International Women's Day 2022 - sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro

The talented women operating hospitality sites

By The Morning Advertiser

- Last updated on GMT

Inspirational: the women leading operations in the pub sector
Inspirational: the women leading operations in the pub sector

Related tags: Gastropub, Freehouse, Pubco + head office, Multi-site pub operators, Tenanted + leased

Female talent is flourishing when it comes to operators of hospitality businesses. Here are some of the best in the sector with their thoughts on the importance of women’s contributions and how they would like to see further progression to celebrate International Women’s Day.

Peroni Nastro Azzuro hosting a first-of-its kind pub quiz to celebrate International Women's Day. 

For one night only, Peroni Nastro Azzurro will host a first-of-its kind pub quiz in celebration of International Women’s Day on Tuesday 8 March.

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Hosted by former Strictly Come Dancing star AJ Odudu, The International Women’s Day Pub Quiz will provide guests with a fun and inclusive environment to celebrate women’s empowerment.  In partnership with Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the event will take place at the Flowerhouse Pub, Marylebone from 5.30pm where guests can enjoy complimentary refreshing Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Peroni Nastro Azzurro 0.0% and aperitivo. Odudu will quiz guests on their womanly knowledge, with rounds covering feminism, pop-culture and beauty.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro marketing manager, Anja Gottschalk said: “Peroni Nastro Azzurro is delighted to be launching an inclusive pub quiz at the Flowerhouse Pub.”
Launched by Jo Jackson, previously chief creative officer at Made.com, the Flowerhouse Pub is on a mission to empower women in the hospitality industry. The unashamedly feminine interiors have been curated through working with women-led building contractors, designers and gardeners.

The pub’s aim is to give women from all backgrounds and ages a step up onto the hospitality ladder through apprenticeships and training schemes.

Tickets cost £10 and are available here

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Karen Errington, co-owner/manager at the Rat Inn, Hexham, Northumberland

karen.errington
Credit: Craig Connor/ChronicleLive

Time in the trade:​ 30 years-plus

Best advice received: ​You can’t be all things to all people, you need to set your stall out, decide on your product or market and be confident in your vision whatever that might be. Also, one of the first and invaluable tips ever given to me as a first time front of house person right at the start; never leave the kitchen without something in your hands and never return empty handed either!

Advice given: ​Choose where you work very carefully-learn as much as you can and think very carefully before embarking on self-employment. Be committed, but not blinkered - remember in this industry you are always learning, the last couple of years through Covid has highlighted this more than ever before - so stay true to your cause but adapt and move with the times.

Challenges faced: ​There is still a way to go before the issue of stereotypes within the industry is overcome. This is especially so in the way kitchens are portrayed in the media and on TV and although things are improving, we must ensure female representation across all sectors of our industry and food related culture in this country. Unless we keep pushing for female role models this industry will continue to be male dominated.

Have things changed for women since you started your career in the sector?​ I would say there are far more women represented in traditionally male dominated roles such as chefs, particularly head chefs running kitchen teams. There is still an under-representation of females in the industry but it's getting better. 

When I started out it would have taken a certain type of woman to deal with the hierarchy and gender bias in most kitchens, and the laddish culture. But, what was acceptable back then is no longer so, so increasingly more girls are being encouraged into the trade as a positive result of more visible female role models on TV and in the media.

What barriers are there to still overcome and how would you suggest this is tackled? ​The unsocial hours and work/life balance is a huge problem. Factoring a family into the equation can be impossible at times. 

The biggest barrier we must overcome is the way food is valued in this country (especially with the current rising global food costs)- until people are willing to understand and to pay the correct price for food that is put on our plate in a professional food service environment, workers within the industry will never achieve the work/life balance that is crucial to attracting young people both men and women into the industry as a career choice.

How can the sector #BreakTheBias? ​By continuing to shine a light on the many high achieving women within the industry, and by striving for more equality and inclusivity within the workplace. 

Charlie Garnham, gastropub owner and marketing director, the Five Bells, Devon

RESIZED Charlie at Five Bells

Time in the trade:​ 4 years as owner

Best advice received?​ Just do things your way, not how other pubs are doing things. Be unique, and stand in your strength.

Advice given?​ Be a decent person and treat everyone you work with always with respect and decency. A metaphorical pat on the back and a smile every day goes a long way to making staff feel welcome and happy in their place of work.

Challenges faced?​ Occasionally, I meet people who think that I couldn’t really be the owner and that it must be a family business that I have somehow been absorbed into. In this industry, married couples often become landlords just before retirement. So buying the pub at 33 with my 38-year-old husband was an unusual move.

A lot of customers assume that just because (husband) James runs front of house that it’s his business. Marketing, PR and business development is very much a behind-the-scenes job so I don’t get recognition often, nor do I need to because it’s my job to put Charlotte (Vincent, head chef) and James at the forefront of the business.

Have things changed for women since you started your career in the sector?​ The notion of whether a woman can own a business is already in people’s heads. Usually those businesses are often ones that can be adapted around childcare and family life - it’s not often you see women my age running a successful pub.

