Women in F&B – The fearless strides of women taking on the F&B Space.
It is not news to hear that throughout the world, the F&B sector is predominantly a male run ship – from its captains to its helmsmen; from its cooks to deckmen. This landscape however is on a slow but important trajectory toward change.
The Fast Food & Café Convention had an opportunity to chat with some of India’s leading women directors and founders in the F&B space to ask them about their journey in the Indian F&B industry, the incremental evolution they have witnessed and where they hope to see the industry in a few years.
FFCC spoke with Deepika Nagasamy, Director at one of the most popular Biryani chains in the South of India – Dindigul Thalappakatti, who specialise in mouth watering seeraga samba rice biryani, vastly different from traditional Basmati rice biryani.
Deepika who started out her career in Fashion and Home décor found herself at the helm of a vast family-owned empire along with her husband to head the marketing and brand side of the business. And though she wishes the industry could be more work friendly for women, she does recognize the intense labor, time commitment and delicate balance required to navigate the business.
“Its great to see the slight paradigm shift from women only working in HR, accounting, finance or the lower strata of a restaurant business to now – heading the kitchen, creating menu’s, investing in and running a successful business. Thalappakatti went from a 100% male board room to 60:40, 40% in favor of women on the board.” She said when asked about the evolution of the segment.
Deepika was hopeful for the future of the industry to become more accommodating since the pandemic as several home chefs have taken to food aggregators to help grow their businesses. “They are being creative with their menus and niche in product offering, doing what they do best and trying to turn a hobby into a viable vocation, and that’s great to see!” she said.
Deepika believes it’s important to know where you fit in and what your value is, as there are still varying levels of acceptance of women in the F&B Business. But she is also optimistic of the future, “In a few years, I believe, we will either be all equal or at least higher up on the corporate chain.” She said.
We next spoke with Gauri Devidayal, Founder of the exciting and well renowned company Food Matters and her restaurant The Table from south Mumbai. Gauri is not only at the helm of the 3 restaurants she founded, she also has a popular Podcast that talks about the vitality of mentorships and people being of service to one-another.
“As a woman, navigating your way in this industry is not a matter of preaching feminism,” she said, “Its about being professional.” When asked about the challenges women face in the industry. “Its about being vocal when necessary – it’s about being the change you want to see.” She advocated.
Gauri believes the change is ever present and constant but not quick and doesn’t provide immediate gratification in the sector. She is optimistic about the number of women taking the leap into the culinary world – “there are so many new programs for women in culinary schools and bartending schools – the fact that so many young women are flaring out to join the industry is a testament that proves we have a place in the F&B sector.” She said.
All of Gauri’s restaurants have strict no tolerance policies when it comes to harassment and behavior. And she believes that the industry needs to play an active role to improve the mindfulness of their work environments. “It’s not about gender,” Gauri said, “Its not about more men than women, it’s about a mindset, we need a change in the mindset – we need women supporting women, these are your biggest fans and will be there for you. We should be having a daily dialogue about advancement for women, not just once a year.”
To all you wonderful, creative and talented women out there, we salute you!
All in all, FFCC had an eye-opening time talking to these trailblazers that keep their heads held high along with their spirit!
They run successful businesses and are willing to shine the spotlight on change, they advocate balance, fairness and the need for equality in all things.