Our history

2012: A dust-dry cake, and joking with the grannies but it was not funny at all

Once upon a very long time ago, in 2012, eating a very dry piece of a cake in a Viennese café….

Mike Lanner and Moriz Piffl, at that time the famous Stitch brothers (they were the social entrepreneurs behind the eco-fair customised jeans label Gebrueder Stitch) were missing the moist cakes their grandmas made when they were kids living in the countryside. While eating this dust-dry cake, they were already creating in their heads a coffeeshop for grandma-missing youngsters in the centre of Vienna. During the night –a beer or two later, rumour has it – they created the name: “Vollpension” (German for “full pension,” which refers to both the one that Austrians get from the government upon retirement and to the kind of hotel stay that includes meals, or full board). The final kick came from Mike‘s successful submission of their idea at the “Social Design-Call” at Vienna Design Week. And as is often the nature of wonderful and creative (yes, sorry, self-praise stinks…) ideas, wonderful and creative people gather to make the impossible possible: Julia Krenmayr and David Haller joined the two and have been part of the core team ever since. In September 2012, the first pop-up Vollpension opened up for one week in Mike’s and Moriz’s “Hosenlabor” (trouser lab), a tailor shop in the 6th district of Vienna. Without a licence and above all without a plan, this premiere exceeded all expectations and people were queuing to get a piece of Ms Charlotte’s eggnog cake.

The huge demand then made for another Vollpension guest appearance in the Christmas season of 2012, and we founded an association in order to have the legal basis for this project. We quickly found out that our Vollpension was not only a venue where people gathered to eat, laugh and spend time with each other, but one of a social-political nature. We placed a job ad in a big Austrian daily newspaper, and more and more seniors were applying. They all had one thing in common: they love baking. But that’s not all: They were also looking for a possibility to earn some extra money to supplement their small pensions which weren’t enough to live on, as we were to find out in many personal interviews.

2013: “Clash of Civilizations” at the European Alpbach Forum

We were so excited when the European Alpbach Forum invited us to cater the attendees of the conference with coffee and cake for two weeks in a closed-down indoor swimming pool.

The newspaper called our pop-up project “Clash of Civilizations” (Die Presse, 30 August 2013), and “The Alpbach Saga” (Wiener Zeitung, 30 August 2013). Our Vollpension was welcomed in particular by the young attendees of the forum, however, it was not met with total enthusiasm. We were even confronted with a legal claim on illegally serving food and drinks as a pseudo-organisation (so now you know how you’re treated as young and socially active entrepreneurs….). In the end, we all sat together at one table, and had a public mediation right in the middle of the pool, and talked it out. Finally, we managed to iron out the differences – talking brings people together – not only in our Vollpension, but also in the swimming pool.

"Over the last three weeks, "Vollpension" was the talk of the town among the people of Alpbach, Tyrol, and not the renowned forum and its sometimes famous international guests. It’s true here, too: All politics is local"

2014:  Granny on tour and founding of Vollpension

In 2014, Vollpension got on board an old Volkswagen bus with a trailer, which had been re-constructed into a mobile coffeeshop, and toured Austria together with the Vienna Tourist Board. A very important experience for everybody involved, because regardless of the venue where the rolling coffeeshop anchored, the cakes were literally snatched from the hands of the baking grannies, hardly having left the oven. No matter whether rain – as was the case more than once – or shine, the grandmas and their cakes were adored, and this was an encouraging and wonderful feeling for everybody involved. This tour brought on board younger team members. Mike and Moriz, who had a lot of other projects they needed to take care of, were looking for a partner who was ready to take the next step: making the pop-up project a sustainable gastro-social business. Hannah Lux was made the new captain of the Vollpension ship, and Cornelia Kamleitner joined up with Julia and David. Hannah, Julia, Moriz and Mike founded a GmbH (private limited company) and this was the beginning of Vollpension as we know it. The search for a permanent home of Vollpension began.

2015: Vollpension forever: cakes, kitsch and granny happiness

Via social media we encouraged the entire Vollpension community to search for a permanent home, since all of us have the right to eat granny’s cakes. But guys, we have to tell you, such a coffeeshop doesn’t open by itself. It took a lot of work to open its doors. We wanted to show that our concept could compete with the longstanding coffeehouse culture in Vienna’s first district, and that gastronomy and economic efficiency with humanity and togetherness at the core can be successful. This is why it was so important to us to bring our social business right to the middle of the city.

After having seen about 50 potential locations, our naivety was becoming increasingly smaller: such a premise really costs a lot of money! We reached out to our entire network in order to collect enough money. Finally, the first courageous partners were found who believed in the Vollpension idea, our team and that the entire project could turn into a permanent, well-functioning organisation. Now is the time to say a huge thank-you to you, Sebastian Haselsteiner and Katharina Turnauer, here again on the internet, for becoming our first partners and making the first permanent Vollpension possible!

Finally, we found a place and signed the rental agreement for some run-down premises in the basement of an old house on the street Schleifmühlgasse. Half a year of blood, sweat, tears, and re-construction madness followed. Neighbours often came by and told us, amidst all that construction site chaos: “Wow, you have a lot of courage. No restaurant has made it for very long in here.” However, we were far from giving up! If it ever happened that one of us lost his or her nerve, the rest worked even harder, and that’s how we got past multiple nervous breakdowns until in June 2015, we finally were able to say: “Granny has a permanent home!” From the beginning, Vollpension was a success since we had gained a lot of experience in our mobile kitchens and pop-ups.

In the coming years, with all our love, brainpower and together with all kinds of people, partners and our team of young and old, we developed a well-functioning social business for our Generationencafé

2019: Opening up our first branch: Vollpension at MUK (Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna)

Good things take time. After years of falling down, getting up, trying again, getting on and over it, we felt ready to take the next growth step. But somehow opening up the second Generationencafé seemed to be so much harder than the first one in 2015, despite all the experience we’d gained. Naivety is tricky, it can be something out of which a lot of nonsense can develop, and at the same time it can be a driver for doing something without any fear. When you know which obstacles might be waiting for you on your way to your goal, things take much longer, and this is why we searched intensively for almost one year for a second location. The Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna came to us and asked if we would be interested in a cooperation, and after only a few talks with the rector’s office, we came to an agreement. Our Vollpension right there in the centre of the first district, with our cakes, grandmas and with a grand glass cake piano, and music as the main theme!

While searching for more baking grandmas and grandpas for our branch in the first district in summer 2019, we again became fully aware of the social aspect of our Vollpension when more than 350 seniors applied within a few days. In October 2019, we opened our second Vollpension at MUK, with a chock-full cake glass piano and a live concert.

Opening of Vollpension at MUK in October 2019 in cooperation with the private Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna.