Kicking Sass: Sharon Van Meter, Dunia Borgia, Nancy Nichols,Carrie Kelleher,and Lisa Perini at TRA Marketplacce. (photography by Ron Rugless and courtesy of Nation's Restaurant News.)

Report From TRA Marketplace 2015 in Dallas: Panel Discussion on Women in the Restaurant Business

Yesterday I moderated a panel discussion at the Texas Restaurant Association’s annual Marketplace at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Photography courtesy of Ron Ruggles and Nation’s Restaurant News.

Yesterday I moderated a panel discussion at the Texas Restaurant Association’s annual Marketplace at the Kay Bailey Hutchison  Convention Center. The two-day program packed with over 600 manufacturers and suppliers, attendees, and educational seminars, is the second largest foodservice trade show in the U.S.

My tiny slice of this ginormous pie was consisted of discussing the topic “Cutting Through the Glass Ceiling,” a look at, in broad (no pun intended) terms, the paths women take through what is still a male-dominated industry.

The talent on my team, all with scars on their heads for busting through aforementioned ceiling, consisted of Lisa Perini (co-owner of Perini Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap), chef Sharon Van Meter (3015 Trinity Groves), chef Dunia Borga (La Duni Concepts, La Duni Baking Studio), and Carrie Kelleher (owner of Coffee House Café).

Our talking points came from a survey I wrote a few weeks ago and distributed to local women in the food and hospitality industry. I managed to secure a good cross section of women in various positions. I heard from chefs, owners, managers, accountants, servers, vendors, bar staff, and publishing. We engaged the audience in an hour-long, spirited discussion. Our panel represented several generational insights (young, older, oldest) and Borgia who spoke to what it was like to be a woman from Bogata, Columbia who moved to the States and achieved success. Borgia said it took her a few years to convince her father that she actually owned the kitchen she where she baked.

The ubiquitous Ron Ruggles of Nation’s Restaurant News was on hand. Not only did he photograph the panel, he transcribed the entire conversation. He wrote this recap for Nation’s Restaurant News. He’s dang efficient. I’d hire him even though he is a boy. (That is a joke.)

I’d like to thank the Texas Restaurant Association for the opportunity to speak frankly about this important issue. I’d also like to thank the men and women in the audience who joined in and added unique perspectives. Lastly, I thank Lisa Perini, Sharon Van Meter, Dunia Borgia, and Carrie Kelleher for their vision. These woman are smart, witty, tough, and dedicated to making the restaurant industry a better workplace for women.

Here are the survey and talking points of yesterday’s panel.

1. Do you feel highest-earning positions in the industry are dominated by men?

Yes: 89.7                          No: 10%

2. Do you feel there is a high level of sexual harassment are high?

Yes: 64%                        No: 20.5%           No Opinion: 15.3%

3. If you have children: Do you feel men with kids are valued higher than women with kids?

Yes: 35.9%                     No:28.2%             No Opinion: 35.9

4. Over your career, do you feel you have been paid less than a man in the same position?

Yes: 66.7%                     No: 33.3%

5. Do you feel vendors have tried to charge you a different price or a product because of your gender?

Yes: 23%                        No: 46%               No Opinion:  30.7%

6. Do you feel there is more of a “gender tax” in the restaurant business compared to other large industries?

Yes:  35%                       No:  46.2%           No Opinion: 18%

One respondent to the survey stated: “Five out of five officers of the TRA are men. And they support five out of five male politicians. What is to be made of this?

Lisa Perini, who was president of the TRA two years ago said, “Because women are smart enough to say no. The unpaid position is grueling on your time.”

We still welcome your thoughts, observations, and questions.






Our SideDish newsletter features Dallas’s newest dining spots, scrumptious recipes from local restaurants, and news on breweries, cocktail hours and more.

Find It

Search our directories for...









View All

View All