Business and pleasure ride tandem at the headquarters of one storied Swiss newspaper, where bylines are now mixed with breakfast, brunch and euphoric beats.
Many newspapers and magazines have experimented with opening spaces where an order of coffee comes with a side serving of print. But Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (nzz) has raised the bar with a grand new venue that engages with its readers from morning to evening. On the ground floor of the newspaper’s headquarters, a stone’s throw from central Bellevueplatz, where printing presses once rattled, nzz am Bellevue is a café-cum-restaurant-cum-lounge bar offering an all-day-dining and all-night-dancing extravaganza. From coffees with the papers in the morning all the way to lunch, dinner and clubbing, the new space functions as a round-the-clock venue. It is also a cultural centre where events take place and a valuable piece of real estate where the newspaper can bring commercial partnerships to life and connect with its audience. “This is a prime location, so our brief was to create a place that brings the nzz brand to life,” says Felix Graf, the paper’s ceo. As the head of one of Europe’s most respected German-language newspapers, Graf was tasked with thinking which elements of this storied title he wanted this project to embody. That’s why he called in enterprising restaurateurs Michel Péclard and Florian Weber.
Their plans took shape during a trip to Japan where they saw how smartly arranged projectors were used on wall panels to create an immersive space. That instantly convinced them to create something that would be more than just a restaurant but rather a location that could evolve throughout the day. “It was important to offer a contrast to the traditional and conservative way NZZ is still often perceived,” says Graf. The 241-year-old paper can now avail itself of 16 high-resolution projectors that beam moving graphics onto the walls. “The space allows us to transform into any scenario, from breakfast to panel discussions to club nights,” says Weber who, with Péclard, oversees many other venues in the city, from cosy restaurant Coco to breezy terrasse Fischer’s Fritz. “We can change the location at the touch of a button.”
Still, with this commission the duo created a location unlike any other in Zürich. “This is a place that sparks excitement,” says Péclard. “It goes beyond what we have ever done before and it is a lab where we can test out lots of different things.” The restaurant’s clever, easy-going menu combines brunch classics with yakitori-style skewers and a generous drinks list, complete with fresh cocktails. It’s an intentionally casual offering that lends itself to creating a laid-back atmosphere before the space transforms into a club. “We want our guests to come here, have dinner and then ease into the night and have a good time while the music turns up and the screens get more vibrant,” says Weber. Thanks to the resident DJ Cruz, who is in charge of the music, punters can always expect lively and, crucially, long nights out: nzz am Bellevue is open until 04.00 on weekends.
“But then again, we’re not just a club,” says Graf. “We’re a destination that works throughout the day: we’re one of the earliest ones in the morning and can offer an excellent location for a morning coffee and check-in with the papers.” On weekdays the doors swing open at 06.00; on Sundays, everybody is afforded a lie-in. The round-the-clock programming features anything from live music and talks to movie screenings. It’s an impressively packed schedule which proves that the team has gone beyond what’s expected of a traditional hospitality business.
“The space allows us to transform into any scenario, from breakfast to panel discussions to club nights. We can change the location at the touch of a button”
Crucially, this space needs to function not only as an f&b venture but as an economically viable extension of NZZ’s activities. The venue has proved a smart choice for the paper not only in attracting a potential new readership but also when it comes to bringing more advertising partners to the table. Both the space and the projection screens can be customised for media partnerships and allow brands to target an audience of up to 300 on a packed club night. Watch brand Breitling and consultancy firm Accenture have already become partners.
Zürchers like to refer to their city’s newspaper as die alte Tante (the old aunt) – a nickname owed to the charming dryness of their output – so this seems like a radical new chapter for the publisher. But it’s a fundamental step in opening up the brand to a wider audience. “What we can observe is that for previous generations, the NZZ had a physical presence in the childhood home, whether that was on the kitchen table or even in the restaurants,” says Graf. “The latest generation isn’t growing up with that proximity, so making this type of space is very important to help create a brand experience. What we’re doing follows our understanding of how our customers use our products. We are aware that audio-visual and podcasts are high in demand – and we know that there’s a strong desire to experience our product as well.” Graf is adamant that this new venture is not far from the priorities that NZZ has held dear since its beginnings in 1780. “Our primary focus is quality journalism,” he says. “How this is delivered is secondary. It’s about bringing it to our customers, with an incredibly high devotion to delivering the best – and this translates as much to the printed word as to how we approach f&b.” Judging by the refreshingly mixed crowd of customers and journalists thirsty for a nightcap every weekend, their mission seems to be working. After all, old aunties often make the stiffest drinks.