At last it was about to happen. The signed contract was there on the table. It was New Year’s Eve and married couple Pia and Jonas Dahlbom had just secured the perfect venue to start their dream restaurant. All that remained was to toast the new year ahead. They were really looking forward to 2020.
Linköping is smaller than Stockholm but is not a small town. Here at Nygatan 29, Pia and Jonas Dahlbom found their dream venue in which to open their own restaurant. The couple’s plan was to keep their jobs and work commitments in Stockholm for about another year while planning, setting up and finally opening their own restaurant in February 2021.
“Then the pandemic struck. We lost our jobs in Stockholm and Jonas’s work with Bocuse d’Or was suspended indefinitely. All we had left was a gutted venue in Linköping,” says Pia.
The expenses for the project were mounting up, and with no income, the Dahlboms had to move to Linköping earlier than planned.
“We knew we had to be ready to open immediately after the summer. We were hoping the pandemic would have blown over by then, which it did. The problem was that then it came back.”
About six months earlier than planned, on 25 September 2020, Dahlboms Mat opened its doors. The business boomed, but after only about a month, the first restrictions were announced. Nightlife closed down.
“We had four euphoric weeks before the second wave hit, but those weeks were really wonderful. We were up and running, Linköping had welcomed us with open arms and bookings were pouring in. We realised our decision had been spot on.
Dahlboms Mat was by no means the only restaurant to face tough challenges during the pandemic. But the government’ssupport package posed extra problems since the support was based on the previous year’s turnover. Dahlboms Mat had no turnover to report as the business had only just opened, so no support was granted.
“Running a restaurant as a married couple has its challenges, especially during a pandemic.” But we’ve always wanted to do everything together, and we couldn’t have managed alone. We got through this with the help of our wonderful staff.
It’s now nearly two years since the restrictions were lifted. Dahlboms Mat has become one of Linköping’s most popular restaurants, and the couple recently opened Bar Kusinen next door, which serves drinks and Asian street food.
“Now we’ve got through the pandemic and can seriously work on building our business. The important thing right now is to create a workplace where people can balance their private life with a career while working in a restaurant.
“Certain aspects, such as evening working hours, are hard for us to control. But we want to be the best we can in all areas we can influence, such as development opportunities, stress management, consecutive time off to spend with loved ones and a culture where people enjoy being at work. We want to attract talent and develop our staff like any other professional company,” Pia says.