At this Vienna Café, Grandmas' Cakes are on the Menu

This socially good business uses only senior bakers.

Sep 9, 2019

(NoirChocolate / Shutterstock.com)

The smell of freshly baked cakes and pastries are always enticing when you go to a bakery or café. It's even better if they smell and taste as good as the ones you remember from your childhood visits to grandma's house.

At Vollpension in Vienna, Austria, the cakes are the same ones from your childhood memories.

That's because they are baked by grandmas – and some grandpas – with love.

Even the décor, which can be described as kitschy chic is reminiscent of your grandma's home. The furniture is worn, the walls are covered with framed portraits, there are lace doilies, vases, and figurines on the tables. It looks more like a home than a busy Vienna coffee shop.

Vollpension, which means full pension in German – a play-on-words on the German word for 'full board' as well as the word for 'retirement' – is not just a catchy name. The café opened in 2015 and is part of the social entrepreneurship movement that was created to help provide extra income for seniors. It also keeps seniors out and active in the community in an era when many retirees are lonely and isolated.

"This is more than just a coffee shop," Hannah Lux, the managing partner of the café and one of its three owners told CNN. "I come from the countryside and was raised by my grandparents. Older people are very precious to me. We are working on building a community, a human way of coming together."

The shop's grandmothers— and the occasional grandfather – man the cake counter to serve, and sometimes share the history of the dish with the patrons of the café which include people of all ages.

"We tell them our life experiences. It's generations coming together," said Judith Siöberg, 69 who is the oma (grandmother in German) of two with two more on the way. She has worked at the café since it opened.

There are 45 employees and 23 are seniors who work part-time. "We can choose our own days and shifts, and every day is different. Some of us have to be with our grandchildren," said Siöberg.

According to  Siöberg, her specialty is American cheesecake and brownies. Other bakers make their specialties which include strudels, tortes, Bundt cake and much more. All of the cakes can be topped off with schlag (whipped cream).

Last year, Luz said, the café served over 80,000 pieces of cake. But other food is served too.

Vollpension also offers monthly activities that allow the seniors to share their knowledge and skills with younger people said, Luz. Topics have included knitting, dance, theatre, and even poker.

The café is so successful, that the partners are opening a second location just a few blocks away from Café Sacher. Luz believes that her baking grandmothers' tortes are even better than the original. This Vollpension will have a musical theme including live concerts. And like the original, the café will be decorated with vintage pieces.

Luz said that the partners have been contacted by people in other countries about franchising their brand of socially conscious and community building café in other cities in Europe and beyond. They are mulling it over.

There are other social entrepreneurs that have opened other eateries to support a social cause.

Puzzles Bakery in Schenectady, New York believes that everyone deserves a chance to make an honest living. They hire people on the spectrum or those who have other disabilities that make finding jobs difficult.

Older people and people with disabilities can work and play a vital role in society. Hire one today and see how much your enterprise will bloom.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.