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Restaurants sell more food and less alcohol than before
By Tuomo Väliaho
One of the most visible changes in Helsinki's restaurant scene over the last few years has been the increase in restaurants concentrating on food rather than drinks. According to Ari Larnemaa, CEO of Actival, many restaurants run by capable small-time entrepreneurs appeared in Helsinki at the turn of the millennium.
"Masses of eating establishments have been appearing since then, run by both large and small companies," says Larnemaa.
According to Vesa A. Heikkinen, a researcher and senior lecturer of the Haaga Institute, the change is part of a pan-European phenomenon.
"Eating out and food establishments are growing trends in all EU countries. In the near future, one-third of all meals will be eaten away from home," estimates Heikkinen.
Reasons for this, according to Heikkinen, include migration to cities, hectic life at work and at home, and increased mobility.
The significance of food for business has also increased as a result of a decline in the sale of alcohol and increased overall turnover.
The food restaurant boom is especially profitable for the major corporations, since a business that relies on food requires lots of money.
"Establishing a high-quality kitchen is very expensive, the most expensive part of setting up a restaurant. On top of that come the personnel costs," says Larnemaa.
Another advantage for the large companies is ready connections and the possibility of buying raw materials in bulk. Nevertheless, Heikkinen thinks that small owners also have a possibilities.
"The menus of chain restaurants are very similar, however. Some customers desire a wider variety and originality," Heikkinen notes.
Small ethnic restaurants have mostly stayed independent. Their numbers will still increase, according to Larnemaa.
"There are still few high-quality ethnic restaurants. The increase in variety and internationalisation of food culture is a worldwide phenomenon."
Heikkinen expects a surge of ethnic restaurants in the centre of Helsinki.
"This has already happened around the world, and in Turku and Tampere. Immigrant entrepreneurs set up restaurants in the basements or second floors of buildings. They are accessible and the rents are lower.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 19.11.2005
TUOMO VÄLIAHO / Helsingin Sanomat