I have interviewed Martin Sjöstrand, who runs three restaurants in Skåne to hear how they survive the Corona crisis and what measures they have had to take and what Martin thinks about the future.
Who are you?
My name is Martin Sjöstrand and together with my wife Emma Andersson Sjöstrand I run three restaurants: Julie, Hörte Brygga and Köksbordet. I have previously worked as a chef at Sjömagasinet, Fäviken and with Mattias Dahlgren.
Tell us about your business?
We operate three restaurants, where Hörte Brygga and Köksbordet are only open during the summer. For us, the hand craftsmanship and ingredients are very important. None of our restaurants would exist without our local partnerships with ambitious farmers and growers. We live together with the countryside and the harvest which comes from the wild. Our menus are vibrant and guided by the local ingredients we have available. All wines are natural wines and as far as possible our ingredients come from sustainable growers and farmers. For example, we do not serve salmon and chicken because they do not meet our ethical requirements.
Before the Corona virus came, we were ten full-time employees and 4-6 part time employees working at Julie. And at Hörte Brygga we usually have 25-30 employees during the high season. Unfortunately, it does not look like this now.
How has it been since the COVID-19 outbreak?
Things have really changed since March. We would have opened Hörte Brygga for Easter, but the restaurant is still closed, and we hope to open in late May or early June. We have changed opening hours at Julie, from being open all week between 12-22, to Tuesdays-Saturdays between 15-22.
On a good day, we have a turnover of 45% of what we had before Corona and on a normal day we make 38% of our previous turnover. This is a big difference. And with the new social distancing rules it is not possible to reach our previous sales figures. So we are cutting costs as much as possible. Today we only have three people working 75% at Julie, except me and Emma.
How do you see the future?
I think we need to learn and live with social distancing for a long time and restaurants need to adjust to the prevailing circumstances. Even if you are fully booked, you will only make half as much money you used to, since you only have half of the seats left due to social distancing.
We restaurateurs must work even harder with risk assessment. I look at everything now, staff, ingredients, the cost of starting up the kitchen, etc. Do I benefit from having the restaurant open or closed? This is the reason why we have not opened Hörte Brygga, because we do not know if the guests will come and if they don't, we will lose money.
Is takeaway the future?
I find it difficult to see that takeaway is the long-term solution. Many restaurants are jumping into takeaway to save what can be saved. Here in Malmö, a lot of taverns started with takeaway. And it went amazingly well for the first two weeks, but now the demand has declined.
I would say that refined cooking does not work as takeaway, everything does not fit to be served in a box. And another aspect is that there are very few restaurants that would survive in Sweden by only serving food. The margins are among the beverages and all extra orders during a dinner such as coffee, avec and dessert.
Have you spotted any new trends that you believe in?
One thing we are doing is saving wine residues that we cannot serve to guests and make vinegar which we sell. Selling this type of products will probably become more common for restaurants.
I also think selling DIY-kits with ingredients and arranging a "cook-a-long" with a chef can become more common. Several of our wine suppliers run digital tastings, where you order a box wine and taste together from your home.
What are your tips for restaurateurs?
Invest in your core business which made guests come to you in the first place. Consider how you can run your restaurant with reduced costs. Take care of your guests who do come to you, and make sure to give them the best service so they will come back. Customer service is really important today!