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Beyond Coffee and Cake: The Café That Bonds Generations
Photography by Vollpension.

December 2023 – George Lee

Theme: Food

Beyond Coffee and Cake:
The Café That Bonds Generations

In the heart of Vienna, famous for its coffee, cake, and cafes, lies a quaint and bustling café called Vollpension. It’s not just any café; it’s a place where the smell of freshly baked traditional Viennese cakes mixes with the spirit of intergenerational connection. I first heard about the cafe from my goddaughter Eli Knox, who discovered its magic during her time studying fine art in Vienna. 

Photography by Vollpension.

“It caught my eye right away,” Eli remembers. “Vienna is a city full of hundreds of cafes but Vollpension stood out distinctively. The interior design was filled with so many old pictures that told stories of their own. Its unique setup also intrigued me, you bought time for service. It was a cafe concept so different from the usual.” 

A cake from Vollpension

Photography by Eli Knox.

Vollpension prides itself not only on its delicious cakes but on recreating the feel of a grandmother’s home, albeit with an artistic touch. “They claim it’s like your granny’s place, but it’s tastefully curated and thoughtfully designed,” Eli added, highlighting the mix of nostalgia with a hint of modernity within the cafe’s four walls. 

The café is a social enterprise, and the concept is a brilliant meeting of commerce and compassion. It serves as a platform for meaningful interaction across generations, challenging conventional ideas about work, age, and societal norms. 

Photography by Eli Knox.

I asked Eli what her first impression was. “I loved it, but if I’m honest, there was this funny atmosphere when I visited for the first time,” Eli replied with a smile. “There was this guy serving, and he had a very interesting way of doing things. He was quite snappy. No airs and graces, and no ‘the customer is always right,’” she laughs. “Thinking back, maybe the younger staff who worked there were more conventionally service-minded. Getting cakes at the counter was all very no-nonsense, I guess it’s a whole part of the experience.” She added, “It wasn’t impolite; it was just direct. I think it might also be a Viennese thing. The service style in Vienna is very different from the UK. It wasn’t rude, just noticeably different—no falsity to it.” 

"Sometimes the service was a bit slower.... I was definitely more accepting of that."

Continuing our discussion, I asked Eli if she noticed any differences in service based on people’s age. “Sometimes the service was a bit slower, and I don’t know if it’s ageist to think it was because they were older, but I was definitely more accepting of that,” she observed. 

China dog

Photography by Eli Knox.

Her thoughts expanded beyond the café experience. “I think in the UK we are very ageist as a society. We need to be more tolerant and place value on community rather than speed.” Eli continued, “The warm and relaxed atmosphere of the cafe far outweighed any delay in service. The concept and the feel of the place made it stand out.” Eli was keen to highlight how the café’s warmth and inclusivity made a more lasting impression than the speed of service. She summed it up beautifully I thought, “You might not get the best customer service, but you get great cakes and something so much more important, a sense of community.” 

Shifting the conversation, I turned to Eli’s experiences in a new city. Reflecting on her initial days there, I wondered if the café’s older staff provided her with a sense of comfort. “I think so, yes,” Eli replied thoughtfully. “The café culture in Vienna is huge, and every café tries to lure you in. I kept going back there because it was comfortable—sofas, armchairs, very cozy and warmth. It felt like sitting in someone’s house. And the cakes! They were incredible, all the traditional ones made by these brilliant baking grandmas.” Eli’s words suggested why the café was so special, it had become more than just a place for drinks and cake, it was a place offering familiarity and connection within the busy city. 

Coins used to buy servcie

Photography by Eli Knox.

I was curious about the visitors to Vollpension, so I asked Eli about the mix of people who visited the café. “There were lots of tourists seeking the best traditional cakes, which made it very popular. But you also got a whole range of people coming, and I noticed many families gathering together,” Eli explained, giving a glimpse into the café’s inclusive and welcoming atmosphere. 

"Seeing older individuals in roles usually associated with younger people made me reflect.”

Changing the focus of our conversation, I ask about Eli’s perceptions of older individuals working at the café. I was interested in finding out if it made her feel differently about older people, given their roles at the café. It was unfamiliar”, Eli admitted. “Seeing older individuals in roles usually associated with younger people made me reflect. It was interesting to see them doing tasks traditionally reserved for younger workers. But seeing older people in the kitchen made you feel the food would be better.” She agreed that her experiences at Vollpension highlighted the invaluable contributions and expertise that individuals of all ages bring to the table, challenging preconceived notions about work and age.  

Wall art in the cafe

Photography by Eli Knox.

I asked Eli whether the cafe had in any way changed her perspective on ageing. “It made me rethink work more than ageing,” Eli replied thoughtfully. Her response redirected the conversation toward reflections on work dynamics and current views of work and age. “If we all worked until we were 70 or 80, what would that mean? Would I want that? It also made me think about pensions, about our lack of knowledge in that area.” She continued, “We need to see more older people doing what we all do; it’s about gaining perspective and understanding.” Eli’s thoughts went beyond just thinking about ageing personally. She was talking about bigger societal ideas like how we view work, retirement, and the valuable contributions people of all ages can make to society. 

“There seemed to be a sense of reverence for older people in Vienna, which I don't think we have here."

Exploring the café’s adaptability in different cultural settings, I asked her if she thought the concept would work in the UK, “I don’t know,” Eli admitted, considering the idea with me. “I think we are more judgmental about service here. There seemed to be a sense of reverence for older people in Vienna, which I don’t think we have here.” Considering how cultural differences globally might impact the success of a similar café concept in the UK, Eli highlighted the importance of understanding various cultural views toward older individuals and emphasised the significance of learning from these differences. 

Eli and her friend in the cafe

Eli and her friend in the cafe.

As our conversation came to an end, a shared realisation emerged: this café meant more than coffee and cake. It served as a unique hub, merging the wisdom of age with youthful enthusiasm, a space to foster a rich wealth of stories and connections rooted in mutual experiences and understanding. Could the café be the solution to bringing generations closer together and changing society’s views on age and ageing? If there were all like Vollpension, perhaps. It seems to beautifully symbolise a society where everyone’s contributions are valued, fostering a feeling of belonging and understanding across different ages. And how needed is this! 

More Information

More about Vollpension



You can find out more about Vollpension and their mission to create meeting and learning areas for new types of co-operation and togetherness among old and young here.