K-retailers rush to help small businesses: grocery stores now sell restaurant food and many specialities

Many small businesses in the restaurant sector have found themselves in a difficult situation as their usual distribution channels have temporarily disappeared due to the epidemic. K-food retailers around Finland have offered a helping hand, and new forms of local collaboration have been established at a record pace. According to Keijo Ollikainen, the retailer of K-Market Pirtti in Kuopio, the situation has caused entrepreneurs to come together in new ways.

When your sales drop by 80% in one day, you can’t just sit idly by and wait. Toni Rantala, who runs the pH7 patisserie in Tuusula, decided to act fast and started contacting K-retailers. The retailers of K-Citymarkets in Klaukkala, Tammisto and Ruoholahti all decided to offer a helping hand, and pH7 products quickly landed on store shelves.

“The retailers actually asked for even bigger volumes than we had anticipated. We managed to get our products in the stores in just a few days, while I had expected it to take at least a week,” says Rantala.

Rantala’s company employs over 50 people and usually delivers baked goods to trains, hotels and airlines. Rantala considers the situation serious, as many small businesses do not have a buffer that would see them through hard times.

“However, the situation has brought us closer together. We’re all pulling together and trying to come up with new solutions. We have strengthened our product development team and started preparing for Christmas season and next year. This is the time to adopt innovative ideas,” says Rantala.

K-Citymarket Klaukkala establishes an operating model to help small businesses

Tomi Huuho, the retailer of K-Citymarket Klaukkala, was one of the people who began a collaboration with pH7. Huuho quickly realised that the same operating model could be used to help other small producers in trouble.

“Finland is full of brilliant small businesses that cannot rely on their usual distribution channels at the moment. We can offer them the necessary floor space and distribution channels,” says Huuho, who advertised for new partners in the local newspaper.

Huuho himself started out as a retailer entrepreneur during the 1990s depression, so he understands hard times: “It is important to keep the wheels turning. If I can help others as a K-retailer, of course I will.”

K-Market Pirtti in Kuopio quickly established collaboration with a local restaurant

Keijo Ollikainen, the retailer of K-Market Pirtti in Kuopio, had been discussing collaboration with local restauranteur Nina-Marika Lahnavik-Hoffren for some time, but neither could expect this type of impetus to make the plans a reality.

“We met early in the week and discussed the situation, and I realised that our store could act as a distribution channel for the restaurant,” says Ollikainen.

Collaboration was fast off the ground, and by Thursday customers were able to buy King’s Crown’s dishes from their local K-Market. The store is located 10 kilometres from the Kuopio town centre, and can now bring restaurant food to the neighbourhood.

K-Retailer Ollikainen is constantly thinking about situation. He is happy so many of his colleagues around the country have come up with innovative ways to help: “In this type of a situation, K-retailers do very essential corporate responsibility work. You need to do things you normally wouldn’t.”

Ollikainen is convinced that many of the partnerships established under these exceptional circumstances will continue also when things return to normal: “I feel that small businesses have found each other in a new way and are networking more. Once the situation returns to normal, seeds have been sown for new types of collaboration between K-retailers and other small businesses.”

K-Citymarket Tammisto joins forces with top chef Pekka Terävä

After already agreeing on cooperation with pH7, the retailer of K-Citymarket Tammisto, Kimmo Sivonen, also wanted to help restaurants that were seeing their customers disappear.

Sivonen thought about the matter and after a couple of phone calls, had agreed on collaboration with top chef Pekka Terävä’s restaurant Olo within a matter of hours. First products by Terävä arrived on store shelves two days later, and the store and top restaurant are now working on a three-course meal solution.

“I have had to be active and make lots of phone calls and arrangements, but that is what being a retailer is, and I like it! Typically, development takes longer, but exceptional times call for exceptional measures and courage,” notes Sivonen.

Sivonen worries for many entrepreneurs. The chance to do some good and help other businesses by coming up with new forms of collaboration has brought some joy to his days.

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