There’s something missing in restaurant kitchens in South Africa – the presence of women who hold senior positions such as restaurant owners or head chefs. The 2018 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards is evidence of this. Not surprisingly, only four awards went to women who were head chefs, making up only a 13% slice of the cake at the awards ceremony. We encourage more women to get involved in the culinary industry. To ensure that you leave a mark, take heed of these helpful tips.

Don’t hide your femininity

Female business owners often fall into the trap of feeling the need to hide their femininity. It’s perceived that being a woman will somehow put them at a disadvantage – don’t give in to this way of thinking. Your femininity is one of your strongest assets. So how can you embrace this wonderful part of the individual who makes up you?

“It starts with confidence in oneself as well as confidence in the product you are selling, a firm ‘hands-on’ approach and the willingness to adapt to meet the desires and needs of the consumer,” advises Tracy Leigh-Genricks, the chef and owner of Four & Twenty Café in Cape Town. She’s not alone in holding this view. Ash Heeger, owner of Riverine Rabbit in Cape Town, says that the trick is to stand up for yourself in a male-dominated industry. “Never let yourself be intimidated by ANYONE in a kitchen, regardless of gender. Be strong and stand your ground.”

There’s no room for nice

Restaurants are some of the toughest places to work in. With long hours and the relentless pressure to churn out plates of delicious food quickly and flawlessly, it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. You need to have your wits about you. Women in business often feel the need to be more empathetic and nurturing with their employees than men. But they have to remember that they’re building a business, not a family. Women in business must strike a fine balance between their natural empathy for others and doing what is best for their business.

It pays to be observant of the people around you. Great leaders will adapt to their surrounding environments and empower their team to succeed together. A great leader will not make their followers fearful of them, instead, they earn their respect. You can only do this if you are perceived as a strong individual.

Women in business also need to know that they can’t please all the people all the time. They should know when it’s the right time to push back. So build your emotional intelligence because a great leader will not allow emotions to interfere with the running of their business. Contrary to popular belief, great leadership is not only something you’re born with, it can also be cultivated and grown over time.

Take criticism with a pinch of salt

Listen to your critics, they’re giving you free advice, but don’t take it personally. Use it to help improve your business operations. Remember that there’s no escaping the opinion of your restaurant patrons in the digital world. More often than not, someone will leave a review online about their experience with your establishment – good or bad, you need to acknowledge it – more so if the review is left on a popular social platform. It shows potential patrons that you care about improving their customer experience.

Competition is healthy

Popular and highly successful British chef and restaurateur Gordon Ramsay explains that “staying in front of your competition is healthy”. But understand that directly competing with an entrenched rival is a bad idea for a new restaurateur. Try to find an area with few competitors that serve food which is similar to yours. Gaining a competitive edge requires a detailed analysis of the demographics of the surrounding area and the nature of existing competitors.

Know when to outsource work

As a woman in business, you might be tempted to multitask, but you can’t do everything yourself. Put your trust in others, and this includes technology. A PoS system will do all the heavy lifting for you.

A sophisticated system like the Pilot Point of Sale will free up your time by optimising resources in your restaurant and deliver powerful insights into how your establishment is doing. Our infographic explains this in more detail. Take a look or yourself.

Author : Rudi Badenhorst