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'Fehrcarem was created in 1995, and since that time it has continued to grow'

Ricardo Miguelañez, Agricultural Engineer. @rmiguelanez

Fehrcarem is celebrating its 20th anniversary! In view of the occasion, we met up with Alberto de Unzurrunzaga, the current Chairman of Fehrcarem, the association of modern restaurant chains.

Alberto de Unzurrunzaga, who was born in Bilbao in 1965, has a law degree from the Complutense University of Madrid, as well as a master’s degree in Tax and Business Consulting from the Center for Financial Studies (Madrid), an MBA from the Institute for Executive Development (IEDE, Madrid), and a master's degree in Workplace Health and Safety from the European Institute for Health and Social Well-being (Madrid).

Unzurrunzaga started out in the industry as Head of HR at the Jose Luis group of companies, where he transformed the traditional personnel department into a human resources department, strengthening in-house professional training and development.

In 1997 he became Human Resources Manager at McDonald's, where he was responsible for coordinating the department and designing its policies. Years later, he took on the responsibilities of the remuneration and benefits department, and was eventually named Human Resources Director of the chain in 2007.

He is also currently Chairman of Fehrcarem, the association of modern restaurant chains, a role he combines with his position at McDonald's.

Fehrcarem comprises companies in the organized catering industry, including: McDonald's, Vips, Rodilla, Telepizza, The Eat Out, Areas, Casual Brands, SSP, Cafestore, Buffalo Grill, Restalia, Autogrill, Le Pain Quotidien, Comess Group, Beer&Food, El Barril del Tapeo, Abades, Gate Gourmet, Nebraska, Häagen-Dazs, KFC, Taberna del Volapié, Tommy Mels, La Tagliatella, Panaria and Grupo Raza Nostra.

Ricardo Miguelañez.- What objectives did you set when you became chairman?

Alberto de Unzurrunzaga.- Fehrcarem is the only organized restaurant association created to improve competitiveness throughout the catering value chain by sharing solutions, standards and expertise to enhance efficiency and sustainability and provide greater value to consumers.

As a result, it represents the interests of the sector and its associates vis-à-vis institutions and other associations. We focus especially on the defence of healthy habits and respect for the environment. One example is our commitment to the PAOS Code (Spanish Self-Regulating Code for Food Advertising Aimed at Children) and the new law on allergens promoted by AESAN in defense of environmental and nutritional responsibility.

We are also working on the continuous improvement of training for sector professionals and on achieving accreditation for the training they receive at their companies and for their work experience.

R.M.- How does the sector benefit from Fehrcarem's efforts?

A.U.- First, Fehrcarem has played an important role in developing a sector conscience and in strengthening our negotiating capacity for the common good. We address issues such as tax regulation, electricity tariffs and job creation in the industry on a daily basis.

We also advocate for environmental responsibility, encouraging the use of renewable products which are environmentally-friendly, and for nutritional responsibility.

One example is the HAVISA plan, which encourages healthy habits by promoting sports and physical exercise along with a varied, balanced diet. To this end, a collaboration agreement will be signed between Fehrcarem, Fundación Alimentum and AECOSAN in the near future.

In short, we are an association committed to the industry with a strong focus on improving every day.

R.M.- Does Fehrcarem have new associates?

A.U.- Fehrcarem was created in 1995, and since that time it has continued to grow. Six new catering groups joined in the last two years, for a current total of 26 associates.

R.M.- How do you see the sector next year, from a economic standpoint?

A.U.- The sector is expected to grow by 2.3%, and we believe around 500 new restaurants will open over the course of the year. That growth will give us the opportunity to continue creating jobs both directly and indirectly, and to do our small part in growing Spain's economy.

R.M.-What problems does the sector have?

A.U.- We are a very heterogeneous sector, with many different capacities and distributed throughout Spain, which is affected by very diverse regulations. For example, there is a collective agreement for each province, which has extremely complex implications in terms of management for a company that operates nationwide. In the case of opening new locales, the rules are local, with the result that each city government has a different regulation for obtaining a business license. And then there are also regional, national and European regulations. The absence of a common work framework for the entire sector means greater costs and a lack of trust on the part of investors, as legal security is compromised and the possibility of recovering their investment is at risk.

For example, used cooking oils are sold by our associates to companies that transform them into biodiesel. Lately, we're seeing that city governments look at this as a business opportunity and, in breach European regulation, want to require restaurants to hand over their used oil for free (instead of selling it) to companies that have paid a fee to the city government for that purpose. We must spend our time and money on never-ending legal issues, resources, etc. just to defend our rights.

Another problem the sector must address is the ongoing threat of a VAT hike which, if it occurs, would once again curb growth after the lengthy crisis we have been weathering.

We're also working to create something similar to an MBA for catering companies so as to have a training standard for new people interested in working in the industry and for encouraging improvements in our employees' capabilities.

R.M.- What are the main activities planned by Fehrcarem in the coming years?

A.U.- Fehrcarem is celebrating its 20th anniversary! As a result, the year is going to be chock-a-block with new activities and collaborations.

First I would highlight the 6th edition of RestauranTrends, one of the sector's most emblematic events. As in previous years, it will feature top-flight speakers. There will be a micro- and macroeconomic analysis and a look at current and future consumer trends. New opportunities in the industry will also be highlighted, along with new paradigms for growth, among other topics.

But Fehrcarem will also be involved in other presentations all year long to highlight diverse practices in catering and to encourage, discuss and help overcome a variety of problems in the industry. In short, we are working tirelessly for the industry.

The association will also be presenting awards, organized into various categories, which aim to recognize—for the first time ever—the hard work by sector professionals and chairmen.

Lastly, Fehrcarem will continue to collaborate with other sector associations and with related institutions. We are firmly committed to the organized restaurant industry.

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25/07/2017