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2021/2022  KAN-CCBLV1038U  Leading Small Businesses Through Crisis: Lessons from the Copenhagen Culinary Sector in Pandemic Times

English Title
Leading Small Businesses Through Crisis: Lessons from the Copenhagen Culinary Sector in Pandemic Times

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Elective
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Semester
Start time of the course Autumn
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Min. participants 40
Study board
Study Board for BSc and MSc in Business, Language and Culture, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Eric Guthey - Department of Management, Society and Communication (MSC)
Main academic disciplines
  • Management
  • Organisation
  • Strategy
Teaching methods
  • Blended learning
Last updated on 18-06-2021

Relevant links

Learning objectives
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
  • Describe and analyze the core business models, organizational and leadership dynamics, and financial realities that characterize the culinary industry in Copenhagen
  • Identify the key business, leadership, organizational, and financial challenges that have confronted Copenhagen restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 crisis
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the ways that Copenhagen restaurants have responded to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Draw broader lessons from the experience of Copenhagen restaurants in the face of the COVID-19 crisis about leadership, strategy, financial intelligence, and crisis management in micro and small businesses in these and other contexts
Leading Small Businesses Through Crisis: Lessons from the Copenhagen Culinary Sector in Pandemic Times:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Case based assignment
Duration Written product to be submitted on specified date and time.
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Winter
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

This case-based, hands-on course prepares students to participate in the leadership and transformation of micro and small businesses by exploring how the restaurant industry—primarily in Copenhagen but also across Denmark and the EU—has responded to the organizational, strategic, financial, and leadership challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.


Micro and small businesses account for more than 95% of companies, 40% of persons employed, and 38% of value added across Denmark and the EU. Among these, Copenhagen restaurants of high quality stand out as a particularly noteworthy group of small, creative enterprises that have transformed the way many people think about food, dining, and Nordic culture. Copenhagen restaurants bring people together, contribute to the cultural and civic fabric of the city, generate billions of kroner in revenue, and attract both tourists and highly skilled workers from around the world to what has become a globally recognized food mecca. On a daily basis, Copenhagen kitchens also orchestrate high levels of craft, quality, diversity, collaboration, and peak performance from which other kinds of teams and organizations have much to learn.


But the pandemic has threatened the core business model of this industry. Participants in this course will work together with restaurant industry stakeholders to analyze what it takes to lead highly specialized and creative businesses and the people who work in them through such a crisis. The course coordinator and instructors are members of Bowline, a consortium formed in 2020 to help stakeholders in the restaurant industry survive the current crisis and thrive into the future. The course will leverage the experience and expertise of the Bowline network, members of which will participate in class sessions and open up their businesses as live case studies for analysis and discussion. 


Drawing directly on the recent experiences of this network, the course will help students gain an integrated understanding of interpersonal and organizational leadership skills, strategic acumen, financial intelligence, and crisis management. Topics will include: the importance of liquidity in the face of business shocks; the generation of new sources of income in the face of threats to the core business model; difficult decisions regarding the retension and/or firing of staff in crisis situations; the importance of knowledge sharing and networking in small business contexts; managing relationships with unions, government agencies, professional networks; and when and how to make difficult decisions about closing a business entirely.


While the curriculum will focus on the restaurant industry as a case study, course issues themes will have broader relevance to students interested in organizations outside the restaurant sector and challenges beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Description of the teaching methods
Class time will include lecture, case analysis, discussion, and exercises in which participants will explore the principles of financial intelligence and crisis management, and apply them to case studies and other organizational situations and dynamics.

Students will join study groups to prepare for case analysis sessions in advance. These groups will be assigned to meet with in advance with select organizations in order to help prepare presentations of live cases for the rest of the class. Live cases will take place online or in person.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback will take place continuously in the context of class discussions and student presentations of case analysis. Instructors will also make use of the feedback features available in Canvas. Organizational representatives involved in live case presentations will also provide feedback on student analysis.
Student workload
Class Participation 36 hours
Preparing Course Materials 46 hours
Group Discussions and Preparation of Case Presentations 46 hours
Exam Preparation 46 hours
Exam 36 hours
Expected literature
  • A collection of case materials and relevant theoretical articles available through the CBS library and the Harvard Business School Publishing website.
Last updated on 18-06-2021