Newsletter #1 | An interview with Olaf Müller

“Beverage coasters are a classic and indispensable advertising tool”

Name: Olaf Müller

Role: National Senior Sales Manager D-A-CH

Hobbies: Traveling, sailing, diving, water sports, skiing, spending time in nature

Age: 50

Joined KATZ in: 2007

Olaf Müller knows a thing or two about the hospitality industry. He started off training to become a hotel manager at a 5-star hotel in Freiburg, and then went on to study tourism management. After a brief detour into restaurant management, he moved over to the beverages industry, joining a leading German manufacturer of sparkling wine and champagne, wine, and spirits. As Regional Sales Manager he was the contact person for beverage wholesalers as well as being directly responsible for current trends in food service, niche catering, sports and leisure catering, as well as catering for nightclubs. He then moved to the sales department of an energy beverage supplier and continued his work in the field of hospitality. The father of three subsequently joined a major supermarket chain where he was responsible for sales activities in relation to various mineral water brands, with the aim of also serving the high-end restaurant market. Three years later the time came for him to take on a more international role, and that is where KATZ came in.

How did you end up working at KATZ?
In 2007 I had reached a point where I wanted to build upon the experience I had gained working in sales in the beverages industry and take on both national and international responsibilities. It was at this time that I was approached by KATZ, as they were looking for someone with links to leading brand owners and a good network in the beverages industry. I thought the role sounded exciting, as it meant that I would be directly in contact with brands and their purchasers and marketing departments while also having an influence on production and a connection with the products. This close cooperation and the opportunity to take on responsibility for the DACH region are what influenced my decision to join KATZ.

What does your role at KATZ entail?
As National Senior Sales Manager for the D-A-CH region I am responsible for the beverages industry in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. This primarily concerns breweries—from major national breweries to regional breweries and craft beer brewers—as well as companies offering alcohol-free products. My sales activities also include working with vintner cooperatives and spirits manufacturers. In addition, hotels, all kinds of food service businesses, and retailers are growing increasingly interested in using beverage coasters for their own purposes. I am also the contact person for advertising agencies. Basically, I cover all areas where advertising is used—and beverage coasters are an essential tool in that respect.  It really helps that, over the years, I have developed a passion for getting a feel for different brands, creating brand experiences, and helping design marketing strategies.

How has the market for beverage coasters evolved in recent years?
I’ve definitely seen a shift there. In the past they were a functional tool for soaking up liquid. Now, beverage coasters are seen more as a classic advertising tool that companies couldn’t live without. This means I not only talk to strategic buyers at beverages companies, but also to their marketing departments. The cost-benefit ratio of the beverage coaster is extremely good for beverages companies.

What do you think are the main challenges?
One of the major challenges is maintaining the beverage coaster’s reputation as a popular and functional advertising tool. Brand owners are responsible for brand management. This means it is hugely important to communicate the philosophy behind beverage coasters to them, too. If a beverage coaster is designed well, it can be just as good an advertising medium to offer restaurateurs as glasses, dispensing equipment, or other furnishings. However, it’s also about providing the right beverage coaster with the corresponding drink to ensure that the brand experience is visible.

Another challenge is trying to cater to and supply products for each of the 20+ different types of food service business via our customers, the beverage companies. On the one hand, you’ve got premium restaurants: Beverage coasters are not necessarily the first choice here as they take a different approach to tableware. Then you’ve got restaurateurs selling various beer and beverage brands with different branded glasses and so on. It’s not an easy task to present it all to restaurateurs in such a way that they accept and implement the entire package required to ensure brand visibility. In this respect we as the sales department can provide support and enter into direct conversation with restaurateurs.

How do beverage coasters work as an advertising tool?
If you look at the costs associated with a conventional print campaign and the cost of using beverage coasters, there is a clear advantage: The beer mat is there on the table, where multiple customers notice and look at it throughout the day. The customers are usually feeling relaxed as they are there to meet up with family and friends. These are the perfect conditions for customers to be exposed to advertising on a beverage coaster.  A traditional print campaign in newspapers or specialist magazines will perhaps be seen only three or four times. If you extrapolate that to overall reach, the beverage coaster is a clear winner. Consumers also interact with the product in a totally different way. They pick beverage coasters up and play with them, so the haptics of the product enhance the brand experience in yet another completely different way. The fact that our beverage coasters are sustainably produced also adds to their charm.

Beverage coasters are more commonly referred to as “beer mats” but do you also see beverage coasters being used for alcohol-free products?
Absolutely. There are many possibilities here. Restaurants that are not linked to a particular brewery, for example, are switching from branded napkins to coasters as we are able to really tailor them to their needs. We can make the beverage coasters thinner, we can provide different formats, we can make them smaller in diameter, and we can add printed designs. These no longer look like a conventional beer mat, but rather a premium beverage coaster.

Which products are in highest demand right now?
Standard beverage coasters—both round and square-shaped. The type of beverage coasters we’re all familiar with. Very traditional products tend to be in demand for beer in particular. However, even here a distinction can be made between long-established brands and new on-trend products. In the case of new drinks you have a lot of leeway for introducing some innovative ideas when it comes to beverage coasters.

What does the future look like for the beverage coasters industry?
Beverage coasters are an integral part of our drinking and eating culture. For us, it’s important to work in partnership with our customers and provide a reliable service. Larger customers are certainly continuing to lean towards standard products, but there is always the option to produce special shapes with different finishes. That’s why we aim to provide both. We also want to establish beverage coasters as a go-to advertising tool among advertising agencies. We shouldn’t forget about hotels or traditional retail, either.