Jesse Kupina knows how to throw a party like no other, and he’s using his mad skills to make a difference in Edmonton’s hospitality industry. As the co-owner of Two 12 Social Co., a hospitality, restaurant and entertainment company, Jesse is always looking for cool new ways to create a unique guest experience – and give back to the community while he’s doing it.
What he does differently
Jesse wanted to carve out a new identity with his concept for Central Social Hall, a restaurant/bar that falls under his Two 12 Social Co. umbrella. The establishment creates a fresh experience for diners by filling the gap between the traditional pub and the premium casual dining restaurant.
“I look for new ideas instead of just following trends,” says Jesse. “So I married these two concepts to create a premium gastropub with quality food and service.”
Jesse makes this a blissful union by combining the best elements of both parties. He gives typical pub fare a tasty twist with homemade sauces and fresh, local ingredients. Guests can gobble up these goods while they catch an Oilers game on the wall-mounted TV sets, revel in the modern décor, mix and mingle with other patrons, or just dance the night away.
Partying with Drake
For Jesse, the most rewarding part of being a restaurateur is providing an amazing experience for people – both guests and employees.
“I love removing myself from the busy-ness of my restaurant and soaking in the fact that I helped create this setting for patrons to come together and break bread,” says Jesse. “I want my guests to create memories here. I want my employees to have a memorable work experience.
Jesse’s bashes are so good, even the celebrities want in. This summer, Jesse hosted Canadian superstar Drake’s after-party at his nightclub, The Ranch Roadhouse.
Partying for charity
Jesse also likes to party for a good cause, and regularly opens his doors for fundraisers. If you’re a community group, school or sports team, all you have to do is ask. Jesse’s team provides the venue, strategic support, gift certificates, food incentives and cash rewards, while the group du jour gets to keep all the money raised from ticket sales.
One organization Jesse’s especially passionate about is the Abbottsfield Youth Project that helps children aged six to 12 in high-risk Northeast Edmonton communities.
“I strongly believe if you get to these kids when they’re young, you can make a difference,” he says. “Every kid should be given the same opportunity to succeed.”
Jesse helps out by doing what he does best, and throws them an annual fundraiser. He raised more than $64,000 for the group with the past three annual events, and with each passing year, sets a new record for funds raised – no easy feat given Alberta’s economic slump. In fact, Jesse has beaten the odds and raised plenty of cash for various good causes like the MS Society, Habitat for Humanity and the St. Albert Food Bank, to name a few.
A rising minimum wage and other party poopers
The party never stops at Jesse’s, but the current business and economic reality has put a damper on the fun. Nonetheless, Jesse tries to find the opportunity in a problem: “If the price of cauliflower goes up, we change our menu and introduce something new,” he says.
It’s the factors outside his control, like the policies of Alberta’s NDP government, that have created new challenges. Jesse notes it’s hard to go in a different direction when increased regulation and costs – like a dramatic minimum wage increase – are thrown at a low-margin business like the restaurant industry. But he’s always looking for that silver lining, and in this case, it’s industry unification.
Jesse credits Restaurants Canada for making this happen with the Now is not the time minimum wage campaign.
“Restaurants Canada brokered a meeting in Calgary for us, and I met competitors I’ve never talked to before,” says Jesse. “We’re discussing solutions and coming together to benefit our industry. I don’t feel like I’m fighting the battle by myself and it’s shown me the value of an industry association.”
There will always be challenges, but the party goes on. Learn more about Jesse’s business and fundraising opportunities.
You don’t have to stand alone either. Join the fight. Join Restaurants Canada.
All photos courtesy Jesse Kupina.