The transition from summer to autumn in Western Europe’s largest metropolis can mean many things, but in 2015 one of them is undoubtedly the reassuring thunk through London’s front doors of no less a volume than the IKEA catalogue. In recent times, this is undoubtedly proving to be a moment of genuine meaning as significant sections – perhaps even an absolute majority – of the capital’s population are seeing their economic fortunes stagnate or decline, and increasingly look to retailers such as IKEA to provide them with new and affordable household items; in times like these, it is hard to believe that the Sweden-founded, Holland-headquartered retailer was once routinely looked down upon by the middle-classes.
But this year’s catalogue brought a special surprise: IKEA has started serving GRÖNSAKSBULLAR (their emphasis) veggie balls in their restaurants, with a frozen take-home option available from the Swedish Food Markets that operate at select stores. This may not seem like news, but it is in fact remarkable on a number of levels.
For years, we at Mediolana had wondered why our favourite branch (at Brent Park, near Wembley) of what is fast becoming the world’s popular home furnishing store insisted on serving only one variant of Swedish meatballs – a recipe containing both beef and pork meat – despite being located next to two of the largest Hindu and Jewish communities anywhere in Europe (and a substantial Muslim population). Now – twenty-seven years after its 1988 opening – it has finally got around to addressing this obvious lacuna.
There are two take-home messages from this development. Firstly, IKEA is exhibiting both market sensitivity and sheer good sense in giving a large cross-section of their customer base a viable meal option: businesses which do not follow suit will almost inevitably lose out to those who are visionary enough to recognise the deficits in their offerings. Secondly, this instance provides yet another illustration of why small can sometimes be beautiful: what should have been the simplest of additions to what is already hardly the most complex of menus has taken literally decades to be conceptualised and/or implemented by an acknowledged world-leader in logistics; SMEs everywhere should take heart from their ability to rectify mistakes on the fly.