The history of the Block empire began more than 50 years ago. In the 1960s, 25-year-old Eugen Block traveled from the Lower Saxony countryside to the USA - and brought an idea that was as simple as it was successful with him to Germany: steakhouses with the rustic charm of log cabins.
In 1968, Block opened his first restaurant in Hamburg with wood-panelled walls and red and white checkered tablecloths. “It was immediately clear to me that we need these types of cozy restaurants here in Germany too,” he told the “Hamburger Morgenpost” in 2018. In the beginning, he cooked the steaks himself. "Back then, eating out was a luxury. But because of the Block House, people started eating out more often, not just on special occasions. This was my pioneering work."
His wife Christa was at his side. "My husband raved about the wooden tables, affordability and fast service," she said in the joint interview. “He definitely had a clear idea of everything.”
Today there are a total of 55 of these restaurants, 44 of which are in Germany and 11 in other European countries. According to the company, more than 1,200 people are employed in this area. On average, around 7,440 steak meals are sold every day. Block House is the largest steak restaurant chain in Germany.
The steaks have come from our own butcher shop since 1973. In order to make use of the meat that couldn't be used for steaks, Block founded the Jim Block burger chain that same year - the first store also opened in Hamburg, around the time Burger King and McDonald's ventured across the Atlantic. There are currently twelve Jim Blocks, in Hamburg, Berlin and Hanover. The entrepreneur also brought the idea for the burger shops with him from the USA.
The restaurants and burger shops belong to the block group, which consists of a total of 18 companies. This also includes the butcher shop and a logistics center, a fish restaurant with a hotel near Lake Schalsee in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and a brewery at the Hamburg Landungsbrücken. The group sells block house products such as steaks, burgers and sauces in retail. The luxury Hotel Elysée in Hamburg, which opened in 1985, is also part of the empire.
In total, the block group employs almost 2,400 people. In 2020, the family business was in the red for the first time since it was founded due to the corona pandemic. Losses were in the double-digit million range and sales were 308 million euros. More current figures are not available.
Block is considered a meticulous boss who even took care of the holes in salt shakers. He once failed with a Hamburg airline. “I overestimated myself back then,” Block admitted in an interview with “Zeit”.
Block, now 83, has not been involved in operational business for several years. He was married to his wife Christa until her death in September last year. Their children Dirk, Philipp and Christina are involved in the group and are members of the advisory board. According to “t-online”, they do not take on operational tasks in the group. Her father relies on managers from outside the family. The three should each inherit the company in equal shares.
Note: This article first appeared at ntv.de