I think the main issue women face in this industry is that it’s hard to raise a family at the same time. However, several of our female staff, including our Assistant Manager, have young children and we are proud as employers to offer them the flexibility to be able to work and have quality child care.

What barriers are there to still overcome and how would you suggest this is tackled? ​The stigma that the industry has long, unsociable hours with few breaks is definitely a barrier to getting more women to join, and ultimately stay. Some staff join our team without knowing what the job entails physically; they perceive hospitality as just delivering food to a customer so they get a shock when it’s much more than that.

As a woman, no matter the emotional and family demands you may be under, you have to put on your game face every day and strive to deliver excellent service to the customers.

How can the sector #BreakTheBias? ​By offering more flexible working hours and better shift patterns. With our new assistant manager, Sarah, she knows what shifts she’s working each week so that she can then organise consistent childcare. She left her last role because she was constantly being asked to cover shifts - we have promised that we will only ask her to consider covering a shift once per month.

This kind of individualism is needed in this industry because not every employee is the same, and therefore they can’t all be treated the same.

Zoe Eliasson, director/front-of-house manager the Boot at Sarratt

RESIZEDzoe.eliasson

Time in the trade:​ 22 years, owner for 12 years

Best advice received:​ Don't get a pub! But that wouldn't have been any fun! I am lucky enough to receive so much support from family and emotional support from friends – it really is a life. Guests are very willing to give advice every single day on running my business and I have always gone with the attitude of saying "thank you, great idea" and smiling a lot.

Advice given:​ Don't get a pub?! One of my main objectives is to inspire others. The hospitality industry is not thought of as a life long career which is such a shame. Yes the hours can be long and unsociable, but as long as I treat my staff with the respect they deserve and always show I am happy to do any job no matter how unglamorous it may be, then it works both ways.

I work as a team leader as opposed to a 'boss' orchestrating. There is no better feeling than an extremely busy day which looks like total chaos but being in absolute control.

Challenges faced:​ Too many to mention. The Boot is a 17th century building which still thrown surprises at us even after all this time. I hadn't even owned a house let alone a haunted pub! Having to learn to manage a large team at the age of just 26. Being trained by my uncle in the art of accountancy software when I didn't have a clue what it meant or why it was there.

Project managing a kitchen build and restaurant extension whilst never even considering closing for half a day. Deciding whether I could physically and mentally cope with having a baby with a further 14 years left on my lease.

Keeping a calm and genuine smile on my face every single day no matter what broke down, what world pandemic was thrown at us and when guests verbally abused me because their crumble was too hot. Working alongside and being responsible for chefs in a very male-dominated industry (the cheffing world), which often attracts a different breed of person.

Have things changed for women since you started your career in the sector?​ I don't think things have changed for women at all. A 'landlady' still has a certain stigma attached to it. The image of a professional, neat, and hard working young woman doesn't immediately spring to mind. But I wouldn't work in any other industry and one of the best things about my career is that every day really is totally different.

How can the sector #BreakTheBias?​ Raising awareness such as this #BreakTheBias . Having a support network within the industry. I have always dreamed of starting a consultancy business once my lease is up to help support people whose shoes I was in back in 2010. But leaving my much loved pub restaurant may not be that easy!

Maria Patrinos, general manager of Butcombe Pubs & Inns’ The Langford Inn in Somerset

RESIZED MAria Patrinos GM of Butcombe pub

Time in the trade:​ 18 years. Started working in a kitchen as a dishwasher.

Best advice received:​ Be the boss you wish you had.

Advice given:​ Be fearless with your aspirations. Go above and beyond in your approach to your work and you will achieve those goals.

Challenges faced:​ In my early days in management, I suffered from imposter syndrome as a woman managing a predominantly male team. I felt like I needed to work far harder to prove myself under increased scrutiny and I would often change my behaviour to make my staff feel more comfortable having a young female manager.

Looking back, I see this as a symptom of my insecurity at being a woman in a position of authority. Over the years since, and with support from Butcombe, I have learnt to be far more comfortable in my own skin and have made a point of creating safe work environments where others do too.

Have things changed for women since you started your career in the sector?​ The gender gap in the highest positions of management in our industry is still a big one. However, every year I see more great female leaders progressing so my hope is that one day soon, this gap will no longer exist.

Kitchens teams are also still extremely male dominated but there are more and more incredible female chefs emerging and inspiring others to follow suit. Our Head of Food at Liberation Group, Alice Bowyer is an inspiration to the female chefs across our pubs and is the perfect example of what can be achieved.

Female role models are exactly what the industry needs. I would also say that the ‘lad culture’ often experienced both in kitchens and front of house in hospitality businesses, has hugely improved and sexist ‘banter’ is not as readily accepted as it was a decade ago. The industry feels more accessible to women every year.

What barriers are there to still overcome and how would you suggest this is tackled?​ I would like to see more women in the very highest positions of company structures. All too often this is not the case. I am very lucky to have an incredible woman as my manager and mentor which is something of a novelty for me as I have almost exclusively been managed by men through my career to date. Having a female boss should no longer be a novelty but the norm.

