27 August 2019

Design Thinking Enables Event Perfection: 20 Years of the MHK event at the Estrel Berlin

Can Design Thinking, which has been adopted by leading tech brands such as Apple, Google, Samsung, IBM, be employed to attain event perfection for hotels? As background, Design Thinking is a creative problem-solving process that has a human-centered core. At the Estrel Berlin, this user-driven, interactive approach has been used frequently over the property's 25-year history as a tool to perfect event delivery.  


As the diagram indicates, it all begins with empathy. Flashback to about 1999, the early years of the when MHK Group, a German purchasing association for kitchen and furniture retailers, held its gala dinner at the Estrel Berlin. Imagine a plated, four-course meal for about 2000 guests. Estrel Head Chef Peter Griebel is watching the scene carefully. As the main course is being served, he witnesses the guests observing that some of the plates have slightly larger, more attractive pieces of beef, and others less so. With empathy for the guests in this situation and the nature of the problem clear in his mind, he began to ideate to come up with a solution.

The following year, a different approach to preparing the meat was tested as a prototype. Instead of obtaining the high quality beef from a supplier in the form of steaks, Mr. Griebel elected to purchase large sections of long, uniform pieces of roast beef, enabling similar sized portions to be cut on site in the Estrel kitchens. This prototype solution met with complete success during event implementation. The guests were served top cut roast beef that was uniform in size, appearance and quality and in turn, overall event quality was enhanced.

"On another occasion," mentions Mr. Griebel when looking back upon the long year progression of this event, "was the trouble with the sauce." He observed that approximately 20% of the plates were arriving at the tables with the roast beef sauce having travelled to another part of the plate, resulting in a less than ideal culinary presentation. Here again, in keeping with the Design Thinking methodology, empathy was shown both for the guests receiving the less-than-perfect plates as well as for the service team challenged with the delivery. Here, two prototype solutions were developed. First, Mr. Griebel experimented with different types of sauces, finally selecting one with a thicker consistency that would travel less on the plate. Second, Mr. Griebel and his team explored creating different types of "sauce beds" on each plate, using either a vegetable or potato puree and attractively containing the sauce within them. These two solutions were a terrific success in that it eased the service procedure for the catering team and improved plate presentation at the same time. Again, overall event quality was enhanced.


With regard to the technical side of the event, Alexander Dickersbach, the Head of the Estrel Congress Center, states that the examples are far too numerous to mention. With well over 1800 events a year at the Estrel and many of them "Mega Events" with more than 1000 attendees, the Estrel continually seeks to tap into the most modern solutions in order to streamline event implementation for our tech teams and create optimal logistical, audio and visual presentation for its guests.

Twenty years and running, the MHK continues to return to the Estrel Berlin. Now with just under 3,000 guests for that gala dinner, the same attention to detail is given to ensure the highest level of event experience. 


In celebration of 25 years of the Estrel Berlin this year, it is clear that incorporating this user focused Design Thinking approach has enabled event perfection, for the MHK as well as for the numerous other returning Estrel clients.