The Saskatoon business owners behind Taste Restaurant Group, which includes Cohen’s Beer Republic, UNA Pizza + Wine, Bar Gusto, and Picaro Cocktails & Tacos, are invested in creating change both locally and globally.
“We believe that giving back is as important to our team and our guests as any other component of what we do,” said Carmen Hamm, who earned bachelor’s (2011) and master’s (2014) degrees at the University of Saskatchewan (USask). “We work with a variety of local and international charitable organizations.”
Their restaurants support Mealshare, which operates with a Buy 1, Give 1 structure. In each of their eateries there is a feature meal, which when ordered, provides a meal to a child in need. Those meals are served in Saskatoon through Breakfast Club of Canada and in Ethiopia through Save the Children Canada.
“Mealshare really resonates with what we value,” said Hamm. “We’ve had a chance to serve breakfast to the kids, which is great to see where our dollars are going.”
They also support Water First, which creates sustainable drinking water systems in northern First Nations communities, and FoodRenew, which works closely with local food businesses to save and renew food that would otherwise be thrown away.
It is through these partnerships that the staff and community can also be a part of something bigger.
“Partnering with these organizations creates an opportunity for our leadership to be a part of this, for our staff to volunteer, but also our guests to feel like they are part of it, which is the overall goal,” she said. “We want people who come into our restaurants to see that we are living and breathing that value, and see this is who we are, and can engage with us to create change.”
For Hamm, her studies at USask led her on a path towards her passion—helping people who are in underprivileged situations to be able to have what they need in order to not only survive, but thrive and succeed in life.
“I am proud to be a USask grad,” she said. “When I was in university, I was older than some of my classmates, but I created relationships with my professors and I was excited to take the things I learned and the experiences I gained and implement them into my businesses.”
Hamm earned an undergraduate degree in international studies, majoring in development, and finished with a master’s in political studies.
“The program was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I didn’t know if I would get a job with it, but it’s what I am passionate about. It created a foundation for understanding the outside world and an awareness I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
The USask alumna grew up in Saskatoon, and staying local and helping the community succeed was important to her.
“In Saskatoon, there is so much need, so much hurt, and so much poverty and it is daunting to know where to jump in,” she said. “We just want to see Saskatoon be better and we wanted to be a part of that. Our hope is that our investments will lead to other initiatives to be involved locally and around the world.”
Being an entrepreneur came with its own learning curve, but after building and growing four restaurants since 2016, the Hamm team trusts the people around them to help them succeed.
“We have an exceptionally talented team and we create relationships with people who have already learned those lessons to help us on our path.”