Carnival in Colognes Gastronomy

3 minutes of reading

Alaaf - you have never heard this expression? It is the typical greeting during the carnival in Cologne, the so called “fifth season” of the year. It begins on November 11th at 11:11 am and ends with a one week festival full of parties and parades. An event that effects the local gastronomy immensely.
The old-established Cologne restaurant ‘Bei d’r Tant’ serves a wide variety of dishes from Argentinian rump steak to soused herring to chocolate pudding. Unless it is Rose Monday - the highlight of the German “Karneval”. On the busy days during the Carnival week the owner Frank Hennes and his team try to satisfy the large crowds of revelers with a reduced menu that includes curry sausage, kale with smoked sausage and the typical Cologne dish “halve Hahn” (rye roll with cheese). “Everything you can easily eat while standing up.”, says Hennes. He has been in the business for 30 years and seems to be unimpressed by the amount of work he has to face during the carnival. "Actually everything is as always, only much, much more."

50 million glasses of Kölsch

Cologne's specialty beer, the so called “Kölsch”, has to be brewed in the city to bear the name. The result is that Cologne has 24 breweries, more than any other city in the world. All of them sell their beer in Colognes “Brauhäuser”, a mix of restaurant and pub. 
Many of the major breweries such as “Früh” or “Gaffel am Dom” clear the furniture out to make room for the celebrating crowd. Instead of the typical German dishes like Jägerschnitzel or knuckle only soft drinks and Kölsch are served. Add to that a DJ plus security staff and the brewery has been transformed into a club. According to estimates by the Festival Committee of the Cologne Carnival two million people are on the roads of Cologne between Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday) and Shrove Tuesday celebrating and drinking “around 50 million glasses of Kölsch”, assumes Thomas Deloy of the private brewery Gaffel.

Cologne makes a lot of money with the revelers. In addition to around 500 million Euros for catering, decorations and costumes, the city benefits from additional four to five million Euros business tax.

Because of such masses of potential guests reservations are not possible in most restaurants during the carnival days. Another big issue is safety. Glass bottles have been banned in certain areas of the city since 2010. Even if some guests prefer the taste of a beer out of a glass - they have been replaced by plastic cups. 

Delivery problems during the carnival

The restaurant ‘Bei d'r Tant’ is not located in the glass ban area, therefore owner Hennes does not have to think about this issue. High priority in the preparations have beverage deliveries. The capacity of the storage rooms are not enough for the whole weekend, so it must be restocked. Not as easy as it sounds. Depending on the day and time the suppliers have problems to get through, if the customer is located in the city centre. Many roads are closed due to the carnival parades and revelers. All things that need to be considered. 

Over time, a carnival-regular guest stem has formed at Hennes. ‘These are people from outside the city who you do not see the whole year but then coming back to Carnival.’ It always becomes comfortable at ‘Bei d’r Tant’. One year, some guests at the bar forgot the time so that they missed the Rose Monday Parade. In the evening they left the bar to go to another place, turned a lap around the advertising column on the road and found a few meters further ‘another’ good pub. “And some minutes later they stood again in front of the counter,” says Hennes, “since then they come back every year.”

At the end he confesses to me that Carnival, even after 30 years of work experience, is not a routine for him: “It's like if you once a year climb the Zugspitze. At the beginning you only see the steep ascent, but once at the peak it's wonderful.”
by Pia Behme about reservations and gastronomy

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