• Dr. Günter Kast

The pleasure family.

Doellerer1Tradition. The Döllerers from Golling near Salzburg prove that money can be earned with top-class gastronomy - if it is integrated into a harmonious overall concept. Now in its fifth generation, more than 20 family members are involved.

For his seven-course "Göllüberquerung" menu, Andreas Döllerer uses only the finest natural ingredients from the Alpine countries, preferably from the region. Sea fish and seafood are therefore taboo. Döllerer's "Alpine Scallop" - deceptively genuine in appearance - is a slice of beef marrow from Angus beef, chilled for twelve hours at minus twelve degrees with a cream of egg yolk. For his "glacial cut" he uses rock flour from the Großglockner to make a salt dough in which fennel is baked. On the plate, the hot fennel is served with steaming glacier ice - sour cream ice frozen in nitrogen. "But I'm interested in more than just using regional products," explains the top chef, decorated with 18.5 out of 20 points by Gault-Millau and four (of five possible) toques. "I want to make a statement and showcase Alpine cuisine in all its facets. I want my guests to experience a culinary hike through the Alps where we combine traditional dishes with new creations".

Gourmets pay 179 euros for the menu, the wine accompaniment "Best of Döllerer" costs 290 euros. A lot of money for a dinner. On the one hand. Little money on the other hand for the enormous effort that goes into it. 14 chefs, a master sommelier, the best ingredients - it all costs. And of course, here in Golling near Salzburg, the question arises whether star cuisine can even earn money in the long term. After all, articles in which chefs and operators of top restaurants have been lamenting their misery have been part of the standard repertoire of gourmet magazines for years. "Of course it's possible," Andreas Döllerer contradicts, "but it needs an overall concept."

The Döllerer strategy is as follows: create a world of enjoyment in which the individual parts benefit from each other - award-winning top restaurant, hotel, rustic inn, art&culinary festival, wine trade including a Venetian bar and tasting rooms in the neighbouring village of Kuchl, delicatessen including pleasure package dispatch, even an exclusive glass factory. In the meantime, the family makes more than 20 million Euros turnover per year. And is proud of the fact that this structure has grown slowly with the generations. "More than 20 family members work with us today", says Sabine Döllerer, who herself belongs to generation number four, "there is no I, only a we".

Of course, there are heated debates every now and then - precisely because everyone feels so at home in the overall picture and therefore also in each other's business. But in the end, the energy is not used to fight each other, but to grow together. "Understanding and respect for the skills and abilities of the family members are as much a part of this as good wine is of good food," says Hermann Döllerer, third generation and the current clan leader, "when it comes to big decisions, everyone sits together. Everyone and everyone has a voice. There is a lively discourse, but I really can't remember any great dissent. The young are closer to the pulse of the times. And the women, Sabine and Christl, are also very strong personalities. Therefore it would be fundamentally wrong not to want to hear their arguments."

The success story of the family begins very small in 1909. Anton and Elisabeth Döllerer take over the "Großgasthof zum goldenen Stern - Fleischhauerei und Selcherei". Elisabeth's son Hermann, a passionate master butcher and innkeeper, believes in tourism and in the 1930s lures Carl Degener, the founder of TouropaReisen (now TUI), to the idyllic town of Golling. The idea: holiday trips for smaller budgets. Degener is enthusiastic, special trains soon roll into the Salzburger Land.

Hermann's first wife dies early, he marries Anna, the mother of the later clan leaders Hermann and Raimund senior (1945-2020). For his father it is clear: one of them becomes a butcher, the other one goes to hotel management school. They work a lot, but holiday guests only come to Golling in the summer. Hermann thinks about how he could change that. In 1972/73, he opens the doors in winter for the first time, taking the Christmas and New Year's Eve business with him. "Suddenly I was no longer just a landlord, but also an entertainer who took guests to curling and tobogganing."

At the same time, he is tinkering with a new kitchen line that focuses on regional quality and premium products. The former ORF director Rudi Bayr, a self-confessed gourmet, encourages him to also attract more restaurant guests in winter. "I was one of the first to go to Piedmont myself to get white truffles. Hardly anyone in Austria knew them back then. At the same time, we attached great importance to a stylish presentation of the food on the plates and we handed out hand-written menus to the guests."

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At first the experiment threatens to fail, many regular guests are annoyed by the higher prices. "70 percent of the clientele stayed away, I had to endure many sleepless nights", Hermann confesses. "But the prices had to rise, because we only used fresh produce." Then, very gradually, the tide began to turn. "We suddenly saw new guests coming from far away. This convinced even former regulars to give us a second chance." After two or three lean years, the whole thing begins to pay off financially. Now even restaurant critics are beginning to notice the Dollerers. In 1979, the inn receives the first eleven points from Gault-Millau, while the Sacher in Vienna, as the institution of the Tafelspitz, only gets ten. "That was motivation enough," remembers Hermann.

He enrolled himself and his chef Karl Einfalt for further training with German grandees like Dieter Müller and Eckart Witzigmann. "It was really expensive back then." It's a worthwhile investment. Einfalt receives the first hood in 1983, his successor Bruno Plotegher the second in 1990, while Hermann skilfully moderates the culinary evolution in the background. The inn now bears the name of the family and slowly but surely develops into a well-known brand in gourmet circles.

