Why are Finnish and Italian Restaurants so Different?

We have been in this northern part of Italy many times for the past 15 years and we have always noted the high quality of the food served here, the high level of professional service and the relatively attractive prices compared to many restaurants in Finland. 

The above meal in this region cost us just €20! It was delicious…

You may also recall what Berlusconi once said about Finnish food he said that he had to “endure it!`” during an official visit in 2005… The media in Finland accused him of bad sportsmanship and poor diplomatic skills. How could he know enough about Finnish food after a few quick days here to compare them so unfavourably to Italian restaurants?

But, on the other hand, perhaps he was right without realising the true reasons behind the truth of his comments. 

Restaurants are extraordinary places that rely on the following things for their success, or lack of success:

  1. The origin of the raw materials used by the kitchen to supply the meals.
  2. The cost of the raw materials.
  3. The number and quality of the staff.
  4. The cost of the staff.
  5. The decoration of the restaurant and the initial investment.
  6. The target clientele of the restaurant.  

Here in this Trentino-Alto Adige Region almost every restaurant is owned and run by a family. It is a point of pride that they try to use local food, wine and spirits directly procured from the producers. Furthermore, many of their restaurants are built in lower rooms of their homes where they live and, naturally of course, in their hotels. This keeps investment costs down. There are very few restaurants or hotels in the region that are owned by big corporations – almost all of them are locally owned by families.

Competition is intense with plenty of choices in each village, and this competition puts plenty of pressure on prices. With so many tourists from Italy and Germany you can be sure that expectations for quality food and competitive prices are rather strong. We eat out on average once a day and end up paying between €8 to €12 a meal each. Only one or two places charge more than this and they are the 5-star hotels that have the wealthy clients who expect to receive a delicious meal made from exclusive ingredients. We have been there too but were disappointed by the snobbish waiters and dull clients… The surroundings were nice but who wants to drink expensive red wine from oversized glasses and eat mini venison sirloin steaks on gold edged plates? The same meal is available in any hütte for a fraction of the price on the top of a mountain! The hütte wins easily… and there are no trophy wives or young girlfriends sitting opposite a gruesome looking German or Italian with his big Rolex gold watch flashing across the restaurant.

Most of the guests at the hütte are fit and athletic – much kinder to the eye!

We love good food and good service at reasonable prices – the list of bars and restaurants on FinnishNews fulfil all of these main requirements listed above. The people working there are also the owners. 

Just think what happens when the owners are some cold number crunchers who want to maximise their own income and bonuses by “managing” staff and food procurement. They will try to rent the cheapest possible staff, the cheapest possible raw materials for the kitchen from big suppliers who are already putting pressure on the farmers… Almost without exception they will employ young people at the lowest possible wage from staff rental agencies. Outsourcing allows them to keep administration costs as low as possible with the minimum of staff, and this has only one result – lousy service and poor quality food at the highest possible price. The big corporate players can also keep their prices high because they have marketing power. 

We have stock exchange quoted companies here in Finland that own some 200 restaurants and they complain the loudest during Covid. Why you may ask – the reason is that they have borrowed huge amounts to buy up smaller restaurants. They do not concentrate on serving customers, but rather cutting costs and increasing prices. During Covid they are the loudest in demanding taxpayer support… Most of the restaurants listed in FinnishNews claim that they are doing well with innovative solutions and have not demanded nor received next cash from taxpayers.

Just look at these brands like S-Group in Finland, or at the international level MacDonalds. The food these people sell is atrocious and grossly overpriced. A tasteless hamburger can cost €5 or more with raw meat and bread costing them less than a €1! The S-Group has around a 40% market share of food sales and many restaurants and hotels around the country in hotels, towns and service stations. The quality and prices are miles apart where they should be. The only reason is that people “think” that, like MacDonalds, you are getting value for money, which they certainly do not receive!

God bless the family restaurants – not one restaurant has closed down here in our small villages here in the Trentino-Alto Adige Region!

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