Kanye West take note – when you’ve made millions from music, this is what you should really do next:
Open a Greek restaurant.
It might not sound like a wise investment, but Swedish pop band ABBA could be onto something.
The band, one of the most successful pop acts of all time thanks to 1970s and ’80s hits including “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen” and “Money, Money, Money,” have just opened their first themed food venture in the Swedish capital.
And it’s been such a success that ABBA singer and songwriter Bjorn Ulvaeus – as he revealed exclusively to CNN – is already thinking about bringing it to New York.
“The response has been fantastic,” Ulvaeus says. “If you look at Instagram and Facebook, the reviews are amazing and people seem to be having such a wonderful time.
“I’ve never seen the like, really.”
Party every night
Mamma Mia! The Party: Inside ABBA's hot new Stockholm restaurant
Mamma Mia! The Party opened in Stockholm in January, promising diners a night of Mediterranean food and entertainment loosely based on the highly successful “Mamma Mia!” musical and film soundtracked by ABBA songs.
The restaurant is the latest attraction in the Swedish capital to cash in on the enduring success of the pop group.
An ABBA museum has been pulling in crowds since it opened in 2013.
Ulvaeus describes the band’s enduring appeal as a “miracle.”
“I’m constantly amazed that our songs are still being played as they are,” he tells CNN. “And that they seem to be relevant even today.
“We just wrote the best songs that we could, wrote them the best way we could and here we are.”
The “here” he’s referring to is Tyrol, a giant restaurant complex next to Stockholm’s Grona Lund amusement park.
Over the past six months the place has been converted to include a stage set resembling a Greek taverna on an Aegean sea island.
“At this venue there’s a big party going on every night,” Ulvaeus explains. “This is Nikos’s taverna, a Greek taverna in Skopelos – or we’re pretending it is. Here people eat, drink and have fun every night.”
Ulvaeus says that while the entertainment differs somewhat from the stage musical and film whose name it carries, it was inspired by the audience reaction to “Mamma Mia!.”
“At the end of each performance, people stand up and sing and dance in the aisles,” he says. “There’s like a party mood. I always had the feeling that if people could have gone on to have a party, they would.
“So this is what we’re trying to do here. Transferring that party mood into a restaurant situation.”
The ticket-only restaurant’s launch in January made headlines for its rare on-stage reunion of the band’s four original members, Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, Agnetha Faltskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, now in their 60s and 70s.
“It’s funny,” Ulvaeus reflects on the moment when the bandmates stood side by side, the animosities that broke the group apart in 1982 apparently a distant memory. “It took a split second and then it felt so familiar.
“Standing there with those three other people, with whom I’ve been standing with on so many stages around the world, it was like, you know, yesterday. Fantastic. And we’re so good friends as well.”
At the moment, the 450-seat restaurant’s nightly performances are in Swedish dialogue, although the songs are sung in English.
But with Stockholm set to host this year’s Eurovision Song Contest – the annual pan-European pop music event that gave ABBA their big break in 1974 – the plan is to open the show up to international audiences.
Ulvaeus says he’s already translated the script ready for performances during the May 9-15 week of the contest, with regular English shows planned from July onward to capitalize on Stockholm’s peak tourist season.
Then, he wants to take his concept to the United States.
“We’ve been talking about that the last couple of days actually,” he adds. “As it works here in Stockholm, I think it would work almost anywhere else.
“It would be absolutely fantastic to find a venue in New York and do Mamma Mia! The party there. I would love to do that.”
Ulvaeus won’t reveal the price tag on his latest venture, confessing only that “it’s not cheap.”
Not that he’s short of cash.
Estimates regularly put ABBA’s net worth into the billions of dollars – the group reputedly once rejected a $1 billion offer to reunite for a performance.
Despite his fame and fortune, Ulvaeus says he’s able to live a regular life in Sweden, free from hassle by fans.
“It’s very relaxed,” he says. “Even though people recognize me, they never bother me and I never think of whether I’m recognized or not.
“I live a perfectly normal life. I go to the supermarket. I do all those things without even thinking about it.
“I lead quite a good life in Stockholm. I love my city.”
The English version of the show is open to the public from July 27 to August 21, 2016. Tickets will be released on March 10. More information on the website.