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Haferkater boss in conversation: Some more successful than McDonald’s

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Haferkater boss in conversation: Some more successful than McDonald’s

Dhe Friedrichstrasse station in Berlin is a good place to get an idea of ​​what Leandro Burguete has gotten himself into. And what he dares. Backwerk, Burger King, Brezelbäckerei Ditsch, Dunkin’ Donuts, Le Crobag, McDonald’s, Wiener Feinbäcker Heberer – they all have something to offer for breakfast at this larger, but by no means huge station. And these are only the most well-known providers. There are other smaller ones too. And supermarkets. He and his co-founders Anna Schubert, his partner, and Levin Siert fought against this armada in order to bring better, healthier, i.e. vegan, breakfast to the passing passengers at German train stations. Haferkater, as the company was founded in 2014, has chosen powerful rivals.

Burguete, in his early 30s, was born in Colmar, France, and in his new home in Berlin, where he actually wanted to study, there was one thing he didn’t understand right from the start: eating habits on the way to work. “In France, the most important thing about food is whether it tastes good, everything else is secondary,” he says. “In Germany, on the one hand, there is a lot of talk about healthy food, about good and less good ingredients – and on the other hand, the offer in the system catering and in the take-away segment is usually so bad.” When in doubt, a baked dough piece from some factory and with unknown ingredients. The main thing is quick saturation.

The alternative of the founding trio: porridge, i.e. oatmeal. In each of the now more than two dozen branches there is an oat crusher, it is a symbol and a tool at the same time. Haferkater operators crush oat grains every day – not oat flakes – which are boiled with water and salt and covered with various toppings. They are the main product of Berliners, coffee, cake, filled flatbread and other things play supporting roles.

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The oat pioneers ensure gastronomic variety

When Burguete talks about the development of the company, its roots sometimes shine through. The fact that Haferkater has grown enormously with a franchise model, has investors on board, has now achieved external sales of 11 million euros a year and has many more applicants than it wants to issue franchise licenses is enviable from a business point of view. However, it all started in the alternative Berlin district of Friedrichshain, so that Burguete sometimes seems as if he has to justify the success of Haferkater. Or at least explain it well. For example, that corporate values ​​such as social and ecological sustainability and transparency are paramount. The trio are questioning themselves, he admits in a soft voice.

Whether with or without topping: the first and last steps for the upcoming porridge meal at Haferkater in Berlin's Friedrichstrasse train station

Whether with or without topping: the first and last steps for the upcoming porridge meal at Haferkater in Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse train station

Image: Omer Messinger

Berliners have known that porridge to go works since they rented a former kebab shop in Friedrichshain and tried it out there. The customers came, but areas in the metropolitan habitat were not to become the home of the oat pioneers. These became train stations. And that’s because a pop-up shop at Berlin Central Station – awarded through a Deutsche Bahn competition for more gastronomic variety there – was so successful that there was no turning back.

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