VIEW FROM THE TOP
In 2003 Florian Weitzer took over his family’s business – the Weitzer Hotels. The 100 years of legacy fell into his creative and innovative hands. Since then, he has developed one of the most interesting hotel stories in the region. The hotels were renovated, some of them completely. They boast an incredibly subtle harmony between tradition and modern trends. Nothing is left to the imagination, be it for leisure or for business, Weitzer Hotels stun with their unusual character intertwined with contemporary boldness and historical charm. We talked to Mr Weitzer about the history of the family business, about the hotels, about the enchanting touch he gave to the new design, and, believe it or not, about the “roof challenges”.
Q: Your family has been in the hotel business for over 100 years. Can you tell us more about the history of the family business?
I am the fourth generation of our family to manage the Weitzer Hotels. My great grandfather bought ‘Hotel Florian’ in 1910 and in doing so laid the cornerstone of Weitzer Hotels. In 1963 my father took on the hotel “Das Weitzer” and turned it into the city’s largest hotel over the course of the next 40 years. In the seventies, “Hotel Daniel Graz” at the central railway station was bought, and in 1999 “Grand Hotel Wiesler” joined the Weitzer hotel group portfolio. Then the time was ripe to go to Austria’s capital, where we opened “Hotel Daniel Vienna” in 2011, followed by the “Grand Ferdinand” on the Viennese Ringstraße in 2015.
Q: Have you always been involved in the family business?
I grew up in the hotel – our family always lived in the hotel and my time there shaped me. But I chose to study economics instead of taking the classic route of a qualification in tourism. In 2003, my father decided to trust me fully and handed down the management of Weitzer Hotels. That was the year in which Graz was named “European Capital of Culture”, which was an added challenge. I don’t like to describe myself as a hotelier but rather as an entrepreneur because at my hotels I break away from the norms of the hospitality industry.
“I AM NOT RELYING ON MELLOW CONCEPTS AND ‘COPY & PASTE’.”
Q: What is it that you most like about it?
My father focused on running the hotels according to “international standards“, while I have to try to work out those differences towards “international standards.” Instead of relying on mellow concepts and “copy & paste”, I have chosen the approach to create completely autonomous and internally consistent hotel environments for each establishment.
Q: In 2003, you took over a renovation of the three hotels in Graz. The renovation got a lot of attention due to a completely new, trendy, and very bold design. Where did your inspiration come from?
Our work is developed by personal feeling and doesn’t just follow the rules of the industry. I love change and seek constant challenges. There are countless sources of inspiration: nature, out on walks, on my little farm, markets, flea markets and sometimes other cultures – far away from home, where no hotelier would expect to find buried treasure.
“An inspiring hotel world should be a harmonious overall composition.”
Q: A lot of the special details in the renovations were your idea. So you are not just an owner and manager of your hotels, but also their designer? How did the process go?
I love to create by myself and don’t implement overall concepts from architects or interior architects. For me a good design means that everything is related to each other in order to create a pulsating atmosphere. An inspiring hotel world should be a harmonious overall composition combining furniture, light, contemporary cuisine, the staff and individual and surprising details. And I love to travel and experience locations from the customer’s point of view. It helps me then to think outside the box and arrange our hotels in accordance with our guests’ wishes.
Q: What were the main challenges and how did you overcome them?
Yes, there have been quite some challenges over the years with creating surprising and inspiring details. Let me point out two in Graz:
In 2014, we created a new “landmark” in Graz by installing a LoftCube (by German designer Weiner Aisslinger) on the roof of “Hotel Daniel Graz”. It’s an exclusive suite, 24 metres above the ground, with a 360-degree panorama over Graz. What the public probably doesn’t know is that for years we had been working our way through administrative procedures until permits and planning permissions were obtained.
By coincidence, the latest real challenge is, again, an installation on a roof top: From the brand-new sauna installed on the roof of the hotel “Das Weitzer” in summer 2018, our guests have a breath-taking view of the Schlossberg with the clock tower.
Q: What are the main features and what is the main distinctiveness between the four hotels that you would point out?
Hotel Daniel Graz and Hotel Daniel Vienna offer “Smart Luxury”. They offer exceptional levels of comfort where and whenever sensible and simply do away with superfluous pomp.
But we knew that the Grand Ferdinand that we opened on the Viennese Ringstraße in 2015, wouldn’t be another ”Daniel” or a “Daniel de luxe”. We decided to focus on something else. The Grand Ferdinand is a building which was listed as historic and stands on the world-famous Viennese boulevard “Ringstraße”. And, of course, this is what we wanted to communicate to our guests: the characteristically Austrian atmosphere, the sense of beauty, a love of life. The Grand Ferdinand wants to combine Viennese elegance and beauty of times past with the finest amenities now.
Q: Which of the hotels is your favourite?
It’s always the latest one. So it is the Grand Ferdinand that opened in 2015.
I had long desired to add a glamorous hotel to Vienna’s scene: My four other hotels had already proven that they were able to combine a historical foundation with good ideas and the Ringstraße has been always home to illustrious names in the hotel business. But still today, the Grand Ferdinand by Weitzer Hotels is the only Austrian-run hotel directly on the Ringstraße.
“Our restaurants are not a ‘necessary evil’.”
Q: Before the renovations, was there any idea that you greatly wished to be realised but it turned out it couldn’t be done?
We have realised quite a lot of “special ideas” so far. But for the years to come – there is always a lot to do, because we’re constantly “breathing new life” in our existing hotels.
Q: The culinary offer is also one of the hotels’ “wow” factors. And the hotels are also famous for their bars and restaurants which are becoming a hub for vibrant and urban meetings not just for guests but also for locals. How do the menus get created?
While the Weitzer sub-brands “Der Steirer” and the “Speisesaal” have become an established part of the gastronomic scene in Graz, the “Bakery” and “Meissl & Schadn” are shaking up Vienna. Our restaurants are not a “necessary evil” as is so often the case at many other comparable establishments, but instead, they are open to hotel guests and outside visitors and are one of the most important cornerstones in our hotels. New menus are created in cooperation with our chefs, we are always open to change if necessary.
Q: What is that X factor that attracts so many guests to the hotels’ restaurants and bars?
The X factor is probably the fact that the philosophy of each location is reflected in the choice of food and drinks it offers: from succulent Styrian and delightfully Austrian to colourful international delicacies!
Q: What are you planning for the future?
There are no concrete plans for the future yet, but the next opening will for sure take place in an international metropolis – that’s what we aim to achieve!