Hospitality Is in Her DNA
Céline Pahl-Hiltl knows that the recipe for a successful hospitality company calls for more than great food and service.
That’s why she traveled 3,700 miles from her home in Zurich, Switzerland, to Boston and Suffolk’s Sawyer Business School. As a student in the MBA/MSBA dual degree program, she’s studying the analytics and strategy side of the food industry so she can leverage the acquired skills and knowledge at home. For four generations, Céline Pahl-Hiltl’s family has run Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness World Records.
“The restaurant business is engraved in my DNA—I’ve been around it for as long as I can remember,” says Pahl-Hiltl. “I came to Suffolk for the opportunity to expand my horizons in a metropolitan city and learn as much as I can from an entrepreneurial business perspective.”
That means a full menu of courses in data analytics, entrepreneurship, diversity, and global management, which, she says, are giving her “a holistic view on how to develop a corporate strategy when it comes to leading a family business.”
Information Systems and Operations Management Professor Hasan Arslan has been impressed with Pahl-Hiltl’s critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. “She’s a top-tier student,” he says. No matter how challenging the assignment, “she possesses an immense drive to learn and push herself toward success.”
“The restaurant business is engraved in my DNA—I’ve been around it for as long as I can remember. I came to Suffolk for the opportunity to expand my horizons in a metropolitan city and learn as much as I can from an entrepreneurial business perspective.”
Ahead of its time
Founded in Zurich in 1898 as Vegetarierheim & Abstinenzcafe—at a time when vegetarianism was considered highly eccentric—Hiltl’s family restaurant has grown in both popularity and reputation. Today, it boasts nine different locations (including the flagship restaurant, cafés, shops, and a cooking school) with 300 employees from 80 nations.
“We occupy a niche of vegetarian and vegan food that has become trendy today around the world, for both sustainable and ethical reasons,” says Pahl-Hiltl.
While she grew up occasionally setting tables, stacking menus, and cutting vegetables at the restaurant, Pahl-Hiltl admits to not being a strict vegetarian. She does love to cook, usually without a recipe. “I like to open the fridge and be creative,” she says.
Her take on the Boston food scene? “The really good restaurants are the ones that focus on natural and fresh ingredients,” she says.
After completing her dual master’s degree, Pahl-Hiltl hopes to work as a business consultant in the Boston area while her husband completes his PhD program at MIT. Her long-term plan: Return to Switzerland and work in the family business, adding her own fresh spin to a time-honored recipe.