How would you define the magic of "Hotel Sacher", Alexandra Winkler?
Alexandra Winkler manages the "Hotel Sacher" in Vienna and Salzburg with a keen sense of the zeitgeist and respect for tradition
Text: Konstantin Spachis
There are few hotels that are surrounded by so many stories, anecdotes and legends as the "Hotel Sacher" in Vienna. Starting with Anna Sacher, the wife of the founder, who, with a cigar in one hand and her French bulldogs on the other, ran the business from 1892 onwards and helped the hotel achieve international renown. She was also the one who served free meals to poor students in the 1920s, while at the same time hosting glamorous celebrations for aristocracy. The foundation of the hotel dynasty's fame had previously been laid by the Original Sacher Cake, which had been invented in 1832 by Anna's husband, Eduard Sacher, and is still produced according to the original recipe today. Since 1962 the "Sacher" has been owned by the Gürtler family. They are now the third generation to run the business and have established the house as a place of longing for luxury travelers. Alexandra Winkler is primarily responsible for the renovation and development of the "Sacher" hotels in Vienna and Salzburg. We meet the charming Viennese at her Vienna headquarters.
Madame: Mrs Winkler, what was the greatest challenge when you took over "Hotel Sacher"?
Alexandra Winkler: We were very fortunate to take over an economically flourishing business from my mother. Our goal was and is to be among the best in the industry. And that is only possible if we constantly scrutinize our performance and strive for excellence in all hotel matters, in every single moment. Guests from all over the world, who enthusiastically talk about "Sacher", that is our daily task.
Madame: How would you define the magic of "Hotel Sacher"?
Alexandra Winkler: The Sacher brand has been around since 1832, originally as a cake and since 1876 as a hotel in Vienna, and since 1866 also in Salzburg. For us, Sacher simply means true authenticity. Every guest who stays at "Sacher" or at least eats a piece of original Sacher cake experiences a real, grown piece of Viennese culture.
Madame: You manage many departments in the house. What kind of management style do you need to make everything work?
Alexandra Winkler: Our company employs 750 people from 30 different nations at locations in Vienna, Salzburg, Innsbruck and Graz. Nowadays, power-hungry loners or big egos are no longer in demand. More than ever, it is all about teamwork. That is something we believe in very firmly. Our aim is to form and motivate a team and to give each individual the opportunity to work and grow under the best conditions. As a family, we try to motivate our employees as much as possible to make decisions independently and autonomously.
Madame: The hotel business requires your attention non-stop. As a mother of three, how do you deal with it? Especially considering that the Sacher is family-run?
Alexandra Winkler: I have to admit that it is not always easy, on the one hand as a businesswoman and on the other hand as a passionate mother, to meet all requirements - here or there it is probably simply part of having a bad conscience. But the nice thing about a family business is that you have great understanding for others and can really rely on them in emergency situations. Our goal is to pass on the company to the next generation just as successfully as we were allowed to take it over.
Madame: You spent your childhood at the Hotel Sacher. Which experiences do you especially like to remember?
Alexandra Winkler: I still remember how excited I was when I met Fritz Eckhardt. He played the role of head porter Huber in the famous television series "Hallo - Hotel Sacher ... Portier! It was just as nice to welcome Falco in our "Blue Bar" - I was ten years old and a huge fan.
Madame: What was a surprising new discovery during the recent renovation work?
Alexandra Winkler: Two of them were hidden in our new presidential suite, which carries the "Vienna Philharmonic". A magnificent stucco ceiling from the end of the 19th century and a historic wooden floor were hidden behind suspended ceilings and underneath other overlaid parquet floors. In historical houses like ours, you always come across such beautiful surprises. That's what makes work so exciting
Madame: The hotel business is in a state of radical flux. What is the Hotel Sacher's position on the future?
Alexandra Winkler: The greatest challenge and at the same time opportunity in our industry is digitalization. We are currently developing our own Sacher app, which will allow our guests to select, view, book and pay for their rooms - very easily and with a strong visual impact. In addition to all the booking options already available. The app is just one of many possibilities and ideas we are currently working on. Internally, we now communicate almost all processes digitally via app. For us it is essential to learn more about our guests. Ideally before their arrival, in order to provide them with the best possible tailor-made offers.
Madame: One reason why guests come from all over the world is certainly the legendary Original Sacher cake. When and where do you enjoy your piece of cake?
Alexandra Winkler: The cake is still made by hand in 34 steps according to the secret recipe from 1832. What I like most is to enjoy it behind the scenes: freshly baked, directly in our factory.