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Torte leadership: having one’s cake at a Viennese institution

There is a woman in Vienna whose job it is to crack 6,000 eggs a day. Paul Harvey, deputy editor of Meetings & Incentive Travel finds out why.

That’s how many eggs are needed to keep up with the global demand for Sachertorte, the rich, iced chocolate cake that has been one of Vienna’s most famous exports for almost 200 years.

Invented in 1832 by Franz Sacher, the recipe is still a closely guarded secret, with more than 360,000 cakes a year made almost entirely by hand.

Vienna’s five-star Hotel Sacher was founded by Franz Sacher’s son Eduard in 1876 and is still the only place in the world where you can buy official Sachertorte.

The hotel itself is a glorious throwback, all wooden panels, flower displays and plush glamour infused with the hotel’s signature dark red. But don’t think that its star is waning – director of sales Anton von Verschuer tells me that the hotel’s strongest growth bracket is in the 30-35 age range. It seems that those pesky millennials like a bit of traditional style in amongst all their tech obsessions.

Sachertorte is part of Vienna's coffee<br> house tradition

Sachertorte is part of Vienna’s coffee
house tradition

Kaffee und kuchen – coffee and cake – is one of Vienna’s longest traditions and the Hotel Sacher has myriad options for those looking to partake. Sacher ECK, the Café Sacher Wien and the newly-opened Salon Sacher all provide the opportunity for an instant caffeine and sugar rush, while the shop allows visitors to take a slice of Vienna home with them.

After all that build up, thankfully the cake itself is delicious. I tear my way through a triangular wedge served with whipped cream for 7.50 euro a pop, but those in the know will opt for a mini Sachertorte, a kind of glorified fondant fancy, thanks to its more generous ratio of icing to cake. Whichever route you take, it’s really the whole Sachertorte experience that keeps people coming back time and time again.

A stone’s throw from the state opera house, the Hotel Sacher has long played a vital role in Vienna’s strong coffee house tradition. This tradition of creating an environment where people from near and far meet to discuss the events of the day and share ideas should ring bells with meeting planners.

All of which makes it no surprise that Vienna was one of the first cities to embrace the conference market. The convention bureau is one of the oldest in the world, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Vienna posted record numbers across all key indicators in 2018, with economic impact, delegate numbers and delegate nights all reaching new highs.

Which just goes to show – you can’t make a conference destination without cracking eggs.

You can read more about Vienna in the May issue of M&IT