Food Trends

What does 'A Day Without a Woman' mean for restaurants?

Strike set for March 8th

 

As politically conscious protests continue to reverberate around the country, the latest walkout may have a small but consequentional impact to the U.S. restaurant industry.

Organizers of the women’s march have labeled March 8, International Women's Day, as “A Day Without a Woman” and are calling for female workers in all industries to observe the day by striking, avoiding shopping (unless the business is minority or female owned) and wearing red.

Many schools in at least four states are closing Wednesday so teachers can participate. But in the restaurant industry, where women account about for about half of the total workforce, few restaurants appear to be shuttering, but have instead decided to use March 8 proceeds towards female-oriented causes.

“It would be silly to strike when I’m a woman who owns a small business, especially one named Annisa [which means “women” in Arabic],” chef-owner Anita Lo told GrubStreet. “We are donating the proceeds from sales of the Annisa cocktail and a special appetizer created by Mary Attea, my chef de cuisine, to Off the Sidelines, Kirsten Gillibrand’s organization to help women run for office.”

Other New York restaurant owners are following suit, donating partial proceeds to organizations like Planned Parenthood or Shining Hope For Communities.

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But if just a few women who work back or front of house positions decide to participate, there could be a sizeable impact on the day's business flow. 

"I’m sure any industry will be suffering Wednesday if women choose to strike," Elizabeth Viana, a winemaker at Chimney Rock Winery in Napa, Calif., told Fox News.

"Our company, our winery has women in high executive positions, winemaking position sales people so it could definitely have an impact." 

2016 Bureau of Labor stats tell part of the story, listing the percentage of female chefs or head cooks at 21.4 percent. Among Michelin-starred eateries, none of the three-star restaurants are led by a female top chef. Around the globe, just five out of 130 three-star chefs are women.

Rohini Dey, a restaurant owner and James Beard Foundation trustee, helped pioneer the foundation’s “Women in Culinary Leadership” with an eye toward addressing these issues.

"As a chef, unless you learn to own all stations and can speak the language of commerce — costs, human resources, inventory, scheduling — you will never get to lead the kitchen,” Dey told the Boston Globe. “This financial literacy is even more invaluable for women aspiring to be restaurateurs, an unfortunate rarity.”

Obtaining the proper recognition in the kitchen is an ongoing issue.

In January, the group behind “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” an annual ranking of the world's best eateries based on chef, critic and restaurateur poll responses, had to address its reasoning for issuing a “World’s Best Female Chef” award. The distinction, critics argued, shouldn’t be separated by gender.

Still, the trajectory could be changing. According to the US Census Bureau, restaurants owned by women grew at a rate more than three times quicker than that of the overall restaurant industry. That was based on stats compiled between 2007 and 2012.

But even in kitchens not run by women, Wednesday's planned walkout could have a measurable impact as women move up the ladder.

"It would certainly affect my kitchen," Matt Ginn, Chef of Portland Maine's EVO Kitchen + Bar, Portland told Fox News. "Three of my best chefs are women, in a kitchen of eight people, and they’re phenomenal cooks so a day without them—we’d be in trouble." 

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It's not just women who are reacting to today's climate by abandoning their restaurant positions to make a political statement.

On Feb. 16 immigrant restaurant workers and owners participated in “A Day without Immigrants” walkout. That grassroots campaign advocated for workers to remain home, close their business and abstain from eating out or making purchases during the day.

And it wasn’t simply rank and file employees who participated in the event. Chef Rick Bayless, known for his high-quality Mexican cooking, announced the closure of four of his restaurants while workers participated in the walkout in Chicago and Spanish-born chef Jose Andres, who is currently engaged in a contentious legal battle with President Trump, shuttered several eateries in D.C.