Food & Drink | May 2, 2020 5:36 pm

What Swedish Restaurants Learned From Being Open in a Pandemic

Global lessons for restaurants living through a crisis

Daniel Berlin
Daniel Berlin, located in Sweden.
City Foodsters/Creative Commons

When looking at different countries’ handling of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sweden’s response has stood out. Unlike many countries affected, it’s taken a less formally restrictive aspect to the crisis. That, in turn, has prompted praise from some quarters and criticism from others. And while questions of whether or not Sweden’s approach could be established in other countries persist, there may be more focused areas of society where lessons can be learned from Sweden.

Specifically, the world of restaurants. At Vanity Fair, Lisa Abend explored the ways in which Swedish restaurants dealt with the pandemic. As American restaurants ponder the measures they’ll need to put into place as quarantines wind down, they’ve been looking around the world for tips as to how best to go about things — the example set by many restaurants in China provides one such example. Sweden, albeit very different, provides another.

Among the chefs and restauranteurs that Abend spoke with was Daniel Berlin, owner of the Michelin-starred restaurant that shares his name. Berlin found that, while reservations from international diners were canceled in the wake of the pandemic, many of those spots were filled by Swedish diners eager to dine at an acclaimed restaurant.

While social distancing measures have been implemented, that’s not the biggest thing many restaurant owners have had to contend with.

…  for top-tier restaurants — which is to say the ones whose bookings usually fill up months in advance, and who get the better share of media attention and stars and rankings — it has also meant coming to grips with just how profoundly dependent they are on foreign tourists.

It’s an unexpected wrinkle on a familiar narrative — and it’s a discovery that may well be echoed at dining hotspots across the United States in the weeks and months to come.

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