Together with patron and chef Mario Lohninger mother Erika and father Paul have been the backbone of restaurant Lohninger for many years. The two strong characters work hand in hand as a well-attuned team while being responsible for different areas of everyday life at the restaurant. In the journal, Erika and Paul talk about their individual perspectives on their shared history, their biggest challenges in the family business and their personal recipe for success.
Your home is Austria, you used to have a restaurant in Leogang near Zell am See. What made you come to Frankfurt to build a new life here?
Erika: Our reason to leave Austria was Mario. Back at that time he wanted to take over a restaurant in New York and we had planned to accompany him to the US. We had to terminate our lease in Austria with half a year’s notice. In the meantime Mario’s plans for New York changed because he had gotten a very interesting offer in Frankfurt. We held on to our plan to go with him. Mario found an apartment for us and we came to Frankfurt, back then to support him at Cocoon. We opened restaurant Lohninger about eight years ago and it has since become our second home.
Was it hard for you to give up your life in Austria?
Erika: For me it was not very hard to leave Austria. Of course we always like to go back for holidays, we still have our house there. I think it was harder for Paul, he has always been a mountain person.
Paul: Our secret is to pour our heart and soul into the restaurant. It has never been work for us because it is always fun to do something good for our guests. By now I have been a chef for 50 years and am still burning with pass
Lohninger belongs to the region’s best restaurants. What is the secret to your success and what motivates you every day?
Erika: The people just like what we do: on the one hand we offer a gourmet tasting menu and Asian influences, on the other traditional Austrian cuisine. The guests value our top products and the cordial atmosphere. On the weekend when we have many families as guests the restaurant is always buzzing.
Paul: Unser Geheimnis ist, dass wir mit Herz und Seele dabei sind. Für uns war es nie Arbeit, denn es hat uns immer Spaß gemacht, den Leuten etwas Gutes zu tun. Ich bin mittlerweise seit 50 Jahren Koch und bin immer noch mit Leidenschaft dabei.
The whole Lohninger family works hand in hand at the restaurant. What do you find to be the biggest challenges in a family-run business?
Erika: We do not have any big problems because we split the work evenly: while I take care of the restaurant, accounting, staffing and wine orders, my husband gets up early to go to the kitchen. Nowadays he does not cook in the evenings any more, but he prepares everything for Mario. Of course there is some friction now and then, but I think that is normal in any enterprise.
Paul: I do not see any problems within the family, I rather find it challenging to find and motivate new young talents. Chef is a hard job, and our whole branch has trouble finding junior employees. There have been many changes over the past years, nowadays the atmosphere in the kitchen is much different from previous times.
You have reached so many things in your lives, what are you especially proud of?
Erika: I have always worked full-time and still raised two children. I became a mom very early, and then it was cooking, working, keeping the family together. Both children have grown up to be great adults and are very successful in their lives. That makes me proud!
Paul: I am proud to have defeated cancer. Ever since the diagnosis five years ago I have been through a lot. And I am proud of my wife, who has been by my side for 50 years.
What are your plans and goals for the future?
Erika: We will continue to support Mario and have his back for as long as we are healthy. But I am sure we will not be in Frankfurt for longer than two more years, after that we will see whether we want to move back home to Austria.
Paul: For me, the future is completely open. Mario travels a lot, so it is good for us to take care of the business as well as we can. I do not know exactly how long we will stay at Lohninger for, but as long as we are healthy and having fun we plan to go full throttle.