Kragujevac, 15 December 2022

Local taste, international standard

These days, if your road leads you to Kragujevac, you must stop by for wine and meze. The offer is standard excellent, but from the almost traditional gourmet, with the support of the EU through the EU PRO Plus programme, it got a touch of gastronomy.

Namely, in May 2022 the EU PRO Plus programme announced the results of the Public Call intended for business support organisations. In cooperation with the Ministry of European Integration, the European Union (EU) allocated more than 670,000 Euros to support 16 selected projects aimed at improving the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises operating in the regions of Šumadija and Western Serbia and Eastern and Southern Serbia.

Projects supported through this activity are carried out by regional development agencies, business centres and incubators, science and technology parks, youth entrepreneurship centres as well as other associations, primarily helping companies to enter new markets, introduce standards, but also to recover faster from the negative consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic on their entire business.

"Support to the hospitality sector from the territory of the city of Kragujevac in mitigating the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic" is one of these initiatives implemented by the Regional Economic Development Agency (RDA) for Šumadija and Pomoravlje and contributes to the development of the hospitality sector in Kragujevac.

According to Nenad Popović, director of RDA for Šumadija and Pomoravlje, the Covid-19 pandemic has seriously affected the local hospitality sector, so this project, while creating opportunities for improving the capacity and increasing the competitiveness of 21 catering facilities in Kragujevac, is also largely focused on recovery and creation of adequate resilience to this and similar crises.

The project itself, with a total value of nearly 60,000 Euros, of which the EU invested 50,000 Euros, consists of three components – training for sommeliers, training for baristas and the introduction of HACCP standards.

The first phase of the project – sommelier training – was held in December 2022, in the Kragujevac Wine and Rakija Hub, where representatives of the 21 local restaurants improved their knowledge of wine evaluation and tasting, pairing of wine and food, and how to store and serve wine. In addition to improving the knowledge of restaurant staff and local hospitality in general, the training also contributes to the progress of the development of wine culture in this part of the country. Also, taking into account that the culture of coffee preparation is increasingly popular and coffee-making is an indisputable part of the national tradition, the next phase of the project includes training for baristas.

In addition to raising the level of service quality, restaurateurs will have the opportunity to obtain HACCP certificates, which will increase the number of restaurants in Kragujevac that will supply food to businesses and children's institutions that require a food safety certificate.

"Certification is a complex process that requires detailed preparation and contracting with an international certification house. By obtaining the certificate, Kragujevac restaurateurs will expand their market, increase their income and the quality of their services, and their guests will enjoy a better offer," said Popović.

In total, through the financing of the activities of business support organisations during 2022, more than 400 small and medium-sized enterprises in the territory of the EU PRO Plus programme have progressed in the field of digitization, marketing, greening and circular economy, introduced standards and use of financial instruments.

"The European Union's support for improving competitiveness and strengthening Serbian companies should help them enter the European market, which offers great business opportunities but at the same time requires the fulfilment of high standards and readiness for competition. These projects will significantly improve the operations of small businesses in the processing, agricultural and other industries," said Ambassador Emanuele Giaufret, Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Serbia.