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How Switzerland's iconic Äscher restaurant became a victim of its own success

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How Switzerland's iconic Äscher restaurant became a victim of its own success
The Äscher restaurant has a stunning setting. File photo: Depositphotos
11:17 CEST+02:00
The managers of the massively popular Äscher mountain restaurant in north-eastern Switzerland have blamed failing infrastructure and limited room for improvements for their decision to leave the inn.

Current managers, Nicole and Bernhard Knechtle-Fritsche will be hanging up their tea towels at the end of the 2018 season, meaning new tenants will be needed for the restaurant made famous by the internet.

In 2014, the Äscher was named one of the five most interesting restaurants in the world in the Huffington Post and a year later it featured on the cover of National Geographic's ‘Destinations of a Lifetime' special.

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The result has been a massive boost in the number of visitors to a location that was previously known mainly by locals.

“A well-known consequence of this success is the fact that the infrastructure of the building cannot keep up with the growing number of visitors,” said the managers in a statement released to the media.

“There are constant shortages in terms of space requirements and water and electricity supply, which could intensify in future,” the statement continued.

The restaurant managers who took over the business in 2014 said they had worked with the Wildkirchli foundation which owns the restaurant to try and a find a solution. But the fact that the building enjoys heritage status and is located near an archaeological site meant limited changes were possible.

The 170-year-old Äscher restaurant, with its spectacular cliffside setting in the Alpstein massif in the canton of in Appenzell Innerrhoden, is located near three caves containing prehistoric remains.

The Wildkirchli foundation had promised building works this autumn but for Nicole and Bernhard Knechtle-Fritsche, the improvements do not go far enough. They also noted they were having to compete with a growing number of privately-run hotels in the region which were able to invest in expansion and improvements.

As a result, they have no interest in continuing as managers of the Äscher.

Cantonal tourism director Guido Buob told regional daily the St Galler Tagblatt the couple had done a “super” job given the difficult infrastructure situation but also praised the building's owners for keeping a sense of proportion in terms of improvements.

A lease for the business will now be advertised in the local press, according to Swiss news portal 20 Minuten.

The president of the Wildkirchli foundation, Stefan Müller, said in theory anyone with hospitality experience could apply to run the restaurant but noted people should “know what they are getting into” and that they should be able to “identify with and fit in with” the establishment.

He said part of the building was in poor condition and works would be carried out this year. There would also be improvements in terms of food storage but running water would not be installed.

“The Äscher is where it is,” said Müller, noting there was no well or water source at the location.

Read also: In pics - Switzerland's 11 stunning UNESCO World Heritage Sites

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