Photographer: Aleksi Kokora – Editor: Sems Erik
According to Tilastokeskus statistics, businesses and small projects have grown exponentially in Finland, particularly restaurants; in 2021, the total number reached approximately 9421 restaurants (including cafes and bars).
Because there are many restaurants, it has become highly competitive among those who want to provide the best services, the best meals, and the most distinctive experience.
The annual restaurant competition took place in Helsinki, Finland between September 1 and September 25, 2022. The competition welcomed 5,107 participating restaurants distributed in 444 different locations under the supervision and organization of the Foundation “Edenred Finland Oy.”
The cultural diversity among the competing restaurant owners stood out, representing Finland’s international reputation and openness to the world. A young Indian entrepreneur received the Best Lunch Restaurant award for his restaurant, which received extensive media coverage in the aftermath. However, our goal was to learn more about the person who founded this one-of-a-kind restaurant in order to provide a different perspective.
Hardip Saini, also known as Habi Saini, was born in Finland, but his parents are from India. Not only has he obtained a vocational school degree and high school studies, but he also wants to pursue a university of applied sciences degree. Today, he is the CEO of his own company.
Me & the Restaurant field
From a young age, I have seen how my father always put in a lot of work in the restaurant industry, leading me to the belief that everything has a purpose.
When it comes to the restaurant industry, I’ve had plenty of good experiences and a few bad experiences. After gaining enough experience, it is easy to develop your own restaurant business once you know what you want to use in your restaurant and what things you want to avoid.
Despite the challenges, I have been able to navigate the restaurant industry in Finland. The biggest setback has been people’s prejudices, and that you can’t always succeed in the industry because the competition is too tough and the golden age of restaurants has ended. Nonetheless, I have always liked to challenge myself and show the skeptics that if we really believe in ourselves, everything is possible. The restaurant industry has been a big part of our family for over 35 years, along with dozens of years of my father being an entrepreneur.
“The restaurant industry is really colorful. And in the restaurant industry, you can really show your own enthusiasm, which rubs off on the customers as well.“
Satama Bar & Bistro, The New Start
During the worst coronavirus period, many entrepreneurs sold their businesses. At that time, the current Satama Bar & Bistro was also for sale. After making a deal with the old owners, I took control of the restaurant on June 15, 2021. And that’s where my story of building Satama Bar & Bistro towards a bigger brand started. The journey has been really educational, and a lot has been developed since the opening. Many people said that I took a big risk by starting a restaurant business during coronavirus, but I always trusted myself and knew that I could do this. Negative people have always given me energy, and thanks to them, I believe that many success stories are yet to come.
Satama Bar & Bistro opened its doors to customers for the first time in November 2018. The year 2019 was really great, but due to Corona in 2020, the restaurant was in a tight spot and was put up for sale.
Dozens of people were interested in the business space, and many made their own offer for it. But sometimes things just fall into place, and what is meant to be will be yours. And this is what happened to me with Satama Bar & Bistro.
Satama Bar & Bistro is a very unique and atmospheric restaurant where you can feel the city life from our large windows in the heart of Kalasatama, Helsinki. Our restaurant represents today’s urban bistro, where colorful food at lunch, After-Work drinks, and experiential cocktails leave customers with an unforgettable experience! When you visit Satama Bar & Bistro, it feels as if you are sitting in New York because you can see Finland’s biggest tower apartments from our large windows! The restaurant hall is spacious, and its interior design represents today’s Bistro.
Satama Bar & Bistro is a modern way to represent the restaurant industry with a focus on 4 different categories, the first of which is food, the second is the bar, the third is events, and the fourth is catering.
At Satama Bar & Bistro, you’ll find a vibrant blend of high-quality and flavors and delicacies from the Mediterranean and North Africa.
You can get more information about us by visiting our page www.satamabar.com or you can find us in Helsinki, Kalasatama. Our address is: Työpajankatu 13 A, 00580 Helsinki.
Ins & Outs of the competition
Thanks to Edenred Finland Oy, all food restaurants can participate in the annual competition. More than 5,000 restaurants competed with us in 2022, so getting the win was not easy. Among Finland’s best-known restaurants and several large restaurant chains, we were just another small family business where we work every day for people who want to enjoy their lunch breaks with us. While big restaurant chains have always been the early favorites in these cases, it’s great that a small business won this time. Even though the victory came to us, I think it can be shared with all those small entrepreneurs who never cease to give their best to the customers.
Being a Winner
Receiving this award within a year really still feels like a dream. It serves as a good reminder that if the passion is right, nothing is impossible in this world. Despite opening the restaurant so late in the year, I was already prepared as soon as I knew about the annual competition. Right from that moment, we set out with our team to develop our operations and worked diligently to bring the title home. The goal was to make it to the top 30 restaurants, which would have made us really happy. And now, we can proudly stand behind the title of Finland’s best lunch of 2022.
We received a lot of love and encouragement from our customers, and we suddenly rose in the competition with more excitement and louder bangs. Not only did the victory come in a really good way after the corona period, but it also fueled our motivation to remain the best lunch restaurant in Finland. Because we definitely had to celebrate the victory, we went to eat with our team and thanked our customers at the party organized for them. We also wanted to give back to society, so we donated €2,300 to the charity organization “Save the Children Ry” after the competition. When you gain success, it’s also time to give back to others.
The best lunch in Finland
In my opinion, the quality of the food and its taste is not enough to win the competition. It’s the restaurant as a whole, and what’s done there daily. When I enter my restaurant, I always remember three things: marketing, customer experience, and quality. Without marketing, people don’t know about the restaurant. If the customer experience is not good, customers will pass it on. And if the quality isn’t up to par, people won’t come to the restaurant again. But when all of these three things work favorably, it is possible to run a profitable business.
I believe that our victory can be attributed to our wide selection of fresh food, which is noticed every day in our restaurant. We don’t keep any fresh ingredients in the fridge. Instead, we pick them up every morning from wholesale retailers, or they are delivered to the restaurant. This is one of the reasons why our food tastes good as it is made with the freshest possible ingredients. A big “thank you” also goes to our Master chef Modi, who always makes sure that our customers get tasty food day after day.
Our restaurant is very popular; we don’t have any specific product or ingredient that people like at the moment, but every dish is thoroughly enjoyed. When it comes to vegetables, we really like tofu, and our customers like salmon as a meat option.
At the end of each day, there is hardly any food left. The staff wants to buy food to take home with them, which means every prepared portion of food has gone to the right address. It’s rewarding to see that so many people love our food, and they want to come and spend time here.