As part of the annual programming for the Louisiana Women Business Leaders Conference and hosted by the Nicholls State University Center for Women in Government (LCWG), three Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) members participated in the panel “Culinary: Turn Up the Heat,” on Sept. 19, 2014.
Anna Tusa, co-owner of The Crazy Lobster and member of the LCWG, invited LRA VP of Communications Wendy Waren to moderate the panel. She recruited panelists Ti Adelaide Martin of Commander’s Palace to join her along with Restaurant Specialist Dianne Sclafani of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center. The four decided to focus the panel on the important role women play in the restaurant industry and professional development as it relates to women.
“There is no glass ceiling in our industry,” said Waren. “Fifty percent of all restaurant owners are women and from 1997 to 2007, the number of women-owned restaurants jumped by 50 percent. That’s remarkable evidence to the ever-growing opportunities that women can create for themselves.”
Other indicators, specifically as it relates to women are 70 percent of wait staff are women and these positions are among the highest-paying occupations in the industry. Forty-five percent of foodservice managers are women and 58 percent of foodservice supervisors are women, compared to 38 percent in other industries and 43 percent in retail.
“One of the things I do to develop the women coming up in my company is bring them to conferences just like this one,” said Tusa. “The majority of the managers I employ are women. Having them attend sessions like this one helps them expand their thinking to consider what it takes to be better business leaders and better people in their personal lives, too.”
Questions to the panelists ranged from their professional affiliations and how they have benefited professionally to the best of advice they receive from a mentor.
“My mother Ella Brennan is my mentor and she is a great example of one,” said Martin. “She has always encouraged me to be the best woman, in personal and business relations, that I can be. She’s also been a mentor to legendary New Orleans chefs who began in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace before taking that next step in their careers.”
A mentor can be a parent, co-worker, teacher or a boss, and in an ideal world, everyone would have a mentor and be a mentor. Some of the most successful business leaders often attribute their position to having a mentor’s support, coaching and encouragement.
“I try to be accessible to my staff,” added Martin. “Many times, just listening to someone while they are working through a challenge or situation can make all the difference in their development. Then bringing to their attention something they might not have considered or sharing a similar experience may be just the inspiration they need to move through to a higher level of engagement and thinking.”