HIMKOK is currently ranked number 17 on the list of the world's best bars and has now been ranked on the prestigious “The Worlds 50 Best Bars” list for the past 4 years. On this premises, they produce their own Aquavit, Gin and Vodka and the goal is to spread Norway's flavors around the world. This is something they keep close to heart.
We sat down with Odd Strandbakken, bar manager at HIMKOK, and discussed how they are experiencing the existing crisis and what they believe the future looks like.
How has it been for you at HIMKOK since the restrictions were enforced?
- A bar consists of three elements: the physical location, the employees and the guests. Without one of these elements, there is no bar and thus no HIMKOK. The time right now is obviously very tough, just like for everyone else [in Norway] who must close because of COVID-19.
- From day one, we did what we could to secure our fresh products to minimize the loss of products with a best-before-date. Now, we do our best to take care of each other from a distance. We can’t lose all human contact just because we can’t meet in person.
How do HIMKOK, and the other worlds 49 best bars in the world cope with the crisis?
- The bars and restaurants on the list change every year, it is the nature of a ranked list. The bars that are currently on the list are hit just as hard as everyone else: no guests, no service.
- There are some bars and restaurants on the list that generate income by consulting and selling their own products, which could very well save some of them during the crisis. When you are among the best in the world at anything, you are naturally financially solid, so these restaurants and bars are not the kind of places I am afraid will file for bankruptcy.
The Destillery Bar
How do you and your employees at HIMKOK keep yourself busy during your time off?
- I believe, and hope, that everyone takes the chance to read books, research new techniques, learn languages and take some well-deserved time off to relax. Self-studies are an important part of life and now that the bar is temporarily closed, we can create new, great habits.
Do you believe Michelin star restaurants are hit hard? Is offering takeaway enough?
- Few Michelin star restaurants focus on making money. In fact, I can’t name one. These restaurants are often the flagship of an armada of restaurants and their purpose is to show what a restaurant can be if all the elements fall into place to create perfection. Of course, the crisis is affecting them as well, but it’s important to know that these restaurants often have partners and owners with strong liquidity and many guests on the waiting list in case of cancellations.
Do you have any tips for bars and restaurants for when the restrictions are lifted?
- Well, what we are experiencing now is something unique, and nobody knows what the market will look like when restrictions are lifted. Or when. One thing that is certain, all eateries must prepare for it to happen again. All companies must have good liquidity when needed. A lot of money can be saved by hiring the right people with the right knowledge.
- The most important thing that must happen is that the Norwegian people start to feel safe to visit restaurants again is that we need to increase the circulation of money in society. In order to make that happen, we really need to value every guest who comes to our bar [or restaurant].
What can managers and restaurateurs learn from this crisis?
- Many restaurateurs have reinvested their monetary profits back into their company annually. This prevents companies from having good liquidity in emergencies. Instead, we must ensure that we optimize our companies. It can really pay off for restaurants to invest money in hiring knowledgeable staff and pay them 150% more, rather than hiring staff with less experience. We must ensure that we are experts in our own companies.
What trends do you think we will see as we move past the crisis?
- I believe, and hope, that we will see a phase where our focus is solely on the guests and gratitude is a key trait among those who survived the crisis. We will also see an increase in local product used. This is essentially due to the uncertainty regarding the border regulations in different countries.
We’d like to thank Odd for taking the time to talk to us. Do you want to read more about our customers and what they say about us? Click here!