Twenty two years after then-Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson took the first bite of the first McDonald’s burger served in Iceland, six years after McDonald’s left the country, announcing that franchises there had never paid off anyway, the finest U.S. fast food is back in town: Wednesday morning, Dunkin’ Donuts opened the first of its sixteen planned Reykjavík outlets.
The Laugavegur Dunkin’ outpost promised a full year of free donuts for its first 50 customers. The ploy seems to have succeeded, as customers lined up on Tuesday evening, spending the night by the door of the pink and sugary “restaurant,” as the company likes to call its points of service.
The “restaurant” chain has faced mixed reactions since April, when a daughter company of retail chain 10–11’s announced their plans to open, as already mentioned, sixteen “restaurants” in the coming five years. Most positive are those who claim to simply like the company’s product. Negative reactions, on the other hand, seem based on aesthetic values and fear for local culinary tastes.
The story has a precedent, of course: North-American culture had tremendous influence on Iceland ever since World War II. Icelandic television, for example, owes its existence to the US military presence in the country throughout the Cold War, 1951–2006.
US forces brought their own broadcast equipment, to entertain soldiers and staff. Kanasjónvarpið’s—Yankee TV’s—popularity among locals was perceived as a threat to Iceland’s cultural heritage, identity and language. In 1966, public broadcasting service RÚV responded by launching its own TV channel. Twenty years later, private broadcaster Stöð 2 was born, and by 1987 RÚV itself began broadcasting every evening of the week, every month of the year.
Awaiting the local response
If the medium ever was the message, Icelandic TV may have been the clearest example: The local stations mainly broadcast American series and films. The invading broadcasters would never have been able to Americanize local habits as efficiently as the locals themselves did in response to their presence.
Now that Dunkin Donuts is in town—a matter of extensive, if not interesting debates—if mainstream political attitudes have changed as little as many think, State authorities may perhaps be relied upon to defend Iceland’s culinary heritage and back innovation in Iceland’s kleinur and kleinuhringir business with massive funding.
Why wouldn’t the apple crumb topped maple frosted vanilla-cranberry butternut jelly croissant-kleina be a hit?
Grapevine photographer Art Bicnick shot the accompanying photos this morning, as Dunkin’ Donuts opened for business for the first time ever in 101 Reykjavík.