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March 2020
7 Min read

The sweet smell of Surströmming.
A tricky deal for the restaurant’s service.

Derkach Anastasiya

5/5 - (2 votes)

Every manager knows that the main purpose of running a business is making a profit. But nowadays, there is a rising tendency of a high-quality discussion concerning the matter of money or reputation. What will the company choose, when a customer asks for a unique service that no one could expect?
In order to create a precedent to find some evidence, we have done the research. The aim of our analysis was to persuade restaurant managers and their employees to cook a traditional Swedish dish called fermented herring surströmming, in the context of organizing a meeting for the Swedish pop band. For this experiment, we have selected 3 different families of restaurants in three cities.  They were VAPIANO (in Kyiv, London, and Berlin), Syndicate (in London and Kyiv) and Sauvage (in Kyiv and Berlin).


The first participant was the restaurant chain “VAPIANO”, located in Kyiv, Berlin, and London. “VAPIANO” is a well-known company with a number of branches all over the world, mostly in Europe. It can boast of 180 locations in 31 countries.

For this kind of research, it was announced about the Swedish pop band coming to the city. The purpose was to organize a restaurant meeting, considering a special order from the musician’s rider for a chef — to serve sour pickled herring surströmming. What a challenge! Let’s see the results.

Thus, only one of these branches agreed to satisfy customer demand for cooking surströmming. The location was in Kyiv city. At first, the manager sounded confident when saying yes, but added that he had to discuss the matter with a chef. Within an hour, a chef contacted us and asked if it was acceptable to buy canned surströmming instead of cooking it. But the point was to ferment and preserve the fish on their own. However, the cook worried about an unusual and unpleasant for many Europeans smell, so he said he needed to talk with the manager once again. An hour later, the director called with a decision to help us organize such kind of event. In addition, he admitted that the price for the service was within the normal range, and they didn’t need anything extra.

A team of “VAPIANO” in Berlin was not so excited about the opportunity to earn more. They refused a request, explaining that they don’t accept special orders due to the company’s brand politics and buffet concept of the restaurant. 

At last, “VAPIANO” in London has also declined an order. The explanation was pretty simple — it is not a matter of money, it is a question of reputation.  As “VAPIANO” is a brand company, they care about certification that needs to be proved concerning the quality of supplied products. That is why they cannot agree to cook a dish that is not on their list of meals. At the same time, they suggested cooking something in the alternative.

Restaurant Service Research


The next family restaurant that took part in that experiment was “Syndicate” in Kyiv and London. It is a kind of grill-bar restaurant with American Street Food and atmosphere. 

The study in London has shown that they would not cook the dish because the chef could not take responsibility for the meal`s quality, as he did not have experience in cooking it before. As a solution, they suggested buying canned fish, explaining “We care what we offer…”. 

The manager of “Syndicate” in Kyiv accepted the offer at first. But after discussions with a team, there was a question about the number of potential visitors to this event. When it turned out that the number of guests was less than the total number of places in the restaurant, the manager refused our request. The reason was the smell of the Swedish delicacy surströmming, that could make other visitors leave the restaurant. However, the manager asked if there was anything they could suggest instead, but, unfortunately, we didn’t come to any agreements.


The last stage of research was “Sauvage” in Kyiv and Berlin. It a restaurant with French cuisine and a place of respective traditions. However, we’ve got two negative answers. “Sauvage” is a premium restaurant that cares about their clients and status, and manages to control the whole organizational process related to work. That is the way this family of restaurants performs. Such a response was received from both restaurant branches.

To conclude the research concerning the cooking of the Swedish fermented herring surströmming in different restaurants around the Europe region, we got one clear confirmation from a restaurant in Eastern Europe. The branches from the other two countries care about the quality and values as a part of their corporate culture, that’s why their answers were absolutely strict and clear. 

The matter of money or reputation is always a crucial question for the company’s brand. What is a better solution in this case — make a profit and affirm customer loyalty, or maintain the company’s status?

The only recommendation is to conduct such kind of experiments and researches of mystery shoppers frequently, in order to see the results of involving the audience and its consequences. However, there are some tips that all managers have to remember:

  1. Never sacrifice the reputation of the brand to satisfy the individual customer needs.
  2. Get the personnel prepared to respond to non-standard requests. 
  3. Regularly organize the monitoring experiments and some researches like “mystery shopping” in order to examine the staff.
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