40 Under 40: Sean White, White Oak Hospitality
bizjournals.com/baltimore / November 18, 2021
In nine short years, what started as a taco spot in Federal Hill has grown into a hospitality company consisting of six restaurants (about to be eight) and a food truck. Sean's vision for a hospitality company is founded on principles rarely seen in the industry.
Title: Founder and CEO, White Oak Hospitality
Education: Bachelor's degree, Salisbury University
From the nomination: "In nine short years, what started as a taco spot in Federal Hill has grown into a hospitality company consisting of six restaurants (about to be eight) and a food truck. Sean's vision for a hospitality company is founded on principles rarely seen in the industry. All staff members being given opportunities to save for retirement with aggressive 401(k) matching, health care offerings for every employee from the dishwasher to the COO, and paid time off for every team member are just a few of the directives implemented to separate White Oak Hospitality from every other restaurant group. Along with corporate culture, a dedication to community is also a pillar upon which Sean has instilled in each of his executive team members, who echo that message to their team... A graduate of Calvert Hall High School [and] an All-American lacrosse player at Salisbury, his roots run deep in Maryland. Those roots will be expanding soon beyond Baltimore, but his dedication to the place him and his people call home will never be a fleeting thought in the expansion of his vision to take White Oak Hospitality to new heights and truly change the restaurant industry forever."
What made you want to get into your chosen profession?
Hospitality and taking care of people have been at the core of my upbringing from day one. Our house was always the gathering place when I grew up! The fridge was always filled to the brim. My parents loved to host and entertain and that has always been something I find tremendous joy in.
How do you give back to the community outside your work?
White Oak is built on the communities we serve. This past year we have worked with The Ulman Foundation, CHC Foundation, The Jimmy Seafood Famous Fund, BARCs, Baltimore County Police and Fire Departments, and numerous other local charities. I also serve on the board for Federal Hill Main Street.
What new hobbies or habits did you pick up amid the pandemic?
I wouldn't call it a hobby or habit but I became a father during the pandemic, which was the greatest moment of my life. While the pandemic has been a terrible period of time I try and reflect on the positives and for me becoming a father is the greatest gift I have ever received.
What advice would you give to someone else looking to get into your field?
Don't!! Joking. I love what I do and I would encourage anyone who enters the hospitality industry to focus on the quality of life they provide their employees before they take on anything else. Our industry for the longest time has treated employees subpar. Our business is built on people and relationships and that starts internally long before we ever touch a table or bar seat.