Eindhovens Rondje. Here, we work with partnerships. So, if you want to be on Eindhovens Rondje, you can become a partner.

So what makes the region’s hospitality industry so special?

The diversity of the hospitality industry in this region is breathtaking. From innovative concepts to established icons, Eindhoven offers something for everyone. Some have been running a rock-solid and well-run concept for 15 years or more, while others switch out their offer more regularly. And yet others are as innovative or international as it gets. We’re seeing more and more of the latter. Asian flavours are really conquering Eindhoven like crazy at the moment. True innovations had failed to materialise until recently. But HEY! With the first AI-driven restaurant, we’re setting a tone after all, aren’t we? With us, there aren’t any queues like in Amsterdam at Friet Fabel. We’re too pragmatic (or arrogant) for that. Businesses with queues out the door can be counted on one hand here. Actually, on three fingers.

How have you seen the Eindhoven hospitality industry change over the past 10 years?

The hospitality industry in Eindhoven has really transformed over the past decade. The city has developed into a vibrant centre of innovation and design. New catering concepts are springing up like mushrooms, driven by creative entrepreneurs or big chains. These concepts are bringing in more variety and diversity, making the city more attractive to residents and tourists alike. Eindhoven is also embracing the trend of sustainability and local produce, leading to an increasing emphasis on environmentally conscious food and beverage outlets. In my opinion, we’re still ‘a bit’ behind on that compared to other cities.

Is there still a typical Eindhoven culture in today’s international market?
Despite growing internationalisation, the Eindhoven hospitality industry retains its distinctive Brabantian friendliness and hospitality. This is reflected in the warm welcome and personal interactions between guests and catering staff. On top of that, Eindhoven’s hospitality industry reflects the city’s diverse and inclusive culture. Local dishes, events and traditions are cherished and integrated into modern dining and drinking experiences. Visitors and residents of Eindhoven are also true explorers. Explorers of the city and its various cuisines. We aren’t afraid of what’s new and different. We’re only too happy to sample international cuisines. Eindhoven’s hospitality industry is therefore a reflection of the city itself: dynamic, innovative and international with a warm Brabant touch.

What are the trends right now in hospitality?

Hospitality is an industry in constant flux, and we are currently embracing some of the most exciting trends ever. Like ‘experience over possession’, where guests are seeking out authentic experiences rather than just a meal. Sustainability is becoming the norm, from local, organic ingredients to minimising food waste. You’re also seeing the fusion of culinary styles and dishes: fusion dining is reaching new heights. I like this last one best ;-)

And let’s not forget that technology is playing an increasing role in how we order, pay and even how we do things in the kitchen. But ultimately, hospitality is timeless, and that’s always the icing on the cake for the hospitality industry.

Future ambitions? 

Ha ha no; being healthy and happy. I’ve never thought out a 5-year plan, developed and implemented it. Go with the flow. Taking action, being bold and focussing on what’s possible… Without overdoing it; that’s never does any good. I enjoy my work and the scene I’m in. The responsibility keeps me on my toes and the freedom gives me space. This is when I’m at my best and enjoy it however long it takes. I’m creative and shrewd enough to keep moving or to take a different path if it were to prove necessary. My strength I think, is in that I’m more into enjoyment than ambition.


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