Why are kebabs so popular in Poland

The entrepreneur from Anatolia has ensured that the doner kebab has overtaken the currywurst in Berlin.

Berlin - Remzi Kaplan owes a lot to the fall of the Berlin Wall - and his courage as a businessman: the meat wholesaler was one of the first to offer doner kebabs in East Berlin after the fall of the Wall. Today Kaplan, who is often called “Döner-König” in the tabloids, rules a small empire that produces meat not only in Berlin, but also in Hamburg and the Netherlands. With the EU enlargement, the 45-year-old Turk from Anatolia has now set new goals: at the beginning of July he wants to start conquering the Polish market. “At that time we discovered a niche in the market,” says Kaplan, whose face is adorned with a heavy mustache, about his trip to eastern Germany. 15 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, there is hardly a place in the new federal states where the kebab has not arrived.

"Doner kebab is popular because it is cheap: meat, sauce, salad, everything is included - and you really get full from it", Kaplan advertises for his product and dutifully adds: "I eat doner every day." The doner kebab - literally “The meat that turns” - in the form known here in Germany, is an invention from Germany. In Turkey, the dish with the side dishes was previously only served on the plate. According to legend, Mehmet Aygün, an employee at the “Kendir” snack bar in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, came up with the idea in 1971 to pack meat, onions, tomatoes and lettuce together with a garlic sauce in a dumpling pocket. Since then, the kebab, the currywurst traditionally eaten in passing in Berlin, has overtaken the rank. In Germany as a whole, too, it has become an indispensable part of the fast food culture: every day around 280 tons of kebab are sold in 12,000 snack bars nationwide. With an annual turnover of 1.8 billion euros, the industry earns more than the two US fast food chains McDonald's and Burger King put together, according to the Essen Center for Turkish Studies.

The competition is particularly fierce in the capital, where more than 130,000 Turks live and many of them earn their living from rotating meat skewers. "It's gotten a bit tight in Berlin," admits Kaplan, who is also chairman of the Association of Turkish Doner Kebab Manufacturers in Europe (ATDID).

Start in Szczecin

He brought Jacek Schäffer to his side for his Poland adventure. The 39-year-old Polska, who also has a mustache, will be in charge of “Kaplan Polska”. “We are relying on three tracks,” he explains the expansion strategy. “Meat sales, our own Kaplan chain and franchising.” The price per Kaplan kebab will be eight zlotys (1.75 euros). By the end of the year, 300 people should already be working for the “Kebab King” in Poland.

On July 1, Kaplan initially opened a meat factory in Szczecin (Stettin), near the German border. After that, the first food stalls will be opened, initially on the east coast, in order to get the Poles, who are currently mainly into hamburgers, French fries and chicken, into the new diet while on holiday. There are a few kebab suppliers, but the quality is poor, says Kaplan. And the Poland representative Schäffer agrees: “We rely on quality and our secret recipe.” But the competition never sleeps: Other producers such as Tadim in the Brandenburg Velten are also in the starting blocks, after 82 million Germans to 40 million Poles with the nutritious To make meat skewer happy. (afp)