IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective

Despite this particular group of people hardly being renowned connoisseurs of the finer things in life, manufacturers try their utmost to make the Frankfurt Motor Show a palatable experience for the press. Do they succeed?


The IAA press days are all about hustle and bustle. Most attendees have appointments to make or deadlines to meet, which – coupled with the distances that need to be covered at Messe Frankfurt, not to mention the above average levels of dehydration, (courtesy of the halls’ air conditioning) one is afflicted with – can render grabbing a bite to eat a difficult necessity.

Thankfully, some manufacturers address this fact. First of all (literally) Mercedes-Benz. Being located inside the Festhalle, right at Messe Frankfurt’s downtown entrance, makes it a convenient stop for a quick ‘flying buffet’-style breakfast. And what a breakfast it is. Tender, delicately crispy mini croissants and glasses of sumptuous granola make for a fine start to a hectic day. Orange juice isn’t freshly squeezed, but that wasn’t to be expected anyway. Coffee is made using a proper espresso machine, which makes quite difference, even if the milk used for cappuccino is of the UHT kind.

Later on, snack-sized nibbles remain to be served throughout the day at the Mercedes-Benz hall. The braised beef cheek, as well as the vegetable casserole (?) served for lunch are definitely of such fine quality that they’d be commended for their taste and quality even under circumstances that aren’t as logistically challenging. Mercedes-Benz certainly haven’t come as close to living up to their ‘Das Beste oder Nichts’-mantra in any other regard in recent memory. Ich bin beeindruckt. 

Vegetable casserole at Mercedes-Benz: 10/10

Coffee remains a critical component during IAA press days, for both reasons of indulgence and necessity. Unfortunately, most manufacturers are serving coffee from fully automatic WMF machines, which results in a beverage that only serves the purpose of keeping the IAA attendee sufficiently caffeinated.

In certain cases, this is even more regrettable than in others, for example at BMW. The Bavarians’ press lounge actually is quite a pleasant environment, relatively calm and pleasingly decorated with gorgeous black & white photographs of Karl Schwanzer’s Vierzylinder high-rise on the walls. The food comes courtesy of Feinkost Käfer, one of Germany’s premier caterers, and mostly lives up to its purveyor’s reputation.

The roast beef served with wasabi mashed potatoes is spot-on, as are the scrumptious deserts (even though the bar of crunchy puffed rice is far too solid). Only the codfish is too dry, but probably done this way to cater to German tastes, which is regrettable, but understandable all the same. If only there wasn’t the coffee, which is WMF machine-sourced, served with UHT milk and, as a result, simply dreadful. This disappointment certainly results in an undeservedly deplorable ending to what was otherwise a fine meal.

Even more crucial than coffee supply is the availability of drinking water, obviously. At the BMW hall, a dedicated water bar caters to this requirement, just as VW could almost appear to be hell-bent on washing their sins away with thousands of innocent water bottles. Meanwhile, other manufacturers offer neither water, nor jelly bears, which does result in a perceptible decrease in one’s well-being.

Release me from my sin: liquid atonement (VW, right), cheeky defiance (Mercedes-Bent, left)

Skoda offers both jelly bears to everybody and a large lounge space to members of the press – not to mention a proper Czech roast during lunchtime, which apparently came with Knödel and the works. Having not spent lunchtime at VAG’S Halle 3, an evaluation of the roast was not possible, but Skoda nonetheless ought to be commended for having  brought a proper Gaggia Espresso machine all the way from the Czech Republic (as well as the inevitable UHT milk).

Cappuccino, supposedly served Czech style (with cubed sugar) at Skoda’s press lounge

The breath of fresh air Karl-Thomas Neumann had brought along to Opel remains in presence, even if the man himself has departed from Rüsselsheim before the start of the IAA. Although it isn’t actually fresh air (despite an abundance of plants, which is one of the main IAA 2017 tropes) that pervades the Opel stand, but the scent of freshly baked biscuits. These little treats are a most welcome surprise-and-delight feature and help distract from the rather bleak lighting that’s not doing the Opel models in presence any favours.

Living up to their image as a slightly unconventional marque, Mazda only serve coffee at their stand. And what coffee it is: with beans sourced from a Cologne-based artisan coffee roster, which are prepared by a proper barista, using a top-of-the-line Rocket espresso maker, the Zoom-Zoom style coffee break turns out to be an unexpected joy. Even the use of UHT milk cannot dampen this little pleasure.

Considering the superior quality of the overall catering, the crown of the ‘Best Host Of The 2017 Internationale Automobil Ausstellung’ appears to be Mercedes-Benz’ to lose. That is, until one is introduced to the Lexus lounge. For not only is this by far the most stylistically sophisticated environment at the entire Frankfurt show, but it can also boast a proper barista, who is serving coffee of excellent quality from a Vibiemme espresso machine. And who has proper milk at his disposal.

Frankly, the level of care and attention the Lexus lounge betrays make a great many discussions about overwrought styling and absurd grilles appear almost foolish. For this is a brand that, despite appearances, knows about proper quality, and how this results in luxury of a certain substance. The Lexus lounge and the coffee served there have achieved more at changing one’s perception of a brand than a dozen mediocre concept cars or marketing offensives. Yoku yattane!


The author of this piece runs an obscure motoring site of his own, which you may or may not choose to visit at www.auto-didakt.com

Author: Christopher Butt

car design critic // runs www.auto-didakt.com // contributes to The Road Rat magazine // writes a column for Octane France //

8 thoughts on “IAA 2017: A Culinary Perspective”

  1. Good to hear that Lexus understand the importance of good coffee. The German big 3 probably think the entire world now looks like an airport terminal, multi-lane highway and branded retail park, and have thus lost track of what is important in life.

    Shame Alfa Romeo weren’t at Frankfurt. They were known as good hosts.

    1. Maserati were there, and their stand looked rather handsome. Judging by previous form, they’d have served excellent snacks and Illy coffee from one of those non-Nespresso Nespresso machines. But I didn’t have the time to visit them – or, more to the point, wasn’t interested in any of their products, which is why I chose not to go there.

  2. You seem very focused on WMF coffee makers. Is there something special about them?
    Braised beef cheeks was, if I recall, a favourite of Archie Vicar. The article itself seemed to have been written with his outlook in mind apart from the unforgiveable lack of booze. Was there not so much as a thimble of prosecco on offer I must ask.

    1. Some members of the press were enjoying a glass of wine during lunch at BMW’s, and beer was to be had in abundance towards the closing of the press days. And, from memory, I can report that Maserati used to serve Spumante.

      WMF coffee makers are simply the prevalent brand here in Germany. They’re probably no better or worse than other, similar machines.

  3. Kris,

    Thanks for this insight into the peripheral delights available to the IAA media pack. As you rightly pointed out some time previously, I still have much to learn about the idiosyncratic pleasures of this rather overwhelming show.

    I’d have given it my best shot this year, but Michael O’Leary decided to reduce my carbon footprint. A total bummer…

    1. Mr O’Leary is deeply concerned about the future of our planet. Which is why his employees mustn’t plug in their mobile phones for recharging purposes at Ryanair’s HQ, I’m told. Such a diligent man!

      Don’t get me wrong, the IAA is still enormous, but it’s obviously somewhat past its prime. Two or even three halls that had hitherto been occupied by manufacturers were either not used at all this year or occupied by suppliers et al. Most poignantly, Audi didn’t bring their own tent with them this time around, and instead chose to occupy the dimmest corner of the VAG hall.

  4. I don’t know what I’m going to do for breakfast this year at the Geneva Salon now that Vauxhall-Opel has been put on detention.

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