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Condoms, beer and vodka in vending machines: Vienna opens first 24-hour shop

The “Wiener Späti” has opened in the 5th District as a vending machine shop, where people can buy next to anything (from beer to chocolate and condoms) around the clock, seven days a week.

Condoms, beer and vodka in vending machines: Vienna opens first 24-hour shop
The new Wiener Späti doesn't look like a typical grocery store but does provide 24/7 access to a range of products. (Photo by Romeo GACAD / AFP)

In a country where almost all supermarkets and stores close at 8pm at the latest – and don’t even open on Sundays – the four new vending machines might be the only solution for some people in the capital during the late-night hours.

The idea, which was inspired by 24/7 kiosks in Berlin, was brought to Vienna by DJ and event promoter DJ Mosaken and his friend Christopher Neudeck.

The concept was then adapted as vending machines as it is not legally possible in Austria to keep business places open 24h, Der Standard explains.

The first Wiener Späti is located on Straußgasse 13 and sells items like vodka, award winning regional wine, Tegernseer beer, soft drinks, crisps, instant ramen noodles, salt, UHT milk and condoms.

Speaking about the selection, DJ Mosaken said: “We focus on what suits us and on what we want to present to people.”

According to Der Standard, drinks at the Wiener Späti are on average 70 cents to €1 more than expensive than in regular grocery stores. A bottle of white wine from Heurigen Muth costs €12 and a three-pack of condoms is €6.90.

READ ALSO: Why everything in Austria is closed on Sundays – and what to do instead

In a comparison with prices at Spar, a packet of spaghetti at the Wiener Späti costs €2.50, whereas at Spar it is €0.99.

Although the Späti concept of selling a range of products 24/7 is new for Vienna, there are already beer vending machines dotted across the city. There is also the “Foodie Fridge” in the 2nd District that offers lemonade and home cooked food around the clock from a vending machine.

Outside of Vienna, vending machines can be found at pharmacies for out-of-hours access to items like plasters and condoms, and it’s common in rural areas to find cheese and vegetable kiosks operating under an honesty box system.

The ‘Späti’ – short for Spätkauf which means ‘late shop’ – is common place all over the German capital and became increasingly important during the Covid pandemic. 

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SHOPPING

COMPARED: Which supermarket is best in Austria?

Not all supermarkets in Austria are the same and, depending on your needs, some will be better for you than others. Here’s a useful comparison to help you get started.

COMPARED: Which supermarket is best in Austria?

Like many other European countries, Austria is home to several different supermarket chains – all offering varying levels of affordable products, international foods and local produce.

But if you’re new to the country, or even just evaluating your spending habits, it can be hard to know which supermarket is best for you.

To help you get started, here’s an overview of the most common supermarkets in Austria and what they offer.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: Why glühwein costs more at Vienna Christmas markets this year

Spar

The Dutch-owned supermarket chain is the biggest in Austria with more than 1,500 shops across the country. 

Spar has a range of in-store brands, but the most notable are Spar Premium, S-Budget (for price-conscious shoppers) and Spar Free From for lactose and gluten-free products.

Interspar is the hypermarket version of Spar stores, followed by Eurospar that offers a wide selection of food and drink. Then there is Spar Gourmet, which is a “lifestyle supermarket” in Vienna and the surrounding area that stocks high-end items alongside the usual selection of basics.

Also, on a national level, Spar partners with food waste reduction company Too Good To Go. This means users of the Too Good To Go app can pick up food that would otherwise go to waste from Spar, Eurospar and some Interspar stores.

And if you like to get a bargain, you can collect tokens when you shop at Spar to save up to 20 percent off future purchases.

Billa

Billa has more than 1,000 stores across Austria and can be found in most towns and cities. It is easy to spot with its bright yellow and red branding and is known for stocking international and regional produce.

In-store own brands include Ja! Naturlich for organic products, Clever for budget prices and Wegenstein for award-winning Austrian wines. 

READ NEXT: Which Austrian cheeses are protected foods and why?

Billa operates the larger Billa Plus stores (formerly known as Merkur) in some locations, as well as an online shop for click and collect orders. Billa Plus offers even more regional products than the regular Billa shops and promises more price reductions as a result.

