Providing Brazilian Warmth, Food, and Friendship
PROVO, Utah – Dec 14, 2020 – Ten years after serving a mission in Brazil, BYU Marriott’s School of Accountancy 1989 graduate Stephen Oldham and his wife, Janae, found themselves standing on the doorstep of a family he had met and loved as a missionary. In that moment, Oldham felt the same comfortable familiarity he’d come to associate with this beautiful country—a feeling of coming home.
Instead of ringing the doorbell or knocking on the door, Oldham followed the culture of the country and clapped. Someone inside shouted out, asking who it was, and he responded, “Elder Oldham!” His response was met with a whoop, and the family pulled Oldham and his wife inside, already putting food on the table. Within minutes, they had called their grown children, who headed over to greet their beloved friend.
As the owner of Tucanos, a chain of Brazilian steakhouse restaurants he started in 1999, Oldham tells this story when teaching new employees about the credo and governing principles of the restaurant. “When our guests walk into one of our restaurants, I want them to feel like they’re coming into our home,” he says. “I want them to feel like they’re our friends. I want them to experience the same warm and authentic welcoming feeling that they would feel walking into a Brazilian home.”
The chance to combine his business skills with his love for this type of warmth and familiarity is one of the things that drew Oldham to pursue the restaurant business. “As people, we have an innate desire to be with others, to socialize, and to enjoy each other's company,” he says. “When I started Tucanos, I wanted that to be an important element. Our goal isn't about just the food, it’s to create an experience that truly engages people, that makes them feel better when they leave than they felt when they first came in.”
Starting his own business has been rewarding in many aspects, but the process has not always been easy for Oldham. “The restaurant business is intense in cash flow but also an incredibly low-margin business. Numerous components have to come together for everything to work,” he says.
For that reason, Oldham appreciates that the BYU Marriott School of Business prepared him with the necessary tools and skills to succeed. “BYU Marriott does an excellent job helping students understand that it's important to be principle based, but just learning the principles isn’t enough,” he says. “Recognizing how to apply that knowledge in real life is essential. Knowing how to utilize those tools made everything easier once I entered real-world situations.”
Oldham and his family share a common sense of love and gratitude for their time at BYU. “Four of my five kids also chose to go to BYU,” he says. “BYU has been a big part of our lives, and our experiences there taught us what is most important in life: our family.”
While juggling all of his responsibilities is challenging, running a restaurant company has gratifying moments as well. Oldham finds that one of the most fulfilling things is witnessing the happiness of his guests. “I love when I walk into one of our restaurants and see all the people enjoying themselves,” he says. “Pretty soon our guests start making jokes and laughing among themselves, like they feel at home, and that moment makes all the hard work worth it to me.”
Media Contact: Chad Little: (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert