Every fourth Vienna cafe ‘forced to close’

Vienna is famous for its coffee house culture, which has even been recognised by Unesco as part of Austria’s cultural heritage, but many of its cafes are struggling to survive.

Every fourth Vienna cafe 'forced to close'
Vienna's Café Bräunerhof. Photo: Andreas Praefcke/Wikipedia

Every year one in four cafes is forced to close, according to new figures from the Vienna Chamber of Commerce.

Berndt Querfeld, who owns the historic Cafe Landtmann on the Ringstrasse and represents coffee houses in the Chamber of Commerce told the Kurier newspaper that the majority of the 2,500 coffee houses in Vienna are finding it hard to make ends meet. “The ones that are doing best are the around 120 or 130 historic coffee houses in the most favourable locations,” he said.

However, despite some cafes having to close up shop the total number of coffee houses remains around the same because of the relatively high number of new cafes opening each year. “Many of these only last for about six months,” Querfeld said. He added that newcomers on the scene underestimate the challenges that lie ahead, and some simply close down their business to avoid paying a high tax bill.

According to Querfeld some of the reasons why cafes are suffering are the stricter rules regarding non-smoking areas, the new EU law which means they have to label all ingredients that contain allergens, and the introduction of compulsory cash registers as part of the tax reform.

The economic crisis has made punters behave more frugally when visiting a coffee house. “More often than not a customer will order a piece of cake with a second fork for their companion. It’s even becoming a rather chic thing to do.”

Slot machines have also been banned from cafes recently, and Querfeld believes that this is putting many smaller cafes in less central locations out of business. “If they had a slot machine or two they could afford to sell snacks and drinks at lower prices, but this isn’t the case anymore.”

The heyday of the Vienna coffee house was the turn of the 19th century when they were frequented by well-known writers, artists and politicians. Many famous Viennese cafes had to close in the 1950s due to the popularity of television and new espresso bars.

READ MORE: Five unusual cafes not to miss in Vienna


Sweet expectations fulfilled with strawberry cakes

Ever wondered who makes the best strawberry cake in Vienna? Yelp, the online local business guide ran a contest on Wednesday for 13 products from nine different bakers, with a 30-person judging panel, and decided they found a winner.

Sweet expectations fulfilled with strawberry cakes
Members of the cake jury. Photo: Patrick Sabo

The blind tasting was organized by Yelp as a big picnic and took place in the beautiful Burggarten. The main criteria were the appearance and of course the taste. The winner was Gregors Konditorei with its strawberry-mousse cake, which scored 3,76 out of 5 points. 

The winner from Gregor's Konditorei. Photo: Patrick Sabo

Landtmann’s feine Patisserie had been ranked in second place with 3,52 points, while third place went to Kurkonditorei Oberlaa for its strawberry-cream cake with its 3,39 points.

The complete results and ranking can be found below.

The next taste test is going to be on November 9th, where they are going to vote for the best apple strudel.

Here you can find the complete results:

1. Gregors Konditorei – Marzipan-Erdbeermousse-Torte (No 12)

2. Landtmann's feine Patisserie – Erdbeerfleck (No 5)

3. Kurkonditorei Oberlaa – Erdbeer-Obers Torte (No 14)

4. Der Mann der verwöhnt – Erdbeerrondo (No 9)

5. Groissböck – Erdbeerschüsserl (No 8)

6. Palmenhaus – Erdbeermohntorte (No 6) und Ströck – Kathis Erdbeerkuchen (No 15)

7. Aida – Erdbeertorte (No 1)

8. Ströck – Erdbeerschnitten (No 7)

9. Aida – Erdbeerschnitten (No 2) und Aida – Erdbeerschüsserl (No 3)

10. Der Mann der verwöhnt – Erdbeerschnitte (No 10)

11. Der Mann der verwöhnt – Erdbeerzauber (No 11)

12. K. u. K. Hofzuckerbäckerei L. Heiner – Erdbeerschnitten (No 4)

13. Kurkonditorei Oberlaa – Erdbeer-Souffle Torte (No 13)

The judges made the following comments:

“Beautiful location at the Burggarten, with shade under a huge tree, the picnic blankets with 15 delicious Strawberry cakes were awaiting us!”

Photo: Patrick Sabo

“Don't judge a book by its cover, also applies for cakes. I was unpleasantly surprised from a few that looked great but didn't really live up to the expectations and some simple looking ones were heavenly delicious! The job of a jury member is not an easy one…hehe…but it's certainly a pleasant one!”

“My favorite at the end was, number 5 and least favorite number 3. Most disappointing was number 10, cause it looked real good…but unfortunately didn't taste anything like imagined!”

Photo: Patrick Sabo

“Seriously what could be better than bringing people together to meet new people, enjoy their company and eat Strawberry Torte? Nothing. Trying Vienna's various strawberry tortes was one of the best things I've ever done in Vienna.”

“I think Der Mann der verwöhnt's Erdbeerschnitte was one of the best as well as Ströck's Erdbeerschnitten and Aida's Erdbeerschüsserl. Though Kurkonditorei Oberlaa's Erdbeer-Obers Torte wasn't too bad either. All in all it was pretty tasty and pretty yummy and I am going to all those places to get my Strawberry Torte :)”

Photo: Patrick Sabo

“Best of all was not only seeing the great tortes but then getting to taste ALL 15 of them!!! Turns out the best looking torte for me also was the best tasting and just so happened to be the winner!!”

“It was a perfect Vienna summer night weather-wise and a tasty Vienna summer night food-wise.”