Bringing a new taste to Dublin’s streets
2008-01-31 15:40:36 -
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In the latest instalment of Metro Eireann’s Meet The Boss, SANDY HAZEL speaks to Tobias Amendt and Christof Lindemann, who run the hot food stall TC’s Diner 

Tobias Amendt and Christof Lindemann, from Germany, arrived in Ireland recently with their respective degrees in  Economics and Business Studies, and some experience working in the information technology sector in their homeland.

“You learn a lot on your first job after leaving college,” says Amendt. “I was in a statistical department of a company for three years. I was made redundant and when the company closed it was a learning process, you see how different people react to a very stressful situation.”

In Germany, redundant workers are offered valuable retraining in vocational programmes, and Amendt took full advantage of this situation. “I studied marketing and one of our teachers was Irish,” he recalls. “She suggested a visit to Ireland, so we came and we decided to stay.”

As they explored the city, an idea came to Amendt and Lindemann when they experienced the quality of some take-away food: “We were not too impressed. At a certain level, the big chains cater for a type of market, but outside of that there seemed to be an opening for superior fast food. Prices outlets were charging were expensive, too.”

Lindemann soon checked out suppliers of quality bratwurst sausages back in Germany, and the pair estimated the equipment needed to set up a mobile bratwurst stand. They then set about finding locations to start trading.

“We found it difficult to get some initial events,” explains Amendt. “Dublin City Council has a system where there is a list of applicants for pitches around the city, designated street areas, to sell hot food and drinks. But it is a long list, and we were not sure where we were on this list.”

As a result, the pair found it tricky to plan ahead. But on a visit to the Dublin City Council offices, they had a lucky break.

“While we were waiting we were speaking to each other in German,” says Amendt. “Another guy there was German and we chatted. We told him about our German sausage business. He was Wolfgang Hoffmann, the organiser of the Fringe Theatre Festival in Dublin, and he invited us to trade there. We applied to the festival planner, and 10 days before the start she told us that we were definitely in.”

Lindemann adds: “From then it was a rush to get our stuff organised, and we became TC’s Diner.”

The pair appreciated the flexible approach of some officials in Dublin at the time: “We needed to get our permit speedily and they made it possible, they came out quickly to us to inspect our fridge. In Germany they would not have been so flexible.”

Their first day’s trading was a bit chaotic, with a German camera crew following their every move for a TV show about German emigrants. “We learned that we should have been more prepared: things like knowing where the mains points were, having enough change available for customers. But these are things you learn and remember for the next time.”

Despite their tricky start, the pair had great success at the Fringe Festival. “People were happy with the food and also with the value, as our sausages are much bigger than the normal hot dog.”

Having catered for many other events since, the pair realise how busy an event needs to be to make the day profitable for them.

Their plan, according to Amendt, is “to get into as many music concerts, markets and events as possible. But many of these are on at the same time of the year, which is difficult for traders like us. We are now getting in touch with all the organisers now so we can plan the season.”

Lindemann says that TC’s Diner is also looking to gain space on butchers’ shelves in Dublin so people can enjoy the bratwurst experience at home.
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