At the same time, wine plays an increasingly important role and becomes the third pillar of the business alongside gourmet cuisine and butchery. For his inn, Hermann Döllerer naturally needs high quality wines. Because the reputation of Austrian suppliers was tarnished in the 1980s, he personally drives to "his" favourite wineries - Knoll, Hirtzberger, Bründlmayer, Triebaumer and Tement - and loads the bottles into the wagon. It does not take long before the first friendly restaurateurs ask him to bring first-class goods for them as well. The idea of a wine trade is born. For the time being it is a one-man show. But soon the order catalogue is regarded as one of the reference wine cards of Austria due to its depth and breadth.

In the next step, the family divides the gastronomy into a gourmet restaurant and an inn. Andreas Döllerer explains it like this: "We wanted to appeal to a wider audience again, including the cyclist who simply eats sausages from the butcher's shop". But the inn is also something special. "We use the advantages of our own butcher's shop and cultivate, among other things, an offal culture. We mainly serve veal offal, such as beuschel, sweetbread and kidney, take a lot of time to prepare a goulash or a braised shoulder of venison with elderberry. Many guests come to us because they can't find anything like it anywhere else." Andreas seems to be right about that: This experience is worth two caps to the Gault-Millau testers.

Meanwhile, the connoisseur restaurant continues to rise. In 1997, chef Bernhard Hauser cooked the third Gault-Millau topping - the maximum at the time, as the changeover to five toppings was not made until 2019. Andreas Döllerer returns home after his chef training and years of apprenticeship with the big names in the gastronomy scene to work on his recipe for success at his own stove. After 40 years, since Raimund senior was active, a family member is finally responsible for the kitchen again - and more successfully than ever.

Further synergy effects were created when Hermann Döllerer and friends launched the Little Festival in Golling Castle in 2000. At first there are only performances by small ensembles of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, but then the protagonists become increasingly prominent. In 2020 the soprano Asmik Grigorian, celebrated as Salome in Salzburg, could even be engaged. The Art & Culinary Festival, as it has come to be known, is a hit with the public. "We avoid excess length in the performances", says Hermann with a wink, "and take into account the preferences of the visitors, who after the culture - or even before - like to move on to the culinary side".

The roles in the family business are now also being successively redistributed. "Who will follow in whose footsteps needs to be carefully considered. That's not easy with such a large family, but it's important so that everyone can successfully implement their ideas and visions," explains Hermann. The key is to let go and be able to delegate responsibility.

He gradually hands over the wine business itself to his nephew Raimund junior and his wife Sabine. Christian, the second son of Raimund senior, is responsible for buying and selling. Sabine also takes care of the delicatessen business and is responsible for accounting and marketing in all areas. When the opportunity arises in 2012 to acquire two neighbouring buildings, she even has to act as the building owner because the architect is absent at short notice. "The fact that we were able to expand the flagship store through the purchase was like winning the lottery," she says, "Suddenly we had twice the number of hotel beds and seats," adds her sister-in-law Christl, Andreas' wife, who now manages the larger hotel and the two restaurants.

Today, the threads come together at Andreas Döllerer and his brother Raimund Döllerer junior. Andreas is Managing Director of Döllerer Genusswelten GmbH (turnover 2019: 4.2 million euros) with hotel, restaurants and butcher's shop, Raimund of Döllerer Weinhandelshaus GmbH together with Enoteca, delicatessen and luxury packages (turnover 2019: 16.0 million euros). A holding company is stretched over the two companies, also in the legal form of a GmbH. In this holding, Hermann holds 51 percent as managing director, Raimund, Christian and Andreas own the remaining 49 percent in equal shares. The distribution in the GmbHs is the same.

Together, the quartet decides on investments and dividends. One thing is certain: in 2020 it will not be so much because of the lockdown. "But even in the past, these were not large sums of money that the four of us have allowed ourselves," says Hermann. "Most of the profits will be reinvested." In both companies the employees were on short-time work because of the virus. In the Genusswelten, the drop in sales will be around 25 percent due to the collapse of the event business, in the wine trade a good third because major gastro customers had no demand for a long time.

The crisis once again showed how important it is to be broadly based. "We realised that it was absolutely right to consistently develop the worlds of enjoyment and the wine trade over the years", confirms Hermann. "They bring in the cash flow that the pubs can't deliver on their own." He believes that people will learn to live with the virus.

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When it comes to the future, the organisation of the ownership structure is therefore a major issue. Currently, Hermann, his wife and the three Döllerer sons and their wives are in charge. Hermann's daughter Julia Lackner-Döllerer is the only one who no longer works in the clan. She and her husband Markus live with their two children in Sölden, where they own an apartment house, a restaurant and a boarding house. In the following generation, the fifth, there are nine children (eleven with Julia's two), some of whom are already involved. Will it then be too cramped for everyone?

Sabine thinks there is more than enough to do. Andreas has not yet reached his goal with his alpine cuisine. At the Eglsee, beautiful apartments are being built "for our world's best employees" and a large hotel garage for guests. The family must keep its finger on the pulse of the times when it comes to online business, new webshops for private and business customers have been launched this year. And also the claim to remain the best wine dealer in the country does not allow for a break.

To ensure that all this can continue to develop in such a harmonious and tension-free manner, Hermann has stipulated that there may be a maximum of four owners, each of whom must hold at least 24 percent of the holding company and have a right of first refusal. But what happens if top chef Andreas should lose his appetite or retire? There seems to be a plan for that as well: Andreas junior, the eldest of his three sons, recently started a course in Bad Hofgastein that prepares young people for a career in upscale gastronomy, with well-known chefs from the Jeunes Restaurateurs acting as instructors. So the next top chef is already in sight. ®

Author: Dr. Günter Kast

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