Right in the heart of the city, on the enchanting Petersplatz, sits the almost 170-year-old Wandl family hotel. Even before the official opening of the hotel, it caused quite a stir as the first hotel with an electrically operated elevator in Vienna. Today, the Hotel Wandl is not only characterized by its long history and central location, but also by its modern rooms in Viennese style and the fabulous view of Vienna's St. Peter's Church. Norbert Suchanek, the hotel's managing director, can look back on 33 years of experience in the business. During this time, he has not only learned the finer points of the hotel business from a native Wandl, but has also adopted an appreciative approach to his employees. The rising energy and heating costs also required action at Hotel Wandl, which is why HERZ balancing valves and HERZ pre-settable valves were used. In an interview with HERZ News, Norbert Suchanek talks about the effects of rising prices on the business and gives us a look behind the scenes.
The hotel already had around 47,000 visitors in the days before the official opening. They had not only come to admire the impressive rooms, but also to experience a ride in the electrically operated passenger elevator - a sensation at the time. Josef Georg Daum, the previous owner of the hotel before it was taken over by the Wandl family, came up with the idea of a state-of-the-art hotel with a French decorative style. Daum transformed a residential building into a hotel and worked with renowned architects such as Eduard Kuschée and Ludwig von Förster, the latter later also known as one of the architects of Vienna's Ringstrasse.
In 1854, Josef Wandl and his wife Helene acquired the hotel as Daum was in financial difficulties. The hotel offered numerous modern amenities such as running water, exclusive bathrooms, electricity and an electric elevator powered by a 110 volt generator. In addition, the hotel had an ice cellar for cooling food, comparable to the ice cellar in the Vienna Hofburg. These amenities contributed to the hotel's high level of comfort and reputation. The use of metal instead of wood in the building considerably increased the hotel's fire safety compared to the buildings of the time.
Around 20 years ago, the historic building was transferred to a foundation so that it could retain its function as a hotel in the future. The growing number of decision-makers increased with each generation. By placing it in a foundation, potential differences of opinion in future generations could be prevented. HERZ News in an interview with the current Managing Director Norbert Suchanek:
HERZ News:How did you get your position as Managing Director at the Wandl family hotel?
Norbert Suchanek: I started here as a student on night duty. At the time, it was a part-time job for me, as I was studying business informatics and saw my professional future in IT. At that time, however, in the IT sector you had the task of optimizing existing products, but not really the opportunity to develop anything yourself. The hotel was my safe haven and I programmed as a freelancer on the side. Over the course of time, however, I have continued to develop in the hotel and I have been Managing Director for 8 years now.
HERZ News:What impressed you personally the most at Hotel Wandl?
Norbert Suchanek: The way the management treats staff and guests. I learned the structure of the hotel from a Wandl native. She was a very modest woman and treated her employees like her own children. I was taught this spirit by her, but also by my own nature, and I still carry it on today. Towards the end of the Second World War, her grandfather offered shelter to hundreds of people in the cellar and used up his entire food supply for them.
HERZ News: As far as I know, the Hotel Wandl also offered refuge to many people during the 2020 attacks. That proves that you were able to successfully pass on this spirit to your employees.
Norbert Suchanek: One of my employees instinctively did the right thing and it is important to give employees this opportunity. As he lives our spirit, he knew very well that this would not be a problem. We have taken in around 30 people who have stayed with us free of charge. You can't think about costs at this point.
HERZ News:In the course of the conversion to district heating, HERZ balancing valves and pre-settable valves were used to enable hydronic balancing. Were the rising prices the reason for the changeover?
Norbert Suchanek: I have to admit that it is a cost factor. If my costs quadruple as a result of rising prices, then I take care of it faster than before. The pressure to act very often comes from expenses and I'm also strongly convinced that there has been a lot more insulation throughout Austria since prices have risen. I had a gas boiler with an oil backup and now I've switched to district heating.
HERZ News:Are refurbishments carried out frequently?
Norbert Suchanek: We are continuously carrying out restructuring measures without interrupting operations. However, this was not possible during the pandemic as we set aside the funds for our employees' salaries. We made a conscious decision not to lay anyone off, as this does not fit in with our corporate philosophy. Our hotel has been a listed building for around 20 years, which makes refurbishment a particular challenge.
HERZ News: Do you also have rooms with the original furnishings from back then?
Norbert Suchanek: We have a handful of rooms that have been preserved with their original furnishings. The furniture has been faithfully restored, cupboards and frames date back to the 19th century and the murals are also original.
HERZ News: Are these rooms also made available to guests or do they serve more as a showroom?
Norbert Suchanek: Some do, some don't. For example, one room doesn't have a bathroom, so I would have to rent it out so cheaply that it wouldn't pay off because the furniture inside is too valuable.
HERZ News: In the 19th century, the house was converted into a French-style hotel. Has this style been retained or do guests expect modern rooms?
Norbert Suchanek: Our rooms are quite modern and furnished in Viennese style. At that time, the French style was particularly popular in Vienna and basically everything from France was imitated. We also use modern technology, but for me, personal communication comes first. We don't need tablets to order a cushion from reception. Not everything has to be done via non-verbal technology. A phone call or a personal exchange is worth much more than a click. Technology should serve us, not us it.
HERZ News: Finally, what would you like to tell us about the hotel industry?
Norbert Suchanek: The hotel industry is also about personal preferences. Guests prefer what they know and are prepared to pay the price for it. We always make sure that we offer good prices and try to keep our regular guests. If we manage to keep our loyal customers, we can save ourselves expensive scatter advertising. For me, targeted advertising is advertising that I direct at my existing guests in order to win their loyalty.
HERZ News: Thank you very much for the entertaining and varied interview and the opportunity to get to know this Viennese jewel better.
Josef Wandl's great-granddaughter Johanna and an employee at Hotel Wandl in the 1950s.
The flying chair
Although the exact inventor of the elevator cannot be clearly identified, the idea of the elevator is attributed to the Greek mathematician, physicist and engineer Archimedes. In 236 BC, he used the principle of the pulley block to lift or pull heavy loads. The rope is connected at one end to the load to be lifted and pulled at the other end by a person or an animal. This rope sling is guided over one or more pulleys, which distributes the weight over several rope sections and significantly reduces the force required.
Based on this principle, the elevator technology was further developed over time. Even though King Louis XV had one of the first elevators for transporting people - the so-called "flying chair" - built in the Palace of Versailles so that his mistress could visit him in secret, elevators were mainly used for transporting goods due to a lack of safety. With the advancement of technology and the invention of the steam engine in the 18th century, a further major step was taken in elevator technology, but not in terms of safety.
It was not until 1853 that Elisha Graves Otis, an American inventor, achieved a breakthrough with the first modern and safe elevator. Otis developed a safety system whereby the elevator braked automatically in the event of a cable break or rope tear, thus preventing a fall. He demonstrated his invention in New York by riding up in the "elevator" and cutting the cable.
Thanks to this safety system, elevators were increasingly used for passenger transportation and underwent rapid further development.
Today, the elevator in the Shanghai Tower holds the record as the fastest elevator in the world with a speed of 74_km/h.
Special thanks go to Peter Sieber, Managing Director of SIEBER Sanitär- und Heizungstechnik GesmbH, who made this meeting with Mr. Suchanek possible for HERZ News. In the course of the conversion to district heating at Hotel Wandl, Mr. Sieber decided to use numerous HERZ presettable valves in combination with HERZ balancing valves to enable hydronic balancing. Thank you for your trust in the quality of HERZ products.