Women must be encouraged to speak out when the culture they work in doesn’t function for them so we can seek to change this instead of losing them. Industry leaders must focus on challenging stereotypes and progressing women into those higher positions. This in turn will make the industry more attractive to the next wave of female candidates as hospitality becomes an industry that women believe they can succeed in. That trickle-down effect will in time, help to reduce the gender gap in hospitality.

How can the sector #BreakTheBias?​ For too long excessive and unsociable working hours have been a badge of honour in our industry. This has been an inherent part of the hospitality culture and is, in part, why women are being ostracised out of the top spots. These hours are not conducive to a healthy work life balance and raising a family.

Having recently become a first-time mum myself, the need for flexible work has become apparent. Being a parent and being a great hospitality manager have a lot of similarities. They are both all encompassing, extremely unpredictable and exhausting. The industry needs to focus on how to allow women to be both mothers and managers to prevent the loss of our next female leaders.  Great leadership is about delivering all we want to for our teams and the customer, in a way that means we don’t have to be present 24 hours a day. As training, apprenticeships and the digital capabilities of the sector improve, so does the capability of the people in our teams. 

Education is the main way we can break bias. To categorise people into groups is the way we all make sense of the world and it is a natural and unconscious human behaviour. The value we place on those groups however, is learned and can therefore be challenged. To shine a light on unconscious bias is the only way in which we can seek to change it.

Kate Hayden of the Snow Goose, Farnborough, and the Extraordinary Hare, West Hendred, Wantage

Kate.Hayden

For me International Women’s Day is all about celebrating being a woman. It’s something I do every day but it’s fantastic that it’s formally marked. I’ve been in the pub industry for 33 years and it’s been great for me, helping me feel empowered and giving me the encouragement to develop into a strong independent woman.

As a single mum, the industry gave me flexibility of working hours and live in accommodation and career-wise it enabled me to progress from a kitchen hand into an independent operator of two busy pubs. When I started out in 1988, pubs were male-dominated on both sides of the bar. Much has changed since then and attitudes to women are completely different, which I believe should also be a credit to many men too as so many encourage the move forward!

Now, in pubs like mine, the ambience is welcoming to women, and it’s a 50/50 split of male and female customers. The stereotypical ‘bar wench’ is long gone. People are employed for their personality - regardless of gender - and women bar staff are free to present themselves as who they are.

In my experience, derogatory and belittling language is no longer tolerated, there’s respect for women customers and staff alike and I’m treated as every bit the equal of men. Change takes time and there’s undoubtedly still work to be done, but looking back this International Women’s Day, I can see how far the pub sector has come in stamping out bias and I can feel the difference.

Vanda Pera, operator at the Crown Inn, Capel, Surrey

Vanda.Pera

Vanda Pera started managing pubs in 1990 as part of a couple. She and her husband parted ways and she took on her first pub in 1996.

Says Vanda: “The pub industry has changed enormously since the 1990s. It used to men in suits running it wanting couples behind the bar. It wasn’t a question of working side by side back then, women were consigned to the kitchen or working as barmaids. They were seen as the junior partner,  ‘the little woman’ in the relationship. 

“It was amazing when I got my first pub in my 20s as there were women in their 30s working as area managers. They were great role models and encouraging to women like myself who got on with all the juggling involved in running a pub. Now the old-fashioned attitudes have disappeared along with the old fashioned companies. You’ve got women in senior positions working as regional operations directors.

“The pub industry is fabulous. It's great if you're not confident as the bar is your stage. You can talk to people you don’t know because you have the bar between you. It's a wonderful feeling and very rewarding.

“I’ve always been a trainer manager, helping people, especially single young girls, to look at their career opportunities in hospitality. I have and continue to encourage women to have faith in themselves and have helped many progress in their career paths.

“International Women’s Day is fabulous - inspirational. Some people say why don’t we have International Men’s Day. My response is ‘Men’s day is every day, this day is all about us’. So let’s celebrate it. And what makes it even more special for me is that my first granddaughter was born on International Women’s Day. She’ll be one this year – a double celebration!”

The Morning Advertiser’s International Women’s Day coverage is sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro, which is an Asahi UK brand. Asahi UK is home to an exceptional portfolio of premium beer, ale and cider brands, including category leaders in the UK.

The range includes international brands Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the No.1 Super Premium lager in the UK with every drop brewed in Italy; Japan’s No.1 beer, Asahi Super Dry, and firm favourite for the UK, Grolsch.

A portfolio to be envied which also includes local heroes: Fuller’s London Pride, Meantime, Dark Star and Cornish Orchards. Asahi UK’s focus is on enriching experiences for our customers and consumers through innovation, unrivalled service and offering brands with undeniable quality and provenance. 

Asahi UK believes that every business has a responsibility to understand and act upon its environmental impact and we continuously work towards sharing more information with our suppliers, customers and consumers about both the footprint of our beers, and how we are working to reduce it.

Our place in the local community is highly valued and we strive to ensure that we are always making a positive contribution to the communities in and around our UK Breweries. For more information on Asahi UK and parent organisation, Asahi Europe International visit www.asahibeer.co.uk​.

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