Quad Helix in practice in Grythyttan


In a previous post on this blog, Jörgen Eriksson and I introduced the Quad Helix model. It is a conceptual model which we have developed in Bearing to explain successful cooperation of government, academia, business and the civil sector for place management and place development, and also introducing the importance of “talents”.

In our view and as presented in the previous blog post, we believe the traditional Triple Helix model is outdated as it does not accurately describes what takes place in successful innovation systems.

In this blog post, I will describe a place where we think successful implementation of the Quad Helix approach have led to very successful development.

There are two new components in the Quad Helix model; Civil Society (especially talented people who by vision, personality and drive make a difference) and Context Management. Thus the Quad-Helix model illustrates the key importance of the central context management, connecting the civil society with talented people irrespective of their home base.

Quad helix

The purpose of this blog post is to introduce a place where the Quad Helix model unconsciously has been used, and the success this has created.

The Spirit of Food

Grythyttan on the mapThe small town Grythyttan is located in a rural area in Sweden. It is  known for the Grythyttan Gästgivargård (restaurant), made  famous by its proprietor Carl Jan Granqvist and for the chef and restaurant management school Grythyttan School of Hospitality, Culinary Arts & Meal Science.

Going back in time, at the main square in Grythyttan lay an inn with traditions going back to 1640. It was established during a time when Grythyttan was on a thoroughfare road but had ceased to operate as of 1912 when the railroad was built past the village center. During the 1920s, the inn building was divided among several owners and most of it turned into residences. These lacked modern comforts and as is so common with neglected real estate fell far into disrepair.

During the 1960s the municipality took a bold decision to rescue the inn for the future and restore it to its original purpose. It was  difficult though, to find the right entrepreneur to restore it.

The talent behind the success

Late in the spring of 1972, a young man aged 26 was finishing his education at the restaurant school in Örebro. He was was very interested in culture and art and he had a dream to manage an inn some day, in genuine old-fashioned surroundings. The man was Carl Jan Granqvist, a trained head-waiter who had preceded his restaurant education with training in advertising, and especially in creating exhibitions and signs. Moreover, he had studied the history of art.

It is told in publications that on his first visit to Grythyttan, Granqvist was regarded with some suspicion. One can certainly sympathize with the inhabitants. Young Granqvist arrived without either a car or a female companion. Instead, he was accompanied by his old father. The prospective innkeeper wore plus-fours with burgundy-colored socks and tufted shoes in the same enchanting hue. Nobody within living memory had ever seen this in Grythyttan.

Carl Jan GranqvistCarl Jan Granqvist entered the dining room of the set of buildings that the local community were to let as an in, then under renovation, and exclaimed: “I can have three sittings a day here with 80 guests at a time.

Granqvist formed a company and prepared to run the operation as best he could. Extremely few people – not even of his closest friends – believed in the business idea of shaking life into an old inn at a completely obscure town in the middle of nowhere.

On Christmas morning of 1972, there was a quiet opening of the inn which had been hibernating since 1912. Interest was so enormous that long queues stretched through the little town. Thousands of people came, and Carl Jan Granqvist had to put announcements in the newspaper with advice not to come to the inn without making a reservation.

After the start-up, Carl Jan Granqvist focused on several different types of guests. Customers came either just to eat a meal, or also to spend the night. The local population was mixed with guests from other countries. Celebrities, ordinary folks, pensioners and business leaders – all of them found the offer in Grythyttan to be unique.

The marketing was offensive. All the time, the inn went on being improved, in regard to the buildings and furniture as well as the gastronomic and cultural content. The lounge was furnished with great care. Gradually the houses were expanded and renovated. The gardens were recreated. Different rooms reflected distinctive periods, and the commitment to details and quality was superb. In the reception, clocks were placed that showed the time in Grythyttan, New York and Tokyo. Moreover, cultural and ceremonial activities of diverse kinds were arranged.

