J. Mays and Chris Kana opened Cafe 7 in 2008, and two years later they welcomed Stephanie Morrical (now Miller) to the team. In 2022, they’ve taken the name Killer Squid Hospitality, and the moniker could not be more appropriate for Mays and Kana, both OSU HRAD alum. Mays grew up in a restaurant family, but hospitality is central to all the partners, all of whom are minority partners in Tulsa concepts, too. Across the company this year, the concepts are seeing growth rates of 9 to 22 percent, thanks in part to excellent service, delicious food and creative bar programs.
The team shares a love for welcoming (and feeding) people, and it shows up in their concepts. Cafe 7 was a capstone project that turned into a real-world success story because it was designed to put excellent, affordable food in front of people, especially families, for whom dining out can be an expensive indulgence. They’ve had hits and misses, but The Hamilton has been a runaway success, and Mays gets the credit for convincing his team that Okie-centric, upscale-casual dining could work on the backside of a mall.
“Innovation for us is not settling until we feel like we have found the absolute best way to do anything,” Mays said. “Take our cocktail list at The Hamilton for example
– we opened with certain spirits, vermouths and wines, and since then we have constantly been tinkering and tweaking these things to create what we feel is the best representation of what we are offering.”
Dado’s Pizza, a Harlem-based concept, is next. Kana’s college friend started the business, and he’s partnering with Killer Squid to open a second location in OKC. The concept will include a device that converts standard water into NYC water, because – per Mays – “NYC water does something magical to dough.”
Hospitality Innovator of the Year Finalists:
- Cathy Cummings
- Coury Hospitality