12 % 10 % 8% 6%
The Reykjavík Grapevine Issue 12 — 2015
Ic e l an d G DP G r ow t h
4% 2% -2 % -4% -6%
19 9 0
Obesity rate among adults of the population
19 9 3
19 9 4
I c e lan d I n C hain s Compiled by Haukur S. Magnússon, with additional reporting by Anna Andersen, Gabríel Benjamin and Samuel Wright Fairbanks Illustration Baldur Helgason
Iceland loves its international megacorporations and chain restaurants. Honestly, just look at all the logos here! To give some context to the current Dunkin' Donuts frenzy, we tried our best to compile a thorough list of every international franchise that has ever operated in Iceland. We read so many newspaper reports relaying the hopes and dreams of optimistic entrepreneurs that we've started speaking like start-up douchepeople. And then we got depressed learning exactly when many of those entrepreneur's hopes and dreams crumbled, as the franchises shut down. Anyway. This oughta tell you something.
Dair y Q ue e n 195 4 – 20 01 G l o b a l l y : 6 , 4 0 0 l o c a t i o n s (4 , 5 0 0 i n U S , 0 . 0 0 0 014 p e r c a p i t a ) In Iceland : 0 franchises (0 per capita) A man called Þorvarður Árnason opened Dairy Queen in Reykjavík in 1954, after growing fascinated with their take on ice cream while travelling in the US, effectively negotiating Iceland’s first franchise agreement with an American company. A few years later, in 1961, when asked by Morgunblaðið if there was anything that they disliked about Iceland, a couple of American tourists expressed their displeasure at seeing Coke and Dairy Queen signs (that and fermented shark and skyr). Tourists’ reaction to Dunkin’ Donuts can thus be thought of as “traditional” by now. After a 47-year run, the last Dairy Queen closed in January 2001. “I’m going to change the ice cream store here at Ingólfstorg and start selling hotdogs in addition to ice cream,” then owner Sigurður Garðarsson told the newspaper DV. “I’ve closed the ice cream store at Hjarðarhagi and I don’t know what will take its place.” Fun Facts ! • Dairy Queen is the first American franchise to open in Iceland. • Iceland was Europe’s first country to get a Dairy Queen. • In September 2001, Dairy Queen advertised in the papers that it was looking for space to buy or rent for its return to Iceland. There are no records of how that went, and we don’t remember ever hearing about it. • Read more about Dairy Queen Iceland and THE ICE CREAM WARS (an actual, dramatic turn of events) in an upcoming issue.
Sbar r o
20 0 6 – P r e s e n t
1980 – P r e s e n t
Globally : 808 locations (358 US l o c a t i o n s , 0 , 0 0 0 0 01 p e r c a p i t a ) In Iceland : 3 locations (0,000009 per capita)
G l o b a l l y : 14 , 3 4 8 ( 5 ,16 2 U S L o c a tions, 0.000024 per capita) In Iceland : 8 Iceland locations, per capita 0.000026)
Sbarro entered the market in 2006 to seemingly little fanfare, and absolutely no media coverage (we looked really hard). At that point, Icelanders were perhaps too busy conquering the world of global finance and regularly bathing in champagne to properly celebrate the arrival of yet another chain restaurant. Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm was a sign that Iceland had arrived. Or, perhaps, Sbarro’s dependably bland take on Italian-American food was never that exciting to begin with—although it has proven popular enough to keep its three locations in business to this day.
KFC is Iceland’s first and arguably most successful international fast food franchise. Actually, successful doesn’t go anywhere near describing KFC’s reign over Iceland—the chain is truly, fanatically beloved, its popularity among locals often confounding visitors. It really was “love at first bite,” too. The nation collectively heaved with excitement when Iceland’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken (as it was then known) opened for business in Hafnarfjörður in late 1980. The chain was perfectly charming during the courting period, too, presenting its first customers with gifts of champagne and flowers. Local media ecstatically reported on the arrival of this first indicator of international glamour and Western ideals to arrive in Iceland for decades, often getting poetic in its write-ups. Wrote newspaper Vísir on October 13, 1980: “The sun never sets on The Empire Of Kentucky Chicken. That Empire is a union of 55 countries spread all over the world; its ministries number well over 1,000. The newest one is by Reykjavíkurvegur in Hafnarfjörður. “Kentucky Fried Chicken” could well conquer Reykjavík before long. Likely sooner than later. Because the chicken, it’s good.” Newspapers wrote long adoring screeds, proclaiming a new standard for restaurants in Iceland. The kitchen was clean as a whistle, with signs forbidding smoking and reminding employees to wash their hands. The food was served a single minute after the order was placed. These were new, exciting times for little Iceland. And the chicken, it was good. Now, thirty-five years later, the nation of Iceland remains faithfully bonded to The Empire of Kentucky Chicken, which currently runs eight ministries in the country. And the chicken, it is good.
Fun Fact ! • Sbarro is by far the least written-up chain restaurant in Iceland’s history.
L i t t le C ae s ar s 19 9 9 – 20 08 G l o b a l l y : 3 7 0 0 l o c a t i o n s (4 , 3 7 2 U S l o c a t i o n s , 0 . 0 0 0 014 per capita ) In Iceland : 0 locations (0 per capita) Little Caesars franchise holders heralded the Detroit-based company’s arrival in Iceland as a momentous event that would bring the nation of Iceland into the modern age of pizza making. In interviews, announcements and advertisements, the group of local entrepreneurs made much of Little Caesars' products—lauding the chain for utilizing only highest-quality ingredients, and the latest techniques in specialized food science (and a pinch of good ol' pizza magic). Lots of sciencey book-learnin' buzzwords were thrown around—'pH', 'microbial', 'raw materials', 'cooking' —to show that, while Iceland had pretty much been making dirt-pizzas in caves for the past thousand years, the future was now—and boy was it bright! This newfangled future-pizza proved pretty palatable, and was successful for a while—but fizzled out just before the crash. Fun Fact ! • Little Caesars’ really did fizzle out. Its final appearance in Iceland’s media is a simple and sad real estate listing, offering the chain’s sole remaining location for sale, along with franchise rights (“Very willing to consider trade-ins”).
Fun Facts ! • KFC’s Mosfellsbær location is reportedly Europe’s largest. At least it was at one point. At least, that’s what folks kept saying. • KFC is still being run by some of the folks that started Kentucky Fried Chicken back in 1980. • KFC is still being run by some of the folks that started Kentucky Fried Chicken back in 1980 .