Drawing up shift schedules, recording work times, securely managing personnel data and doing the payroll – these aren’t tasks one takes great delight in doing. But in the food service industry, as in other businesses, they are a must. Frag Paul, a Cologne start-up, has developed a software programme that appreciably lightens the workload of smaller businesses. The company is poised to really take off – not least due to support from METRO as a partner.

F Frag Paul recently moved into a new office right in the centre of Cologne, in a side street in the pedestrian zone. 2 rooms with 8 desks plus a small conference room. The furnishings: white, simple, pragmatic. For the company’s founders and executives, Marc Stratmann and Peter Praeder, it isn’t about frills. What they are interested in is quality and the greatest possible client benefit. They want their clientele to be convinced by the product itself – a digital personnel assistant that makes life easier for restaurateurs. The software can save a business 20 to 30 work hours per month. And Stratmann and Praeder have a clear vision: Frag Paul aims to become number 1 in this area for small and medium-sized food service businesses.

Peter Praeder at his workplace (photo)
Business partner Marc Stratmann and Peter Praeder (photo)
Peter Praeder presenting (photo)

Peter Praeder and Marc Stratmann have been business partners since 2014. They both bring with them experience from the food service industry.

“My family has a restaurant in Southern Germany,” says Marc Stratmann. “I grew up with it and spent a lot of time there.” He initially helped in all areas of the business, then took over the family company’s personnel management – a time-consuming job in which a lot of paperwork still had to be done by hand. And that is precisely what Stratmann, now 28, called into question. “I thought, there has to be an easier way to do this,” he says. “So, step by step, I digitised the work process.” This was effectively the birth of Frag Paul.

The plan to turn the idea into a business came after Stratmann met Peter Praeder (27) during his business informatics studies in Cologne. The 2 founded a start-up in 2014 which first bore the name resment and didn’t exclusively target the food service sector. “Personnel administration is 80% the same everywhere,” says Praeder, “so we were convinced that, for example, building contractors could profit from our services. But we quickly realised that the remaining 20% makes the difference – which calls for individual solutions.” That was too much for the 3-man operation to take on. The team therefore decided to devote itself fully to the food service market.

Tim Wenz (photo)
Notebook (photo)

Tim Wenz and other HoReCa Digital staff regularly stop by at Frag Paul to exchange ideas and discuss new sales approaches.

Tim Wenz talking to Peter Praeder (photo)
Peter Praeder (photo)

Frag Paul has a clear vision: to become number 1 for small and medium-sized food service businesses.

The METRO Accelerator for Hospitality powered by Techstars 2016 gave the project the decisive impetus: the start-up founders successfully applied to participate in the programme, and were then mentored and advised for 3 months by experts from various areas. It was an especially intense time. “We questioned everything: our prices, our target group, our market presence – in short, the whole concept,” Marc Stratmann recalls. “In the end, with a heavy heart, we had to let go of certain ideas. But it was worth it.” The Accelerator programme helped the company to further sharpen its profile and to set itself up more professionally. The current company and product name Frag Paul also originated in this period.

Frag Paul has in the meantime grown to a staff of 13. The company’s client base has also significantly increased – from 5 at the end of 2016 to a number in the middle triple digits as of autumn 2017 – and continues to grow. The firm’s smooth development can be attributed to its strong founding idea, its extremely useful product, the sharpening of the company profile in the Accelerator and a strong partner: HoReCa Digital. This METRO business unit is specialised in the digitisation of the hospitality industry and undertakes targeted cooperation with promising start-ups.

Headphones (photo)
Tablet (photo)
Beverage can and Milchschnitte (photo)

A start-up in the digital area doesn’t initially need much more than powerful IT, smart minds, stamina and an occasional energy boost.

“We were able to work eye to eye with them right from the start,” Marc Stratmann recounts. Little wonder. After all, each side profits from the other. The small start-up benefits from METRO’s close customer connections and market access, while the sector giant gains from the creativity and speed with which Frag Paul develops solutions.

And there is a third winner: the food service industry. Around the corner from Frag Paul, right in the pedestrian zone, Edi Viskovic has run a steakhouse for the last 21 years. The employer of a staff of about 20 is an enthusiastic new client of the Cologne start-up. “You notice straight away with Marc that he comes from the restaurant business himself,” he says. “I don’t have to explain to him how my restaurant works.” Until very recently, Viskovic invested a lot of time in personnel management. Now his employees can enter their work hours, put in a request for holiday time and swap shifts, all using a touchscreen in the changing room. And at the touch of a button, Viskovic can gain the necessary overview: “I never thought it would all work so easily, and that I’d actually have more time for my guests,” says the restaurateur with a smile.