Survival strategies adopted by microbusinesses during COVID-19 : an exploration of ethnic minority restaurants in Northern Finland

Arslan, Ahmad and Kamara, Samppa and Zahoor, Nadia and Rani, Pushpa and Khan, Zaheer (2022) Survival strategies adopted by microbusinesses during COVID-19 : an exploration of ethnic minority restaurants in Northern Finland. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research. (https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-05-2021-0396)

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Abstract

Purpose: This paper explores the survival strategies and coping mechanisms of ethnic minority entrepreneurs operating in the hospitality sector in northern Finland during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Design/methodology/approach: The paper utilizes qualitative research approach based on six exploratory case studies. The in-depth interviews in two phases were conducted with owners/mangers of ethnic minority entrepreneurial restaurants. Findings: The findings reveal that all studied case firms undertook quick adjustments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, staff working hours were reduced through mutual consultation, and readjustments to the supply chain were made so that critical ingredients remain available despite the forced lockdown and supply chain bottlenecks. However, the readjustment of the supply chain was not visible in all case firms. Some of the owner-managers who were interviewed decided to keep doing business with the ethnic minority suppliers, despite some transportation problems due to lockdowns, especially in the early phases of COVID-19. Findings also suggest that the support grants announced by the state appeared not to be particularly useful for these restaurants due to restrictive eligibility criteria that many microbusinesses potentially fail to meet. Finally, the sample microbusinesses (restaurants) entrepreneurs recognize the importance of home delivery for their business survival, although they were critical of online food delivery service providers (apps) due to their high charges. Some of the case restaurants gave customers incentives for directly ordering from them, as an alternative strategy. Originality/value: This paper is one of the first studies to specifically highlight the peculiarities of ethnic minority entrepreneurship and survival dynamics in northern Finland, where running the restaurant operations, including ensuring the supply chain management, is more complex than in the case of ethnic minority restaurants in more well-connected European countries and cities with an established history of immigrant businesses. This study is also novel in terms of specifying the strategies adopted by ethnic minority businesses in adjusting to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and surviving through it. At the same time, it has shown limitations and some problems associated with accessing state support announced for the hospitality industry in response to COVID-19. Finally, it offers a new angle by explicitly highlighting the power dynamics between restaurants and food ordering platforms (apps) and the potential alternatives in this specific context.