All stores have a bakery, a meat counter, a fish counter, take away coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Plus, with the jö Bonus Club customers can collect one point for every Euro spent in Billa and Billa Plus, as well as at partner stores such as Libro, Bipa, Pagro Diskont and OMV.

Austrian supermarket Billa, part of the Rewe group. Photo: Creative commons, Von Rewe Group – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA

Hofer

If you want to reduce how much you spend on food every month, then head to Hofer.

Hofer is basically the German brand Aldi but with a different name for the Austrian market. It sells cheaper, lesser known brands that Aldi is famous for, as well as some fresh Austrian produce. 

Hofer doesn’t have the same perks as other supermarkets like a cafe or a specialised butchers’ counter, but it does have the Backbox in-store bakery and the 100% aus Österreich (100% from Austria) meat range. It also has a range of weekly special offers, which vary from store to store.

But a word of warning: be prepared to pack your bags quickly in Hofer. The check-out assistants don’t mess around and often whizz products through the tills incredibly fast.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: 10 ways to save money on your groceries in Austria

MPreis

MPreis has more than 250 stores and is one of the main supermarkets in Tyrol. The independent chain works with around 250 regional suppliers and is a proud stockist of Tyrolean meat, cheese and vegetables, as well hundreds of organic products.

The quality of food products in MPreis is high and the stores are pleasant to visit, but prices for most other products can be higher than other stores. The international food section is also often limited, although this has been improving in recent years.

However, the Therese Mölk bakery delivers high-quality bread and baked goods, and the Nature Fair brand ensures customers know where their meat is coming from with a focus on animal welfare. And you can’t beat MPreis for a wide selection of regional products from the Alps. 

Additionally, MPreis has a selection of special offers in the online shop, like household items, children’s games and outdoor gear.

Prosi

Prosi is an international supermarket specialising in Asian, African and Latin American food – the largest of its type in Austria. Products include spices, rice, drinks, seafood and vegetables, as well as some British products like PG Tips teabags.

The company is based in Vienna on Wimbergergasse in Neubau but also has an online shop with free delivery throughout Austria for orders over €99. 

Other brands in the Prosi group include an Indian restaurant, a cosmetic and hair world, cooking classes, apartments, an exotic festival and a charity to support developing communities around the world.

READ ALSO: How did the Wiener Schnitzel become an Austrian icon?

MaranVEGAN

MaranVEGAN – Austria’s first vegan supermarket – opened on Stumpergasse in Vienna’s sixth district in 2013. The store was set up by a husband and wife team who decided to return to the world of entrepreneurship after realising retirement was too quiet.

Shoppers at MaranVEGAN can choose from over 4,000 products, including fresh fruit and vegetables, drinks and hygiene products. Plus, there is an in-store bistro with a changing weekly menu.

Customers can also take advantage of the MaranVEGAN loyalty card and save two percent on all items.

Unimarkt

Unimarkt is a franchised cooperative of supermarkets. There are just 129 Unimarkt stores in Austria, with shops mostly found in Upper Austria, Styria, Salzburg and Lower Austria.

The stores stock the Jeden Tag range for low-cost shopping, Alnatura for organic food and UNIpur for family-friendly Austrian products.

Customers like that Unimarkt is an alternative option to spending money at the big supermarket chains and there is also the PAYBACK loyalty card to collect points.

Last year, Unimarkt was bought by entrepreneur Andreas Haider who plans to go up against market leaders Spar and Billa by expanding the number of Unimarkt stores across the country.

Penny Markt

Penny Markt is a discount German supermarket chain with many locations in the east of Austria, although none in the western states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

Customers can sample a variety of in-store brands, such as the cheap and cheerful Penny range, Echt Bio! (organic products) and Ich bin Österreich for regional food. And if you really want to save money then look out for the weekly Supaaa! deals where you can save up to 50 percent.

Additionally, Penny has a new online pre-order service for the in-store Fleischhauer (butcher).

Penny also participates in the jö Bonus Club scheme (like Billa) so you can collect points to spend at Penny or partners stores and save even more money.

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