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Empowering Insights from Women-Owned and Women-Led Restaurants

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By Sophie Brochu

In honor of Women’s History Month, we spoke to a few celebrated chefs, winemakers, and entrepreneurs. See how they’re paving the way for the next generation.

What is the best piece of advice you were given when it comes to running your business?

  • Carrie Baird (chef/owner, Fox & The Hen): Chef Jen Jasinski was my mentor and she always said, “Food is the easy part.” As a chef, the day-to-day struggles of supply chains, costs, and managing people can take up a lot of your time. So you really want to learn as much as you can about the managerial side of things so you can make smart and conscious decisions quickly. What I loved about having Jen as a mentor is she didn’t just give words of advice, but modeled how to be a leader. She surrounded herself with a strong team, and every night, they would sit down at the end of service and run down what went right and what went wrong. That’s something I’ve really emulated.
  • Christina Corvino (owner/GM/sommelier, Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, Kansas City): To grow, you need to make the space to work on your business instead of in your business.
  • Amanda Shulman (chef/owner, Her Place Supper Club, Philadelphia): Hire the best people you can because this business is a team sport. Delegating is everything. 
  • Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli (co-owner, Two Sisters Vineyards, Niagara on the Lake, ON): The best piece of advice given to me by my father is don’t let people steer you away from what your vision is. Advice will be given, but it is up to you to decide if you feel that it is part of what you are wanting to accomplish.
  • Christine Hanna (president, HANNA Winery, Healdsburg, CA): Keep innovating, and don’t be afraid to try new ideas, even if they’re not all successful.

For women looking to break into the industry, what advice would you give them?

  • Carrie Baird: I tell women to find an amazing mentor, preferably a female chef, but any chef will do. The right role model is going to teach you everything you need to know. I also tell women: you need to show up early, be present, anticipate what your mentor needs, give more than your mentor asks, and always do more listening than talking.  
  • Christina Corvino: The wide world of hospitality has so many different avenues to suit nearly any interest, and your interests will change the more you’re exposed to, so don’t put limits on yourself. I believe the common thread is that this industry demands a strong work ethic, but it will carry you anywhere you want to go!
  • Amanda Shulman: Just do it. Don’t overthink things, you are just as good as the guy next to you. Also, encourage other women. We need support from one another. We spend a lot of extra time trying to prove ourselves, but bringing one another up as we go is part of our responsibility.
  • Christine Hanna: Jump in! Every aspect of the wine industry is welcome to women now. Back in the day, most winemakers were men, as were most general managers and CEOs. That’s not so these days.

How are you paving the way for the next generation of women entrepreneurs?

  • Amanda Shulman: My business is 90% women run. I hire, promote, and encourage female leadership. I’m not hiring women because they’re women; I’m hiring these women because they are the best at the job. Empowering and encouraging females and having conversations about career longevity and sustainability is super important. 
  • Tia Edwards (co-owner, Fresh Bourbon Distillery, Lexington, KY): I have found the best way to pave the way for the next group of women entrepreneurs is to be available to them for questions and advice. Beside my husband, Sean Edwards, we are unapologetically changing the bourbon industry. 
  • Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli: Being mothers ourselves, myself having four children between the ages of 13 to 20, I hope that I can serve as an example of being able to balance work and family. It is trying at times and the feelings of guilt do sometimes take over, but the example that I give my children is to do something that you love, are passionate about, and how rewarding it truly is.
  • Christine Hanna: Seeing women in leadership roles is so important in order to inspire the next generation of women entrepreneurs. I lead a non-profit board as well as run our winery. The more women in positions of leadership, the easier it is for young women to imagine themselves leading and founding businesses.
  • Melissa Aellen (winemaker, Linganore Wine Cellars, Mount Airy, MD): We are proud to have 70% of our staff identify as women, including our owner and founder, my grandmother! In the past we have offered professional management and leadership development for our managers. I try my best to lead by example, empowering others at every turn and hopefully that gives them the confidence to pursue their passions and dreams.

What is your hope for the next generation of women in the restaurant industry?

  • Christina Corvino: I want to see more ownership of restaurants by women whether they are the chef or not. More private funding education for women so they can access capital they need. Women properly represented at conferences, awards, and food and wine events without experiencing sexism or simply being ignored. Women bring a lot of positive influences to the restaurant family that lift everyone up!
  • Amanda Shulman: I want to see more woman-owned and operated restaurants. We need to have conversations about how to encourage female growth in the industry and talk about what women need to stick with this, whether it be child care or job flexibility. As we grow as a team, in size and age and maturity, we are actively chatting about what is going to allow all of us to have long and happy careers in this field. 
  • Tia Edwards: My hope and desire for the next generation of women in the boutique industry is for them to be welcomed at all levels, especially at senior leadership.
  • Melissa Marotta-Paolicelli: The restaurant industry has gotten hit very hard due to the pandemic and is now slowly recovering. The enjoyment of people wanting to share their personal time, experiences with loved ones, and make memories has not gone away. What needs to be fully understood is the importance of having a happy, connected, and motivated staff with great communication between all. They need to feel appreciated, comfortable, and cared for. This will directly impact their love of coming into work every day and in turn affect the guest experience overall.
  • Melissa Aellen: That they can excel quickly without the hurdles I had to jump—side comments, questioning capabilities, physical ability, and reasoning. Every opportunity should be equal for everyone.
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