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|Products||Pizza, pasta, salads|
|Revenue||385.9 million EUR (2014)|
Number of employees
|approx. 10,000 (2016)|
Vapiano is a German restaurant franchise company headquartered in Cologne. The chain's restaurants offer Italian food adhering to the fast-casual principle. Vapiano was established in 2002 in Hamburg. Its largest shareholder since 2011 is the private equity firm, Mayfair Vermögensverwaltung. Roughly one-third of the restaurants are operated by the company itself, but the majority are run by franchise partners or as joint ventures. In April 2017, Vapiano totaled 180 locations in 31 countries, including Australia, China, Egypt and the United States. For many years, the company was among the fastest-growing players in the industry.
In 2002, Mark Korzilius opened the first restaurant under the Vapiano brand name in Hamburg's Neustadt district. One month later, the company was registered as a joint-stock company according to German law under the company name of Mark's AG in the Commercial Register. In addition to Mark Korzilius, who served as the company's sole Management Board member, other investors were involved. The Italian architect and designer Matteo Thun contributed to the design. Among other elements, he came up with the interior design of the restaurant. At the end of 2003, the founder Mark Korzilius stepped down from his position as company Chairman, and the company was also renamed Vapiano AG. Based on the model of the original Hamburg location, the company opened additional restaurants, e.g. in 2004 in Düsseldorf as well as 2005 in Frankfurt, Nuremberg and Munich. New restaurants were also established in Hamburg.
At the end of 2005, Vapiano moved its headquarters from Hamburg to Bonn. This was in connection with the opening of a restaurant in the Erich-Ollenhauer-Haus. In 2005, the company crossed the EUR 10 million threshold in revenue for the first time. From 2006, the company increasingly expanded abroad, e.g. to Belgium, Austria and Turkey. There was remarkable media reception marking the opening of the first restaurant in Vienna. Activities were also launched in Dubai and the United States. At the same time, Vapiano increasingly began cooperation with franchise partners in Europe. After continuous growth in the years 2006 and 2007, the number of restaurants in 2008 exceeded 30 and by the end of 2009 had already reached roughly 60. In 2011 in Vienna, Vapiano opened its 100th restaurant.
The expansion of Vapiano also had ramifications on the organizational structure: Since September 2008, the company has been operating as Vapiano SE, i.e. as a legal entity of a European joint stock company. In 2011, the private equity firm, Vermögensverwaltung Mayfair, acquired 40 percent of the shares in Vapiano from Gregor Gerlach. Gerlach had invested in the company already in the start-up phase, acquired the shares of other shareholders and served as Chairman of the Supervisory Board. The equity position assumed by Mayfair, which according to Capital had even sought a majority, was intended above all to facilitate international growth. The Sander Family, heirs of Wella, had acquired shares in Vapiano in the meantime. The change in the shareholder structure led to the resignation of the longstanding Chairman Marko Silz, due to "differing views" concerning the future strategy. His successor was Gregor Gerlach, who continued to promote international expansion.
Under his leadership, for example, investments were made in the company's logistics. After ten years in operation, the company totaled 118 restaurants and 7,200 employees worldwide, including 50 restaurants and 3,100 employees in Germany. In the 2010s, the company's success led to me-too competitors. In 2014, Vapiano altered its strategy and in smaller cities built new corporate-owned restaurants not run as franchise operations. The growth of the company slowed down,  along with basic criticism of the company's expansion strategy in 2015. In mid-2015, Gregor Gerlach announced that he was moving from Chairman onto the Supervisory Board, in order to devote more efforts to other ventures. In addition to the Management Board, the Supervisory Board of Vapiano was also newly appointed.
Vapiano SE is the parent company of the group. Since the financial year of 2014, the group has prepared consolidated annual financial statements and reported earnings according to the International Financial Reporting Standards. The consolidated companies in 2014 included some three dozen subsidiaries, associated firms and joint ventures based in Germany and abroad, in which Vapiano SE owns at least 50 percent of the shares. This included, for example, Vapiano Ltd., based in London, and Vapiano USA, LLC based in McLean, Virginia. The purpose of the companies includes doing business throughout the country or the operation of individual restaurants. The equity ratio of the group was around 34 percent in the financial year of 2014.
Vapiano SE is structured along the lines of a traditional separation of the company's Management Board and Supervisory Board. The Management Board most recently consisted of Chairman Jochen Halfmann and CFO Lutz Scharpe. The Supervisory Board, chaired by Thomas Tochtermann, most recently consisted of three representatives of shareholders.
