Christopher Columbus, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Johann Georg Faust walk into a bar.

Well it’s really more a bar/restaurant. But it is the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the world. It’s called Stiftskeller St Peter and it’s in Salzburg, Austria.

It opened its doors in 803.

That’s three years after Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of the West by Pope Leo III.

Stiftskeller sits on the grounds of St. Peter’s Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that has also been doing that whole continuously operating thing since 696, when the monks began making wine.

Now this wine was so good and so popular that three hundred years later, Leopold The Glorious finally allowed the monks to export the wine they made. This expansion across Europe increased the reach of its popularity and attracted traveling foreigners to Stiftskeller.

By the 17th Century it had established itself as a noblemen’s hangout. Being the the most elegant restaurant in town, artists and musicians hung out in the place too looking for moneyed patrons. The composer, Hayden even lived on the upper floor of the monastery to be close to the action and his inspiration.

It has endured invading armies and artillery fire. French troops bivouacked there during the Napoleonic Wars and the restaurant was nearly destroyed during WWI. It was repaired and modernized, but the monks did not have a lease agreement with an outsider until 1992. When a 25 year old, Claus Hausluer took over.

Today the restaurant has 2 Michelin stars.

Sometimes the only thing you need to maintain success for a long time is to make an incredible product or service and provide an unparalleled experience. The problem with providing something of that caliber is that you inevitably develop a reputation and your reputation is the thing that can live on. It’s your legacy and it’s sustainable for generations. Millennia in Stiftskeller’s case.

But you can’t rest on your laurels once you’ve achieved the level of greatness. Because there’s no guarantee you can keep it.

Still, even if you have successfully run a restaurant for more than 1,218 years in a row, you can’t please everyone. Not now, not during the reign of Charlemagne. Nope. Some people can not be satisfied. Ah, hospitality in the age of Yelp.

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