Hungerlust: The Man Who Brought the Burger to Iceland

Tommi Tómasson is Iceland’s hamburger king
Tommi Tómasson is Iceland’s hamburger king | © Murphy Mortician / Culture Trip
Cajsa Carlson

Architecture & Design Editor

Icelandic restaurateur Tommi Tómasson fell in love with the burger when he was living in the US. On his return to Iceland, he started the country’s first fast-food chain – and the rest is hamburger history.

Sate your Hungerlust with the full series

In Iceland and its capital, Reykjavík, Tommi Tómasson is a legend. “More than 70 percent of the people in Iceland know who I am or have heard of me,” he says. The reason for his fame? Tommi is the man who brought the burger to Iceland. He started his career in the food industry, in the restaurant kitchen at Reykjavík’s main airport, Keflavik, where he realised he wanted to be a restaurateur.

Tómasson came out of rehab and launched an international burger empire

After a period of successfully managing a clubhouse, a place that was like “a small festival every weekend”, Tommi was hungry to learn more and went to America. “Someone told me before I went: ‘If you want a good burger, you go to America.’” He was inspired by the country’s restaurant scene, and a plan was born: to open a steakhouse in Iceland. But, at the time, making burgers was the only job that was available, and, in 1981, Tommi opened the first fast-food chain in Iceland. He soon found he enjoyed it, and he’s been doing it, with no small success, ever since.

Tommi’s burgers have a reputation outside the bubble of Reykjavík

His first burger joint became immensely popular, and Tommi sold on average a thousand burgers every day when it first opened. Today, Tommi is 70, and his burger empire is still going strong. His eponymous burger joints can now be found not just in Iceland but also in England, Germany, Denmark, Italy and Norway. Their popularity is a testament to Tommi’s philosophy: “When you start a project, you have two options: either you finish or you quit. And I never quit. There’s an Icelandic saying that says: ‘Conquer the world or die.’ So what are you gonna do? You’re gonna conquer the world.”

‘I never quit,’ says Tómasson

[jwplayer LMX4BDlL-RnIdcM25]

Sate your Hungerlust with the full series, and explore the world through local chefs and unique food using the United Explorer Card.

Credit cards are issued by JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,665 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

toast-message-image
close-ad
Edit article