Shaun Fiaccone is the president and co-founder of Oklahoma City restaurant group HumanKind Hospitality, which owns and operates FRIDA southwest, Picasso Café, Oso, The Daley and The Other Room. Read his story below about adapting to COVID-19 while navigating dual natural disasters.
When I think of our scrappy restaurant group, I think of boxing.
For many of us in the restaurant industry, the end of 2020 felt like we went 12 rounds with a heavyweight champion. I’m proud to say our group in the heart of Oklahoma City dodged and weaved with the best of them to adapt to our ever-changing circumstances.
When our city enacted a shelter-in-place ordinance, we immediately started brainstorming how to reopen safely and protect our guests and staff. When the ordinance lifted, we had an epidemiologist on retainer, top-of-the-line air sanitization and filtration systems installed, and stringent safety protocols for our team. Thanks to our efforts, the Oklahoma Gazette nominated us as “the safest place to eat in Oklahoma City.”
Right when we thought things were turning around, a freak ice storm knocked out our power for two weeks. Undaunted, we began packaging to-go meals for our neighbors who were also without power. We didn’t want our food to go to waste, and we didn’t want people to go hungry.
That’s what we’ve always been about: feeding the community. And not just on a physical level. We believe creating a space where people feel welcome and nourished begins with the environment we create with our staff. Years ago, we started offering higher wages and paid time off to full-time employees. We champion other people on their journeys, offering an inclusive workplace for people of color and members of the LBGTQ+ community. The workplace culture spills over into how our staff cares for our guests—and the quality of service is just one of the reasons why customers continue to return.
I’m proud of our team and the way we continue to adapt to and overcome challenges. Most recently, Valentine’s Day dining went awry when an arctic storm dumped eight inches of snow on Oklahoma, knocking out power, heat and water. But there we were, pivoting again to extend specials to encourage people to step through the door and celebrate belatedly. I’m confident we’ll weather this setback with grit and determination like we always have.
After all, life's about rolling with the punches, just like in the boxing ring.