Award at SWISS BAR AWARDS 2023

Widder Bar is Best Longseller Bar 2023

At the 21st Award Night last October in Baden, the Widder Bar won another award at the SWISS BAR AWARDS and was named Best Longseller Bar 2023.
From left: Michelle van Deuren, Patrick Ralf Ade, Luca Monn, Wolfgang Mayer, Florian Weerth

The Best Longseller Bar award can be won by establishments that have been successful on the market for at least ten years and are perceived by guests as a "place to be". At the 21st edition of the SWISS BAR AWARDS, the Solheure from Solothurn and the Cranberry Bar from Zurich were on the shortlist in this category alongside the Widder Bar. All three bars met the requirements perfectly and are among the most successful establishments in Switzerland in terms of longevity. Achieving this kind of success in today's fast-paced world is no easy task and presents many of those involved with major challenges time and again.

Not a typical hotel bar

There are several reasons why the Widder Bar is not a typical hotel bar. First of all, the fact that the Widder Bar already existed before the hotel opened in 1995. Then there is the fact that there is no lobby or lounge in the Widder Hotel, and the fact that the bar does not have to be entered through the hotel entrance, but has its own entrance, speaks in favor of the bar and also removes the inhibition threshold for many guests that still exists today with bars that are integrated into a 5-star hotel. After the Widder Bar has already been presented in detail several times as a SWISS BAR AWARDS winner in other categories in the trade magazine BAR NEWS, this year we would like to introduce the bar to our readers in the form of an interview with the long-standing bar manager Wolfgang Mayer.

BAR NEWS: What does it take to be successful with a bar over such a long period of time?

Wolfgang Mayer: First and foremost, in addition to an excellent infrastructure, you need an outstanding team. By that I don't just mean the bar team, but in particular we need a team that thinks and acts across departments. We also need employees with passion and enthusiasm. Everyone has to love their job, otherwise they would be out of place here.

Do such characteristics still exist in the younger generation?

Yes, they still exist. But it has definitely become more difficult. Fortunately, as a multi-award-winning company, we have the privilege of still receiving many good applications.

How do you train your team?

We hold whisky training sessions every week on Friday after work, where we discuss two or three whiskies. Very short, only 10 to 15 minutes each. On Saturday, we make classic drinks. It's important to me that we do this every week. In addition, we also have training sessions with industry experts. The company itself also offers us many opportunities for further training. The Living Circle provides support here. For example, language courses are offered free of charge, along with many other opportunities.

Wolfgang Mayer, Bar Manager

What is the current guest structure at the Widder Bar?

That's not easy to say, as we have a lot of external guests who use our separate entrance to the bar. This means that our guests don't have to walk through the hotel, and that's our big advantage. I assume that we welcome around 90 percent external guests.

You said that the Widder Bar used to celebrate great success with live jazz in particular. Today, jazz is no longer the key to success, is it?

Perhaps no longer jazz alone. The live piano music six nights a week is still very much appreciated. There aren't many bars in Zurich that offer this anymore.

What other factors contribute to the success of the Aries Bar?

I'll stick with the team and the passion. The employees are perhaps a little more committed. I'm not talking about working overtime, but about delivering a 100% flawless performance in their daily work.

And then you are, are all successful...

Yes, exactly. And definitely not standing still, that would be the third important point. So we shouldn't say we've won an award and now we're going to lower our standards. I believe that when you win an award, you have to deliver even more than before.

You've been at the Widder Bar for 13 years. What has changed during this time?

A few things already. We are no longer as "stiff" as we used to be. We've become a bit more casual and relaxed. But this also applies to our guests from the business and banking sectors, where things have also become a little more relaxed. We also have a much more mixed audience than ten years ago. At the Widder, we were perhaps a bit of a pioneer in this respect.

How has the offer changed?

The focus is still on our exciting whisky range with almost 700 products. But the entire spirits library comprises over 1200 products in total. And of course these can be used to make excellent drinks and signature cocktails. We have also noticed that high-quality wines are increasingly being drunk in the bar.

What is the reason for this?

Certainly thanks to the efforts of our sommelier, who has put together a very cool wine list.

What else has changed at the Widder Bar in recent years?

The drinks have definitely changed. They have generally become much more creative. You now have many more opportunities to make new things, also thanks to our own laboratory. We also have different equipment. Today, in the age of Instagram and social media, we also make fancy things with a bit of show. Ten years ago, we made a lot of drinks with juices. Today, we hardly make any cocktails like that anymore.

A lot has also been added by the industry, especially in the area of non-alcoholic products.

Yes, exactly. For two years now, we have been trying to offer our guests a non-alcoholic version of at least half of the cocktails on our menu.

Half of the cocktails appear to be a real challenge...

Yes, we try to do that. The challenge is that the non-alcoholic drink should taste the same as the one with alcohol.

And that meets the needs of guests?

Yes, absolutely. We are seeing an increasing demand for non-alcoholic or low-alcohol drinks.

What was the best experience at the bar?

Yes, we have many wonderful experiences in our day-to-day work when we have a lot to do with regular guests who I have known personally for 13 years. It's a bit more difficult for me when I have to find out that someone from this circle has died. You build up a special relationship with regular guests, which then ends abruptly. I am particularly pleased to see how employees can grow within the company. We now have a case with an employee who came to us as a refugee from Afghanistan and has been working in the office for three years. He is an intelligent man who studied computer science. He was very motivated during our training courses. He quickly learned the German language and we have now offered him a trial period in the service department. This project is still ongoing. However, as the work in the office still has to be done, we have decided in the team that each team member will work one day a week in the office. A very cool thing that now involves the whole team.

In conclusion: What do the SWISS BAR AWARDS mean to you?

I love it! Everyone who does something for the scene is important and picking up an award at the SWISS BAR AWARDS is a really nice accolade. It's such an inner satisfaction, an appreciated job that you've done. And I think it's important for the team and the people who work hard all year round.

"I think this kind of award is very important and I support it."

Wolfgang Mayer, Bar Manager

What else would you like to tell the bar community?

That we in the industry all need to stay on the ball and not leave this wonderful bar scene. The scene is so beautiful and hobby and profession can be combined. It's important to be active and not stand still!

Thank you very much!

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