A Roman expression, variatio delecat - variety makes life sweet - describes both the success and personality of Ueli Prager, founder and president of Movenpick, the innovative international restaurant and hotel chain.
Established in Zurich in 1948, the multimillion dollar business has set new standards in European dining by providing a wide variety of high quality meals and snacks served anytime, rather than only at luncheon and dinner hours. In addition, an attractive and widely varied ambience sets each restaurant apart and provides affordable prices.
Placing quality ahead of profit and variety ahead of traditional Swiss restaurant policies, Prager has created a company which has grown from one restaurant to 177 restaurants and hotels.
Born in 1916, Prager is the son of Hugo Prager, owner of the Carlton-Elite, a Zurich hotel. Initially not attracted to the hotel and restaurant business, Prager studied economics and spent time traveling to London, Paris, and Geneva where he worked as commis debarrasseur - the one who clears the tables.
After serving as a cavalry captain in World War II, Prager worked as an auditor for the Swiss Hotel Fiduciary Company. This move eventually led him back to his father's business because his job involved implementing legislative measures that addressed issues in the hotel and restaurant industry.
By 1945, he had developed a plan to improve the restaurant business by basing his establishment on variety and fast affordable service. When the 1,000-office Claridenhof complex was built in Zurich, Prager decided to try his new innovations in a restaurant which would serve the occupants of the new complex. Movenpick was born.
The name, Movenpick was chosen because it represents the swoop of a seagull as it elegantly snatches a piece of food and flies away. This concept of simple, yet fast and enjoyable dining was the goal of Prager's establishments.
The original principles which brought Prager initial success are still at work today. In a message to shareholders last year, Ueli Prager stated, "The right men and the right women - the operations managers - are the ones responsible for the right atmosphere and working conditions in their spheres of responsibility. They define the style and the standards of quality. They have to create the right spirit which expresses itself in the engaging manners and the eagerness of their staff. Through their positive attitude - through meticulously fulfilling their obligations - they create conditions under which their employees enjoy their work. They care about their employees and in return they expect the realization of our overriding goal: the total satisfaction of our customers."
In "doing the unexceptional exceptionally well," Prager has brought Movenpick to its present position as a leader in the restaurant/hotel business world-wide. It is a concept of quality to which Ueli Prager committed himself in 1948 and to which he remains committed today.