Viena Capellanes, one of the most emblematic and oldest pastry shops in Madrid, is celebrating its anniversary. Nothing more and nothing less than 150 years meets this family business that has been able to adapt to the times and remain a benchmark in the sector throughout its history not absent of vicissitudes. Two world wars, a civil war, two pandemics, countless recessions and the multiple changes in Madrid society are some of the events that this company has had to overcome that began in a small tahona on Calle Misericordia 2, corner with Calle de Los Capellanes (currently Calle del Maestro Victoria) and today has 25 establishments in the capital (three of them, those of Goya, Fuencarral and Genoa streets, centenarians) and more than 450 employees.
It was in 1873 when the visionary businessman Matías Ence decided to make a special bread, of higher quality and very different from the one consumed then in Madrid. The so-called Vienna bread, which triumphed in the Austrian capital, was more refined and more like a bun and soon succeeded. The product was a sales boom at a time when Spanish society was improving its living conditions and could afford to buy the small luxury that was a slightly more exclusive product. The bread of Vienna and the place where it was made, in the basement of a building where the chaplains of the Royal Palace and the Convent of the Discalced lived lived, were the two elements that supposed the germ of Vienna Chaplains.
Since then, the brand has always maintained the essence of a family business. Its founder was the uncle of Pío Baroja and the writer himself worked in the company, until an apprentice, Manuel Lence, who finally took over the business in the first decade of the twentieth century. A pioneer of home delivery in its iconic cars, Vienna gradually introduced other products into its business, such as special breads for patients and diabetics, chocolates, coffee, cold cuts and a whole range of pastries that became the protagonist of the famous Madrid tea rooms and the Café Viena, opened in 1929. Among its clients were the best hotels and the Royal House itself. Today, it is the fifth generation already (the third of the Lence family) that manages this business specialized in artisan pastry, gourmet catering services and ready meals, which has a central workshop in Alcorcón, almost 40 corners in different companies, a Vienna Chaplains Cooking School through which more than 2,000 students have already passed and even the Vienna Suites hotel, next to Plaza de España.
The origin of sandwiches
"The history of Vienna Chaplains is the story of adaptation to the times and social changes of the time. From that first bread, other product lines were coming out such as buns, cakes, tea rooms ... according to the tastes and needs of that society that began to prosper timidly, "says Antonio Lence, CEO of the company. An example of that evolution was the production of the company's iconic sandwiches. "In the 60s and 70s there was an increase in people who no longer went home to lunch at noon and started eating out. That's how we started selling sandwiches and snacks, until we got to what we are today." These have become the most outstanding product, according to Lence, which they have been selling since the 50s (the most representative are vegetable, ham and cheese and bonito and egg). In total, about 18,000 sandwiches are made every day at the Vienna venues.
Bread is still the element that has been maintained since its inception. But, throughout all these years, the company has managed to diversify its business so that they can satisfy all types of customers. Thus, in its premises they sell from cakes, the Sacher cake (in honor of Vienna) and the iconic sandwiches to cheeses, sausages, empanadas, juices, salads and other seasonal sweets such as torrijas, roscones ... Their best-selling productis the chocolate palm, which they make "with a very special formula" (about 2,000 units a day). "The wide variety of products we fear is part of the secret to our success; We aspire to satisfy all types of customers, each with their tastes, and that everyone can have everything in our premises. And we do it by our own means, we manufacture, distribute and sell taking great care of the quality of the product, the origin, the ingredients ...", says the manager.
Commitment to innovation
The company would not have lasted so long if they had not bet on innovation from the beginning. "It's a very important aspect of our business and we put a lot of resources. Being able to adapt to the times requires innovation. Our R + D + I department elaborates the products from the new trends, ideas ..., which is what makes our customers not get tired. You have to try to respect your lifelong audience, but also satisfy the new one and attract others. Balance is sometimes tricky," according to Lence. Precisely, within this field, Vienna has just received the prize for the most innovative torrija in Madrid, an award that has won in the recently held Contest of The Best Torrijas of Madrid, carried out by the Association of Artisan Entrepreneurs of the Pastry sector of Madrid (ASEMPAS).
But not everything has been a bed of roses for the emblematic Madrid bakery, which is still recovering from the recent pandemic. "It was Vienna's worst moment in recent times; A real challenge since, from one day to the next, we lost almost 70% of our business. We haven't reached pre-pandemic numbers yet," says Lence. Another critical moment that Vienna was able to survive was the Civil War: "there we lost the entire productive structure of the company, the shops, the machines ..., we had to start from the beginning".
Now, the company's commitment is on the modernization of the digital part of the business, says Lence, which today has a lot of relevance. They have also just gotten into the delivery segment: "we did it out of necessity and we continue in it because it is a habit of society that has come to stay". In addition, in the last two and a half years, they have opened six street stores that include a shop and cafeteria. "That combination saved us during the pandemic."
To celebrate these 150 years of life, Vienna has announced that it will market limited editions of its centenary desserts and sweets, such as cream bartolillos, anise doughnuts or mojicones, launch new dishes to reinvent its menus and launch commemorative packaging and reissues. "The goal is to keep fighting in a world that is constantly changing."
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