• Germany edition
 
Organic Berlin firm targets primate palates

Organic Berlin firm targets primate palates

Published: 19 Mar 2008 16:23 GMT+01:00
Updated: 19 Mar 2008 16:23 GMT+01:00

A new organic fast food restaurant in downtown Berlin is hoping Germans want to eat as healthy as gorillas.

The Hamburglar lurks nearby, but he’s no match for Gorilla.

A now dusty mural of McDonald’s burger-pilfering villain is all that remains to remind pedestrians on Berlin’s busy Friedrichstrasse that there used to be a branch of the world-famous fast food chain here.

And the Hamburglar hasn't just been deserted by Ronald the clown, Mayor McCheese and their slightly disturbing purple blob of a friend Grimace. Instead of lining up for Big Macs and extra large portions of fries, people now crowd into a store next door for tasty vegetarian fare.

As Germany’s ranks of health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers continue to swell, Gorilla – as the design-hip, new organic restaurant is known – hopes to become their fast food destination of choice.

At least one German had been won over at the grand opening of the new Gorilla flagship store in central Berlin last week. Perched behind a tray full of rocket salad, fresh squeezed juice, and the house specialty – a warm salad of mixed vegetable, wholegrain pasta and savory sauce – Jan Vureng said he’d definitely be back.

"It's healthy, but it's still good," said the 30-year-old, adding he admired the stylish atmosphere of the restaurant as much as the food.

But as fundamentally different as the 100-percent vegetarian Gorilla is from 100-percent beefy McDonald’s, the company’s animated 34-year-old founder Matthias Rischau has a supersized portion of respect for Ronald’s red-and-yellow keepers for overhauling their menu in recent years to appeal to healthier lifestyles.

"McDonald's is good at reacting to trends and they are trying to become more socially responsible these days," Rischau told The Local at the grand opening on March 13.

The wiry-haired Rischau, with his passion for vegetarianism and the environment, could easily be lumped in with Germany’s legions of McDonald’s haters. The ubiquitous US burger chain, which has some 50 of restaurants in Berlin alone, faces fierce opposition from some quarters. In September 2007, the opening of a new franchise in Berlin’s alternative Kreuzberg district even sparked the creation of a protest group that called itself McWiderstand – or McResistance in English.

And Rischau, who swore off meat nine years ago, says he was resistant to letting his kids eat junk food when he came up with the idea for Gorilla. With his brood in mind, Rischau opened his first tiny Gorilla snack bar in Berlin’s western Charlottenburg district in 2005.

“At first we mostly had women customers wanting something healthy for their small children. A lot of people didn't understand what we were about," he admitted.

Rischau, who has plans to open other branches in Berlin this year, eventually wants to take Gorilla’s tasty veggie cuisine and crisp minimalist design nationwide, and said he tried to apply some of McDonald's corporate logic to his contradictory-sounding "natural fast food."

“We want to be a brand. We want to set up franchises. If an entrepreneur is putting all his effort into something it’s more likely to work,” he told The Local.

To create a recognizable brand, Rischau had young design company ett la ben create an image reflecting the simplicity of Gorilla’s food. The concept behind the food is based on what a big primate would eat in the wild: local fresh and vegetarian fare low in sugar and fat.

But in the urban jungle, finding healthy food on the go is challenging, so Rischau decided to make it easy for people who "already have enough stress in their lives." Whenever possible, ingredients for Gorilla's savory soups and crisp salads come from regional producers. Rischau stresses that this is part of why he calls the cuisine "natural," and not "organic" – since another part of playing the primate role means having a low impact on one's surroundings, according to head Gorilla Rischau.

It's an admirable idea, but the marriage between fast food and natural food could be a rocky one, according to Alexander Schramm, Director of Corporate Affairs for McDonald's in Germany. "It's not possible to convert to organic on a large scale," he told The Local.

In the last few years, McDonald's Germany has introduced products like the wildly popular Bionade natural soft drink, gourmet chicken products and organic milk in response to consumer demand for more organic food. But it can mean serious logistical problems, Schramm said, making it unlikely that McDonald's will ever be threatened by the growing natural food movement or the ambitions of restaurants like Gorilla. "We make our own goals," he said confidently.

Certainly it might never be possible to match McDonald’s ease of ordering and being served. Gorilla’s first customers in downtown Berlin did seem to be having trouble negotiating the salad bar – a food phenomenon rarely seen in meat-loving Germany – and the cashiers seemed frustrated by a cranky scale that weighed plates full of healthy fare. Another customer complained of lukewarm soup.