The food was a story in itself. At first a commitment was made to local traditions of food. By means such as a prize competition in the newspaper, recipes from the community were attracted. But eventually French cuisine took over, and wines became conspicuous. The inn got some important publicity on television and during the autumn of 1983, a very popular TV programme was started – Living Life – where Carl Jan Granqvist and Knut-Christian Gröntoft tested and commented on different wines in the cellar beneath the inn. Their eloquent descriptions of experiences in taste did not escape any Swede. Talking about wine on television was almost shocking news at that time.

Grythyttan innEnormous success followed. Carl Jan developed the company from three employees at the start into Grythyttan’s largest employer by 1985. Initially, around 1974, the company’s turnover was 1.3 million crowns, but in 1985 this had grown to about 20 million. In his marketing, Carl Jan Granqvist made use of unconventional methods. An example occurred in 1984, when he stopped the royal tour of the country on its way through Örebro County, offered champagne to the King and Queen, and was arrested by the police.

Today Grythyttans Gästgivaregård (or Grythyttan Inn) spreads over 22 buildings. Each guest room has a private bathroom with shower. Some rooms have seating areas, minibars and work desks.The wine cellar at Grythyttans Gästgivaregård contains more than 7,000 bottles from all parts of the world. Communal facilities include several salons, pool tables, a garden and a sauna. The area around Grythyttans Gästgivaregård offers activities such as fishing, hiking and golf. The destination has become a global attraction.

However, the Grythyttan Inn is not the main attraction in the town.

The Nordic House of Culinary Art

In 1987 government funding was granted to support the structurally afflicted region. Carl Jan Granqvist applied and was granted for some of these funds to be channeled into higher education about meals. In 1990 the Restaurant College was opened and accepted 18 students in one class.

After a year or so of intensive competition over who would re-use the Swedish pavilion at the World Exhibition in Seville in 1991 and after intense lobbying by Carl Jan Granqvist, a decision was made to rebuild it at Grythyttan as a seat of education in knowledge about meals. In 1993 the first “spoonful” was taken by the renowned Swedish chef Tore Wretman.

Behind the project to move the building was a huge amount of work. Carl Jan Granqvist observed:

Without physics it is sometimes impossible to realize ideas – one must have buildings. With this house of meals, our entire project became clear. We launched processes in parallel to anchor it in the press and media, and among industry people in the food line. We created networks that would provide the basis for a future academy of food. We started a society of friends for the coming academy and its library fund. Privately, we have collected thirteen million crowns to buy Tore Wretman’s library and expand it.

In 2001 the Restaurant College obtained its first professor, and it now has hundreds of fulltime students. Meal knowledge has become an approved academic research subject, with several professorial chairs and postgraduate students. This Nordic House of Culinary Art is one of the region’s main places to visit, offering exhibitions and a cookbook museum.

By 2012, the Nordic House of Culinary Art is a landmark in Grythyttan. Its situation at the village entrance makes it an outstanding eye-catcher. The pavilion the center of food, drink and meal enjoyment.

The objective of the House of Culinary Art is to energize long-term development and quality in the culinary trade and the restaurant business. A Power House like this is needed in all types of cluster building.

Nordic House of Culinary Art

The building is currently used for:

  • Education. The University has been running a 120-credit academic education program of three years duration for chefs and waiters
  • Seminars, conferences
  • Exhibition areas
  • Home of research projects
  • Lively meeting-place for nutritional experts, taste researchers, restaurant keepers, food & drink journalists, food producers and others with a great interest in the Meal Department of Restaurant & Culinary Art
  • One of the biggest gastronomic libraries in the world
  • Meal store filled with a fragrance of rosemary and thyme and numerous products from the unspoiled region
  • Festive Square (a banquet room)
  • Gastronomy Theatre

The story of Grythyttan illustrates the importance of both civil society talents in innovation system development, and of the importance of landmark buildings.

This blog builds upon research and quotes from a paper by Per Frankelius and Fredrik Eliasson at Örebro University, published in 2010.

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