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Change Is Hard

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By Laura D’Alessandro February 2019 Blog

The past year has been a powerful one for women and minorities in the restaurant business, and it all started with two small words: Me, too. The phrase was coined by a black woman, Tarana Burke—a survivor of sexual assault—in 2006 as a way to help women and girls of color who also survived sexual violence. In 2017, Hollywood took these words to Twitter, where the movement took off like wildfire.

#MeToo quickly spread from Hollywood to other industries, and the restaurant industry was not far behind. Because of these two little words we’ve seen the fall of some of the industry’s once-greats, along with the revealing stories of an industry with deeply rooted cultural problems: harassment, bullying, and a lack of safe spaces to get help or protection.

But a little over two years after those two words became a social media movement, it seems like a new mantra has taken hold: The times, they are a’changin. In the restaurant industry, new policies and procedures, and even new leaders, have been put in place to drive the industry toward a new future. Many of these new leaders are women.

In some of the highest-profile harassment cases in the restaurant business, women have risen to the occasion to pick up the pieces.

When Mario Batali’s restaurant group, previously owned together with Joe Bastianich and Lidia Bastianich, officially severed ties with him, chef Nancy Silverton, the Bastianich family, and other existing investors bought Batali’s shares. Silverton and Lidia Bastianich took leadership roles and responsibilities in the restaurant group with properties in several states and countries.

Similarly, when John Besh’s restaurant group reorganized, renaming itself BRG Hospitality, a woman was chosen as CEO. No high-profile chef stepped in this time. Instead, it was a woman who had started in the restaurant group as a server, worked her way up through management training, put in time to mentor other women in the company, and as an operations manager was just starting to grow a family of her own. Find out how Shannon White balances her life as a 33-year-old CEO on Page 57.

The stories in this issue serve to show what hard work is being done to pave the way for a kinder, safer environment in restaurants that at the same time solves some of the industry’s biggest business challenges like employee turnover and retention. As the industry begins to build a strong foundation toward a future of inclusion, FSR will be here to highlight those doing the hard work.