More than 60 years ago, a certain Ueli Prager was impressed by a seagull's quick, yet elegant way of snatching a piece of bread from his hand. He decided that his newly founded company should be named 'Movenpick' after the Mowe (seagull) and that the seagull's behaviour should be at the core of its service offering. Prager's concept has since revolutionised both the European gastronomy and the hotel industry.
Normal but extraordinary
"I have just had a sleepless night. When I tried to summarise Movenpick with a few words, I ended up writing more than 24 pages," Ueli Prager desperately stated in 1980. Indeed, it can be challenging to put Movenpick into words, since it includes different restaurant concepts, various licensed premium food products, a hotel group and Nile cruisers. However, the company's success has proved that exactly this variety has been key to its success. "We aren't doing anything extraordinary," Prager used to say. "We are successful, because we are doing normal things in an extraordinary way." The visionary, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 95, was often described as having been 20 years ahead of his time. He set trends by consistently discovering new market niches.
Ahead of his time
Prager was born 1916 in Wiesbaden, Germany, and moved to Switzerland one year later. He grew up in an upper-class family, with an open-minded father who was a well-respected hotelier. Prager Senior's admiration for the American way of life was passed on to his son and was later to become the foundation of Movenpick's success.
After studying business at the University of Zurich for a few semesters, Prager Junior decided to follow in his father's footsteps. He trained in top hotels in Geneva, then Paris and London. When he returned to Switzerland in 1940, he worked for the Swiss Hotel Trust (Schweizerische Hotel-Treuhand-Gesellschaft) until 1944. During this period, he realised that Swiss gastronomy tended to be stuck in traditional patterns and that its prosperity depended heavily on external factors such as seasonal changes and the weather.
Building on his observations, Prager decided to establish a business that would break away from the mould--a restaurant that was less rigidly structured and more independent and could maintain the same capacity throughout the seasons. His vision was to provide fast, yet efficient service as well as diverse...