All Aboard as Mitropa gets a Makeover | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 26.11.2001
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All Aboard as Mitropa gets a Makeover

After 85 years, it’s time for a makeover. Mitropa, the restaurant on-board Deutsche Bahn’s Intercity Express (ICE) is reknowned for its poor service and even poorer menu. But, not for very much longer.

Mitropa Logo

After the September 11 horror attacks, another plane crash in the USA and a third plane making news after crashing near Zurich this weekend, air travel is suddenly not that attractive. The other alternatives are to get there by car or by train. It is not surprising that many commuters prefer the latter as they avoid the stress associated with Germany’s autobahns.

Many foreigners in Germany remark on how efficient the rail system in the country is. Trains arrive and depart on time. Thus ensuring that the German’s maintain their high standard when it comes to punctuality. However, some journeys can last up to eight hours which allows passengers time to scrutinise the appalling service while the on-board restaurant leaves much to be desired.

Mitropa is Deutsche Bahn’s 85-year-old sister company, and its age shows. The on-board restaurant service is in desperate need of a makeover as passengers boycott the outdated menu, poor service and tasteless food. All of this is about to change in an attempt to make train travel even more attractive to the mobile workforce.

The restaurants are to become what Roland Hahn, head of service, refers to as Service-Oases. Deutsche Bahn realised that it needed to do something after it offered employees the opportunity to learn about the logistics associated with an on-board restaurant.

Part of the programme involved a market research programme. Trainees interviewed customers to ascertain what they actually wanted from an on-board restaurant. The message was clear from the outset: Mitropa wasn’t delivering what was expected of it.

Back in time

This was not always the case. Mitropa, the Middle European Sleep and Food Wagon (Mitteleuropäische Schlafwagen und Speisewagen), was launched November 24, 1916. In its hey-day, it was considered rather expensive but worth it. It added a touch of class to the rail travel. The name became synonomous with travelling in style throughout Europe.

In 1929, Mitropa was the largest hotel and guesthouse chain in continental Europe. After the second World War, it was split between East and West Germany but merged again shortly thereafter.

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