Emiel Hondelink, a former McDonald's executive and gastronomic consultant to Gorilla, was busily replenishing the salad bar on the restaurant's opening day. He agreed that the concept won’t usurp the fast food giant any time soon.

“Going completely vegetarian is real culinary challenge. We’re not just offering some bland tomato soup here,” said the affable Dutchman Hondelink from behind the salad bar. "But it's the right concept at the right time."

www.gorilla-natuerlich.de/

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
New app helps clients find prostitutes
Photo: DPA

New app helps clients find prostitutes

While the German government is considering tightening prostitution laws, Berlin entrepreneurs have developed a smartphone app to connect sex-workers with clients. READ () »

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend
Photo: DPA

Highs of 22C forecast for Easter weekend

The days running up to Easter may be cool and wet, but the holiday weekend should be a bit warmer for most of Germany, according to forecasters. READ () »

Berlin man must call himself a mother
The fight over the transgender man's right to be his child's official father has been raging since last year. Photo: DPA

Berlin man must call himself a mother

A transgender person who became the first man in Germany to give birth in March 2013 must be registered as the child's mother, a court has ruled after his year-long court battle to be named a father. READ () »

Study: rape convictions fall sharply
Photo: DPA

Study: rape convictions fall sharply

The chance of being convicted of rape in Germany has more than halved in the past two decades to fewer than one in ten, a major study revealed on Thursday. READ () »

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax
The tax privilege for investment income is unfair, says the SPD. Photo: DPA

SPD: Restore 45-percent investment tax

The centre-left half of Germany's coalition government has called for the old top rate of a 45-percent tax on investments to be brought back - to match standard income tax and fight the squeeze on middle incomes. READ () »

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car
Sniffing out the money. Photo: DPA

Customs find smuggled cash in every third car

The number of Germans smuggling large amounts of cash across the Swiss border into Germany rose dramatically last year. Customs officers said on Thursday they made a find in almost every third car they checked. READ () »

Crystal meth use hits record level
Crystal meth seized in Bavaria. Photo: DPA

Crystal meth use hits record level

Consumption of crystal meth in Germany appears to have reached a record level, according to government figures published on Thursday. READ () »

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes
Leonardo had to have a finger and toe amputated after staff refused to call an ambulance. Photo: DPA

Child's near death sparks row over refugee homes

A political row has broken out in Bavaria after an asylum seekers' home failed to help a toddler who almost died of meningitis. The case has raised concerns about the treatment of refugees in the state. READ () »

Bayern and Dortmund to face off for German Cup
Kaiserslautern fans let off flares in the Allianz Arena on Wednesday night. Photo: DPA

Bayern and Dortmund to face off for German Cup

Holders Bayern Munich will face Borussia Dortmund in next month's German Cup final after cruising to a 5-1 win over second-division Kaiserslautern in Wednesday's semi-final. READ () »

Zalando hits back after undercover report
Working conditions at online retailer Zalando are under the spotlight. Photo: DPA

Zalando hits back after undercover report

Online fashion retailer Zalando has prompted an investigation by state prosecutors in Erfurt against an undercover journalist who revealed alleged "trade secrets" in a TV report on Monday night. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Rhineland
Elderly man taped €200,000 to his genitals
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
What's the unemployment rate in your area of Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Nine ways to celebrate Easter like a German
Photo: Galerie Bilderwelt
Gallery
World War I in colour photos
Photo: DPA
Society
'The mafia has infiltrated every sector in Germany'
Photo: DPA
Society
JobTalk: Why you should teach English in Germany
Photo: DPA
National
330,000 sign up against TV licence fee
Photo: DPA
Hamburg
School kids hospitalized after 'porno' party
Photo: Submitted
Frankfurt
'I'll get even with my old pal Schwarzenegger'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The week in pictures: April 5th - April 11th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten great inventions you (probably) didn't know were German
Photo: J. Arthur White
Berlin
Clashes in Berlin as refugees tear down their own camp
Advertisement:
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Munich's baby polar bears are finally named
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The 10 best German employers to work for
CurrencyFair
Sponsored Article
Why it pays to avoid banks when making overseas transfers
Mr. Lodge
Sponsored Article
How to find a furnished rental in Munich
Sponsored Article
How to make a lasting impression in business
Hult International Business School
Sponsored Article
What they don't teach you at Business School
Photo: DPA
Society
Nine jobs you can only do in Germany
Photo:ESL
Sponsored Article
How to integrate successfully in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,156
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd