Restaurant Makeover for Alumnus-Entrepreneur

With a healthy blend of excitement and anxiety, University of Saskatchewan alumnus and local entrepreneur Jerry Kristian (BComm’96), and his wife and business partner Elyse Cullen, closed the doors of Jerry’s Food Emporium for a week at the end of January while Toronto-based designer Meredith Heron (made famous by the hit TV show Restaurant Makeover) set out to create a new look for Jerry’s.
Kristian is very familiar with the fast food and ice cream industry in Saskatoon. His family opened the first Dairy Queen Brazier store in Saskatoon. “I grew up in an entrepreneurial house. When we went out for dinner a common conversation was, ‘What do you like about this place? What would you change?’” he says.
“We’ve changed the restaurant over the years, but we realized we needed the pros [to renovate] and we couldn’t keep doing it ourselves,” says Kristian. “Saskatoon is growing up, and we need to take our concept and push forward a little bit.” Heron was given a lot of freedom to change Jerry’s, but it was made clear “the soul of this place is untouchable.”
The results are a new décor and fresh additions to the menu, including fresh baked goods inspired by renowned baker Mario Fortin, to complement the classics customers have grown to love. Cullen says, “It’s still simple, it’s still comfortable, but we’ve taken it a step further.”
Despite growing up with connections to the food service industry, Kristian admits running a restaurant was not part of his original plans while at the U of S. “I wanted to go down east and get my MBA, but I was born and raised here. I realized I didn’t want to get into the rat-race. Saskatoon offers a great lifestyle and quality of life.”
Although he seems apprehensive to use the word, Kristian finds himself taking on an increasingly large role as mentor to his 45 to 55 employees. This is not necessarily a role he would have predicted, but he sees a lot of potential for growth among his employees. “My time at the U of S taught me to be flexible, to not have a narrow direction.”
Lessons learned around the dinner table growing up and at the U of S appear to have taken root, as Kristian attempts to “remake a 13 year old impression” with his customers.
Pictured above (l-r): Elyse Cullen, Meredith Heron, Jerry Kristian