The pandemic has decimated the hospitality industry across the board, and small businesses owned by women have taken an even greater hit. In one survey conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last year, the rate at which female business owners reported fearing for the solvency of their enterprises amid the pandemic was more than double that of male business owners.
Now a group of women restaurant owners and other hospitality businesses in L.A. are getting together to help each other address the crisis at hand–and prepare to bounce back even stronger. Together, they’ve formed RE:Her, a charitable organization to support women in the field though mentorship, resource sharing, and small business grants.
“Over the last nine-plus months, we’ve witnessed the total inaction on the part of national leadership to provide meaningful support for independent restaurants, coupled with the outsized negative impact that COVID-19 has had on women in the workforce,” says Lien Ta, owner of All Day Baby and RE:Her’s committee lead. “We created RE:Her to not only drive business for participating restaurants during a historically slow period, but also to funnel cash, via a grant program, directly to women operators across town who are struggling to keep their businesses afloat.”
The organization is launching with a festival in Los Angeles running January 21 to 30, including online conversations, classes, and experiences featuring culinary luminaries. The festival also includes dozens of special menus and dishes at local restaurants available to order for takeout.
Over 100 local restaurants are participating in the event. Chef Ria Barbosa of Petite Peso has scaled down the traditional Filipino Kamayan meal to a two-serving version for the stay-at-home era. XELAS owner Corissa Hernandez has assembled takeout packs of beers from local women craft brewers. Laverne Smith, the “Queen of Oxtails” and owner of Little Belize in Inglewood, is offering a special edition of her signature dish.
One of the key themes of the festival is collaborations between women restaurant owners, chefs, and beverage experts who work for different local businesses. Highlights include June Kasama of OTUS Thai Kitchen teaming up with Jill Bernheimer of DomaineLA for a natural wine-pairing menu, Chef Nyesha Arrington cooking hoppin’ john alongside Roni Cleveland of Post & Beam, and a three-course dinner combining the talents of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feinger of Socoalo, Sandra Cordero of Gasolina Cafe, and Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections.