Cologne: 16.–18.06.2024 #spogagafa

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Meet Our Visitors with Ralf (Bob) Mechlinski, Cologne Grill & BBQ Academy, MEAT IN Magazin

22 Oct 2020

Ralf (Bob) Mechlinski, Cologne Grill & BBQ Academy, MEAT IN Magazin

Ralf (Bob) Mechlinski, Cologne Grill & BBQ Academy, MEAT IN Magazin

We talked to him about the current situation in the BBQ industry and the upcoming spoga+gafa.

Dear Mr Mechlinski, it's great that you could find the time. I'm afraid we are of course not going to get around the omnipresent theme of Corona today either. You accompany the BBQ industry in diverse ways. How is your industry dealing with the pandemic?

Initially, like all other sectors, the industry fell into a sort of state of shock. Then, it quickly became clear that the pandemic and the cocooning effect would lead to a strong increase in demand.

People furnished and designed their private environments comfortably, this also includes of course the garden area with grills, outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. Where one can sit together cosily with the neighbours and family and have barbecues.

Is the industry proving to be agile, cautious or is it even benefitting from the crisis?

The demand for instance for grills was indeed so high, that in some cases items were actually totally sold-out and waiting time had to be planned.

In this connection, it became apparent that grill stores with online shops were better prepared than the purely stationary trade. Many of the latter subsequently installed an additional online shop. As a result of the pandemic urgently necessary processes that had nevertheless been put off have indeed since been put into place and these will prove very useful in the future too.

What will remain in place after the pandemic and thus hopefully also long-term for the industry?

Long-term changes will be identifiable especially in the barbecue event section.The classic barbecue course, which already recorded a sharp decline in bookings in the year 2019, will step aside for new formats, such as for example BBQ Shows like the ones we have developed, alongside even more outdoor events. In this section in many cases a lot of extra equipment was introduced with high-quality tents, stable glass pavilions and terrace roofs.

Fantastic and safe concepts were also developed for big events. This enables for example, trade fairs such as spoga+gafa or an event like the German BBQ Championships to be staged with the new hygiene and safety concepts without further ado.

Digital BBQ event formats have also established themselves. We and other organisations have successfully carried out online BBQ courses, which went down well.

What is the turnover development within the industry?

In terms of turnover, I am counting on a further increase next year. A market saturation is nowhere in sight. The people, who purchased their grills this year, will snap up the accessories in 2021.

Overall, I think the BBQ scene is well-equipped for the year 2021 and one can look optimistically ahead to the new year, despite Corona.

What significance does spoga+gafa have for the BBQ industry?

spoga+gafa is the most important, leading trade fair for the BBQ industry, this is where the trends are set and presented. As a result of the high internationality of the exhibitors, it is the perfect platform for trade visitors to find all trends and suppliers in one location.

spoga+gafa is one of those trade fairs, at which haptic experiences are essential. On top of that there are the gustatory elements, which cannot be reproduced digitally. The industry sells analogue products for an analogue lifestyle. Furthermore, networking also lives from real people coming together and that is more important in the BBQ sector than anywhere else. Grilling and barbecuing only works as a social event with people. This experience is depicted at precisely such a trade fair.

How has the new venue date gone down with the industry?

The new schedule initially involves a transition. As we all know the early venue date at the end of May is one-off. The following dates in mid or at the end of June from 2022 onwards fit in well and are thus much better. The dialogues held whether with suppliers or distributors show that the industry will gladly go with the one-off early date and then adapt to the June schedule. One will have to get used to it. Yet, basically the new date has met with a good acceptance. I personally always held the September date for rather late. The June offers the advantages that innovations and new products can be presented with a better lead-time.

Which top trends do you envisage for spoga+gafa 2021?

"Outdoor cooking" will be one of the top trends again in 2021. Outdoor kitchens in all price classes and grills with fires will be an important topic. Fire plates and braziers will be presented in high numbers too.

Then, next, the trend of the pellet smokers will continue. Several manufacturers have launched interesting products onto the market here.

"Last, but not least", the topic "Urban Grilling" will present several new products again. The portable grill is always more of an interesting alternative for city dwellers, who have a limited amount of space for their grill.