Bruno Kernen, from ski racer to hotelier. This could be the title of a portrait.

Your Hotel Kernen is a three-star hotel

with 22 rooms. There is also a restaurant with around 85 seats, and in summer we have another 80 seats on the terrace.

Are you consciously a three-star hotelier?

Yes, out of conviction. The second hotel I run, the Hotel des Alpes by Bruno Kernen in Saanenmöser, is a three-star superior establishment.

When you took over the hotel in 1993, did you have a goal or even a vision for the hotel?

I am the 4th generation to run the hotel. Perhaps it's also about paving the way for the 5th generation.

Your son, Jan Kernen, is a hotel manager ...

... right, he might take over the hotel later on. Jan is only 26 years old. Over the next few years, he will continue his professional training and gain experience, so a takeover is still up in the air. After all, I'm not yet of retirement age! Do you know the well-known saying?

Which one do you mean?

How does a hotelier quickly make a small fortune?

I have no idea.

You have to start with a big fortune ... Look, our hotel is a traditional business, we stand firmly on the ground and don't take off. There are so many Gault Millau and Michelin-starred restaurants, four- and five-star hotels in the Saanenland that we like to position ourselves as a more traditional bourgeois restaurant. It's not my aim at all to be listed in Gault-Millau or Michelin.

Do you have any problems with Gault-Millau?

No, not at all. I once spoke to Urs Heller, the editor-in-chief. I appreciate his work and his guide, but I don't have to be there. If my goal was to get 15 or even 16 points, we would have to completely reorganise our kitchen and the whole business, but I don't want that.

How would you describe your current cuisine?

It's home-style, regional cuisine. We try to buy as many local products as possible, where possible. We emphasise freshness and quality. Our game comes from the region - and not from Poland or Hungary. We buy supra-regional products that are not available in the Saanenland through IG Procurement Gstaad-Saanenland. Nineteen hotels in the region are members of this interest group.

Many hotels in the Saanenland are seasonal businesses. Are you only open in summer and winter?

No, we are open all year round. We only close for a few days at the beginning of December and the end of April for general cleaning.

Is year-round operation worthwhile?

Yes, I generate a contribution margin even in the weaker months. We benefit a little from the fact that many hotels in the area are closed from the end of October and the end of April. Many guests looking for peace and quiet stay with us in November or May.

What is so special about the Hotel Kernen?

The hotel's location in the centre of Schönried is certainly unique. The hotel is right next to the railway station, close to the bus station and, above all, the mountain railways ...

Are these really advantages?

Yes, of course, just ask our guests! The proximity to public transport is a plus point for many guests, even if most of them come by private car.


Half of the rooms are on the main road. However, if the hotel were not directly on the road, this would also be a disadvantage, as our restaurant would be difficult to find.

According to hotel pioneer Conrad Hilton, you therefore fulfil the most important success factor for a hotel, namely location. But what does the hotel offer inside - apart from the rooms and restaurant?

The patron of the hotel is on site every day, with his guests. I take my role as host very seriously. There are no managers here.

You are in the hotel seven days a week.

More or less. It's six and a half days when I'm not out hunting or golfing. Another unique feature is that we still have a real regulars' table in the parlour, where workers, farmers and village residents meet. But anyone can sit at the regulars' table, not just the regulars!

Do you have wellness offers in the hotel?

No. Wellness here takes place outside in nature. People come to us and want to enjoy nature by going on hikes, cycling or mountain biking - whatever the weather.

The Wellness Hotel Ermitage is just a two-minute walk from you, with a brine bath, saunas, steam baths, whirlpools ...

... our hotel guests can use the spa in the neighbouring Hotel Ermitage at a reduced price.

Who are your hotel guests? Which guest segments do you target with the Hotel Kernen?

Most guests are 40 years old or older. They are couples, singles and families. 70 per cent come from Switzerland, the rest from France, Benelux, England, Germany, the USA and some from Brazil and Asia.

What else is special about Kernen?

We run the business in a very personal and familiar way.

In 2006, you renovated the hotel rooms, the roof and the restaurant ...... that's right. And in summer 2019, we equipped the rooms with new box-spring beds.

In 2004/05, you built two houses with seventeen flats right next to the hotel. You sold sixteen flats. Did this enable you to finance the hotel conversion?


You built the houses with the seventeen flats primarily for economic reasons.

Yes, thanks to the profit from the sale of the sixteen flats, we were able to remodel the hotel. In the restaurant, I made sure that various cosy parlours were created. They are all furnished with reclaimed wood.

Experts say that 40 rooms are the minimum for a hotel. So if you want to earn money, you should have at least 40 rooms. You only have 22 rooms. How do you manage to earn money with so few rooms?

You can also earn money with 22 rooms. How? Well, I pay myself anything but a fantasy wage. The employees are also important. You need very good, loyal and motivated people to be successful. We have employees who have been working at the hotel for over 20 years.

They earn so much money that you can finance the business well.

Yes and no. The last few years have been difficult. Since the euro lost value against the Swiss franc, it has been even more difficult than before. But you can't earn good money with rooms alone. The whole range of services in the hotel and restaurant is important.

Let's talk briefly about the wine cellar. You love Bordeaux wines in particular ...

You can say that again! I also like Italian and Spanish wines, but Bordeaux is my favourite.

Your favourite wine?

I have a pure Merlot in my cellar, a wonderful Bordeaux: Château Cadet Soutard, Grand Cru, Saint-Émilion, vintage 2010. If I had to go to a desert island, I would take two or three cases with me (laughs).

Do you also have exclusive and expensive cult wines in your cellar?

No, my guests want wines that they can afford. Privately, I have a few special, old wines in my treasure chest, but they're not on the menu. You can find cult wines from Gaja & Co. in almost every restaurant in Gstaad.

How many bottles do you have in your cellar?

The inventory used to be around 120,000 francs, then I reduced the wine stock and now the value is around 70,000 francs. That's about 45 different items.

Where is the focus of the wine cellar?

In Switzerland. Valais, Ticino, Vaud and Bündner Herrschaft, Eastern Switzerland ... my aim is to put even more Swiss wines on the menu.

You also run the Hotel des Alpes by Bruno Kernen, a subsidiary in Saanenmöser. How are you involved in this hotel?

I am the leaseholder of the business. The property belongs to two friends. I've been renting and running the hotel since December 2011 and it has eleven rooms. My sister-in-law looks after the kitchen and offers specialities in the restaurant. The main specialities are fondue chinoise à discrétion, cheese fondue and raclette. In summer, there are also barbecue specialities with a Brazilian touch from my sister-in-law Zaza. She also cooks a daily special.

Together with the Hotel des Alpes by Bruno Kernen, you have 33 rooms.

That's right, we also market the two hotels together.

Training apprentices is particularly important to you at the hotel.

That's right. Promoting young talent is a key issue, whether in an association, ski club, in politics or in the hospitality industry. I love the hotel industry! That's why it's important to me that we do something for our young talent, that we encourage and motivate young people to take up careers in the hospitality industry. We currently have one apprentice chef, one hotel assistant and one hotel clerk apprentice.

Everyone talks about the shortage of skilled workers, but unfortunately too many hoteliers and restaurateurs don't look after the next generation at all.