In 2002, the Die Welt (German daily newspaper) described the first Vapiano restaurant as a "cross between a pasta restaurant, pizzeria, lounge and bar in an Italian style". Self-service is an essential element of the Vapiano concept, but the company eschews the term "fast-food restaurant". The name Vapiano is derived from the Italian words va ("go") and piano ("slowly"). The slogan of the company is Chi va piano, va sano e va lontano ("Those who have an easy-going and relaxed approach to life, live more healthily and longer.“). Except for bread and rolls, all the ingredients are prepared on site in the restaurants. This applies particularly to pasta and sauces for pasta and pizza. In its restaurants, Vapiano offers various types of pasta, prepared fresh daily.
The chain's restaurants are normally found in central locations or in districts with many offices. Starting in 2014, the first free-standing building for Vapiano was built in Fürth. Restaurants normally have between 25 and 60 employees and range in size up to 1,000 square meters. The company's largest restaurant worldwide, having a floor space of 1,500 square meters, has been operated by Vapiano in Vienna since 2013 in The Mall shopping center in Wien Mitte railway station. With a total of seven locations, there are more restaurants of this chain in Austria's capital than in any other city. The distinguishing features of all the franchise restaurants are a long service counter, exposed-concrete floors, large wooden tables, basket lamps and Italian tile decor, along with a green wall consisting of real plants in the newest Vapianos. In addition, there is always an olive tree and an herb garden with basil and rosemary.
Upon entering a restaurant, guests receive a chip card that keeps track of all the meals and drinks ordered. Antipasti, pasta and pizza have always been divided up into various price categories. All the meals are made to order before the eyes of the guests (Front Cooking). Once the meals are prepared, the guest can bring them to any of the free-seating tables. For pizza, guests receive a portable disc that blinks and vibrates as soon as the order is ready to be picked up at the counter. Guests pay for meals and drinks when leaving the restaurant, after handing in their chip card.
According to the consolidated financial statements for the financial year of 2014, there were a total of 152 restaurants worldwide under the Vapiano brand. According to the company, there were 62 in Germany, eleven in Austria, nine in the United States, eight in Sweden, six in France, six in Switzerland, five in Australia, five in the Netherlands, four in Hungary, three in England, three in Mexico, three in Poland, three in the United Arab Emirates, two in Brazil, two in Denmark, three in Estonia, two in Chile, two in Luxembourg, two in Saudi Arabia, two in Serbia, two in Taiwan and two in Ukraine. Vapiano had a presence of one restaurant each in Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, Scotland, Qatar, Kuwait, Lithuania, Norway, Colombia and South Korea.
In February 2013, the Food, Beverages and Catering Union (Gewerkschaft Nahrung-Genuss-Gaststätten) filed criminal charges with the District Attorney's Office of Bochum, because Vapiano was alleged to have severely obstructed the election of a work council for a Bochum restaurant. Working hours of work council chair members were said to have been reduced, and in addition, they were alleged to have been excluded from further training measures and relieved of responsibilities. Two work council chair members were even said to have been dismissed because the company claimed they had exerted pressure on the workforce. Vapiano issued a statement in this regard that the company had "absolutely nothing against work councils". A short time later, the Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomie-Zeitung, the weekly newspaper for the hotel and restaurant business in Germany, reported that the union and the company had approached one another and resumed discussions concerning the election of a work council.
In June 2015, the company was subject to allegations that it had manipulated the records concerning the working hours of its employees, in order to push down wage costs. The German weekly newspaper, Welt am Sonntag, reported on former restaurant managers who claimed they had been instructed by their superiors to retroactively modify the time sheets of their employees and trainees. This was alleged to be standard practice in several Vapiano's corporate-run restaurants. According to estimates, the losses for employees were said to reach up to EUR 50,000 per year for each restaurant. Vapiano's Management Board was reportedly shocked by the allegations and spoke of "criminal energy". PricewaterhouseCoopers was hired to investigate the incidents, and the company also announced the introduction of a new system for time accounting.
Also in 2015, "Die Welt" documented allegations by former employees, according to which best-by dates had been manipulated. "Partly strange-smelling" and "no longer appetizing" meals were said to have been served, also including pasta with a "green shimmer". In order to mask the disgusting odor of some products, employees are said to have been instructed to simply cook the food longer. Vapiano issued an apology for possible mistakes. The company said that, if the allegations were true, it was due to the "misconduct of individual employees". The company said it wanted to look into the allegations and cited its strict quality standards, including inspections by SGS Institut Fresenius and TÜV Rheinland. The Bundesverband der Systemgastronomie, the German federal association for that type of industry, publicly defended Vapiano.
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