In previous decades, there were not enough women in the franchising industry to turn to and there was no clear path forward because so few women were in the industry. While women make up about 50% of the population, only 31 percent franchises and small businesses in the United States are owned by women. Although 60% of American women have worked in the industry at some point in their lives, the roles of women in management, particularly in the restaurant sector, have been limited.
The lack of female representation in the restaurant industry meant that women had to start their franchising journey without guidance from women who had previously been in their shoes. Now, as the proud owner of several franchises across Michigan, including two Noodles & Company restaurants, I’m excited to share my tips with women interested in the restaurant business, so they have the tools they need to work in this incredible industry.
Remember to be confident
While the restaurant industry has made incredible strides in increasing its diversity and inclusion, the industry is still dominated by men at the executive and senior management levels. With a small number of women to look up to as role models in restaurant leadership, those entering the restaurant industry need to remember their unique differentiators and be confident in them. Even though the room may be full of men, women are needed at the table and their voices need to be heard. It is important that women know their worth and exude confidence.
Embrace “courage and grace”
Anyone in the restaurant business will say that this industry is not for the faint of heart. Women know a thing or two about perseverance and this knowledge will absolutely benefit them in the restaurant industry. The biggest lesson I have for women interested in getting involved in the business would be to have courage and grace. Working in this fast-paced and ever-changing industry means you’ll need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves, put in the work and, most importantly, roll with the punches. As everyone has seen during the pandemic, the restaurant industry has had many ups and downs with the economy. To be successful, I think it’s important to be totally committed to the success of your restaurant and ready to stand up 10 times after being knocked down nine times. Having this courage and grace will help us all thrive in this exciting and unpredictable industry.
Women are unfortunately often stereotyped as accommodating, emotional, inexperienced, followers instead of leaders, and unwilling to take charge and take risks, among many other false beliefs. While we know these stereotypes are categorically false, it’s hard to ignore their presence. My advice to women new to the industry is to ignore typecasting at all costs. Don’t get locked into gender roles and instead show off your strength and abilities as a successful business leader.
Get involved in all aspects of your business
The restaurant industry, especially the franchise side of the business, is incredibly complex with many moving parts. Being a leader, whether as a franchisee or an executive, requires understanding all aspects of the business, from supply chain to finance to hiring. I think it’s important to learn and be involved in all aspects of a restaurant’s operations to establish credibility and trust for everyone in the business. Learn a little more about each role in the company, build relationships with team members at all levels, and be prepared to get your hands dirty.
Never stop learning
Besides being incredibly complex, the restaurant industry is also constantly evolving. No one could have predicted the growing popularity and need for a customer experience like curbside pickup five years ago. To keep up with and stay ahead of trends, make education a top priority and never stop learning. From predicted trending articles to podcasts with industry leaders to books from experts who share their secrets on running a successful restaurant and franchising business, there are a number of resources to further your training in your business acumen.
Get a supportive mentor
I can’t stress enough the importance of mentorship at the start of someone’s career or when transitioning into a new industry. Mentors provide invaluable professional advice, industry connections, and serve as a knowledgeable sounding board for new ideas. Not only that, but mentors should also be people women can be more comfortable working with and people they feel they can be honest with about their experience in the industry. Great mentorship can come from anyone who has industry experience and is willing to provide coaching. In addition to searching within restaurant and franchise industry circles, there are many trade-specific and non-trade-specific organizations and associations, such as the Women’s Foodservice Forum and Lean In, where women can find great mentors.
Support other women in the industry
Networking is one of the most important business skills to master in the franchise industry, especially in the restaurant industry, as it can change and evolve quickly. Having the support of a franchise network can be beneficial as it is a relationship that relies on each other for success. When looking to work with a franchise brand, it’s important to research female representation and how women are supported within the company. A good example of this is Noodles & Company, which now has 50% of its management made up of women and women represented throughout the company according to corporate criteria. ESG report. Ffinding other businesswomen to connect with can be an inspiring and uplifting way to stay motivated through good times and difficult times. The example of more women entering the industry shows others that they too can succeed and are needed in the restaurant business.
This incredible industry has taught me so much and I couldn’t be prouder to be a female franchisee. In my experience, we should play a much bigger role in the restaurant industry and I look forward to being at a table with an equal number of male and female restaurant industry leaders seated. by my side.
Patti Neley is a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist (RDN) by profession with over 20 years of leadership experience in the restaurant industry as the principal owner of several franchise brands, as well as some independently created concepts.