The constitutive meeting of Pitäjänmäen Osuusruokala was held on 25 October 1939. The operations of the canteen were launched by Kaarlo Huhmar-Salo, the chairperson of the cooperative’s board and one of the founding members. After the devastating war, everything was rationed. There was an acute shortage of food, which had a significant impact on people’s well-being and working. At that time, Pitäjänmäen Osuusruokala was a unique phenomenon in Helsinki. The top management of the Strömberg factory understood early on that the way to good work is through a good canteen. The management provided workers with the necessary premises and helped them launch the canteen operations. In this way, they wanted to ensure that workers would be able to cope with and feel good at their work.
Since its establishment, Pitäjänmäen Osuusruokala has operated as a cooperative. This form of business has enabled the kitchen to operate in both good and bad times, decade after decade. Nowadays, Pitäjänmäen Osuusruokala is owned by its approximately 2,000 members who are employed by ABB and is also known by its short name POR.
1940 – Own piggery and garden
Even in the toughest of times, the cooperative wants to serve its members good food.
The self-sufficiency of the canteen is a good foundation for the operations of the kitchen. Vegetables are grown in the cooperative’s garden. Potatoes yield such good crops that they are also given to the members to take home.
Towards the end of the decade, the Strömberg factory needs the piggery area for its own purposes. Abandoning the piggery operations does not seem like an impossible idea as the shortage of meat starts to ease off as the 1950s approach. In 1947, the cooperative has 667 members and the cooperative fee is 300 Finnish marks.
1950 – Expanding operations
At the beginning of the decade, the sales at the cooperative canteen double. In order to meet the increasing demand, the kitchen starts to procure materials from farmers.
In addition to the canteen operations, the cooperative launches laundry services. The members can have their working clothes washed in the laundry facilities built in connection with the cooperative canteen. Another new service launched is meeting catering that highlights the culinary and service skills of the cooperative canteen. In this way, the factory owners and their VIP guests are kept content during important meetings.
1960 – A roller coaster of a decade
As the employment situation improves at the beginning of the decade, the sales at the cooperative canteen nearly triple, but, in 1963, it is already time to tighten belts. Nevertheless, the cooperative does not want to compromise its principles and, thanks to a strong team spirit, it continues to cook “good food at as affordable prices as possible”. Although the prices of the materials go up and down, the price of meals is not increased.
A funeral allowance is introduced as a new membership benefit. The automation trend of 1960s can also be seen in the operations of the cooperative canteen: in 1966, coffee vending machines are used for the first time.
1970 – Challenges and growing pains
In the spring 1971, there is a strike at the Strömberg factory, and for seven weeks the cooperative canteen is not able to run full-scale operations. The lessor terminates the tenancy and cooperation agreement for the canteen in August 1972. The new agreement is put out to tender, and POR wins the competitive bidding in May 1973. At the same time, the canteen is provided with new and large kitchen facilities.
In 1976, a total of 38 new vending machines are acquired. They improve the finances of the cooperative canteen after the tough times during the early years of the decade.
Workers can get coffee, refreshments and cigarettes from the vending machines. In 1979, towards the end of the recession, POR is visited daily by 1,300 lunch and dinner customers.
1980 – The 50th anniversary of a visionary
By 1981, the cooperative canteen has grown into one of the largest staff canteens in Finland. Five decades at the stove have taught the cooperative how important a well-organised staff canteen service is.
The anniversary is celebrated on 24 October 1989 and Thorolf Damen, CEO of ABB Strömberg Drives Oy, promises a donation for the renovation of the canteen.
Vegetarian meals are introduced, at first as an on-order service.
1990 – Berries and improved appearances
The recession that torments the Finnish national economy plunges society into the depths of economic depression, but the cooperative canteen continues to do well. In 1991, the Mustikka (Blueberry) and Puolukka (Lingonberry) lunch rooms are re-painted, re-furnished and re-lighted.
At the beginning of the decade, the prices of food and other services are increased by some five per cent. Nevertheless, the prices at the canteen are still affordable when compared to the general price level. By the middle of the decade, the number of daily lunch and dinner customers increases from 1,000 to approximately 1,400.
Each day, the meeting catering service provides 40–60 persons with different sorts of delicacies. In several years, the clientele is rewarded with reduced prices.
2000 – A new year, new improvements
The renovation in 2001 transforms the operations of the cooperative canteen. Counters and stalls staffed with canteen employees are abandoned for self-service alternatives. Service becomes faster, thanks to the new point-of-sales system and different payment methods. The cooperative canteen hires a chef and a managing director who, together with other staff members, develop the operations of the canteen.
The old logo is dug up from the archives and refashioned while still respecting traditions. The refashioned logo is introduced at the 65th anniversary event on 22 October 2004.
2010 – Wind in our sails
As the new decade dawns, the operations of the restaurant Majakka, located in Marine House in Vuosaari, Helsinki, transfers to the cooperative. The number of employees increases to 25 persons. Lunch and café counters and stalls that have been used for ten years are revamped to a new, modern look. Two certificates are awarded to POR as a financially strong company: Menestyjäyritys (Successful Company) by Kauppalehti and Suomen Vahvimmat (Strongest in Finland) by Asiakastieto.
On 10 October 2011, www.por.fi opens for all customers.