“It’s like I predicted the future,” Randi Weinstein says with a light laugh. Has there ever been a better time for a workshop created by women, for women in the hospitality industry?
Weinstein wasn’t sure at first, until she picked up the phone and called 50 objective bystanders. “Nobody said I was crazy, and I was like, ‘Shit, should I call 50 more until somebody tells me I’m crazy?’”
For the former director of events of the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, the decision to create FAB, a two-day educational program aimed at women in foodservice, has been met with overwhelming fervor. In fact, she’s had to keep scaling back the agenda.
“My biggest problem was that I had more speakers than I had slots for, which I was like, ‘OK, I’ll bring 20 people. OK I’ll bring 23. OK I’ll bring 25. It was a good problem to have.”
FAB, which is set for June 11—13 at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, is unlike anything else out there, she says. While there are other female empowerment conferences, including Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee, which is built around food, there hasn’t been something this “totally unsexy” before. And Weinstein says that with the utmost affection.
This workshop is really about what it’s like to walk the coals in the restaurant industry as a woman. The programming is centered on education and the gritty details of the business, from real estate law to food waste to media outreach, technology, and more.
It’s split into two tracks: Fab 101 and Fab 202. The first is for women currently working in the hospitality industry who might be interested in owning their own business, and also for those who simply want to learn how to standout from the pack. Topics will cover hiring, writing business plans, and other foundational skills critical to getting started and keeping the doors open.
Fab 202 focuses on women who “find themselves as a business owner in a mostly male dominated industry,” according to the website. The content covers issues affecting business as well as tracking future trends. This is where themes like mentorship, labor laws, and some of the next-level tools will be discussed.
“What’s unbelievable is that all of the speakers are super pumped,” she says. “Mostly people get really excited to travel to other areas just to be part of some type of camaraderie of a food festival. But this is different because they’re part of this movement to be able to instill their knowledge and what it takes for other women to see them mature and grow and spread their wings.”
And the difference will be clear, Weinstein says, from the outset. “You’re getting a group of women who aren’t typically used to sitting down, sitting there for two whole days, listening to stuff that they’re going to walk away and be like, ‘Oh shit, I never really thought about that.’”
Weinstein says, in general, women in the industry get stuck in a corner and are left with little room to grow. She hopes FAB can cover a spectrum of topics to arm women with the confidence and know-how to branch out and dominate with confidence.
“I think a lot of people just rely on their one skill that they posses,” she says. “And then all of sudden it’s this voice in them, or other voices speaking to them, saying you should do this or you should do that. You’d be great at this or you’d be great at that. And all of sudden it starts becoming a reality. But they don’t know the first thing, whether it’s investors, whether it’s looking at real estate, whether it’s looking at PNL statements. Looking at labor laws, HR. And the cost of these things. We’re going to fix that.”
That isn’t to say this conference won’t be entertaining. The speaker lineup is stellar. Here it is:
- Alice Cheng, founder and CEO of Culinary Agents.
- Amanda Kludt, editor in chief of Eater
- Angie Mosier, food writer, stylist, and photographer
- Barbara Lynch, chef/owner of Barbara Lynch Gruppo
- Camilla Marcus, co-founder TechTable
- Carolyn Richmond, partner Fox Rothschild LLP
- Carrie Morey, founder of Callie’s Biscuits and Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit
- Dana Cowin, journalist (former editor in chief of Food & Wine)
- Jenny Badman, copy director/writer, Blue Ion
- Elizabeth Meltz, director of environmental health, Batali and Bastianich Hospitality Group
- Helen Johannesen, partner in Helen’s Wines and Jon & Vinny’s, beverage director for Animal, Son of a Gun, Trois Mec, Petit Trois, and Kismet
- Jennifer Cole, writer/editor
- Jen Hidinger, co-founder of Staplehouse Restaurant in Atlanta
- Kat Kinsman, author, senior food and drinks editor, Extra Crispy
- Karalee Fallert, founding partner and co-owner in Charleston
- Maneet Chauhan, chef and owner of Morph Hospitality Group
- Marie Petulla, owner, Union Restaurant and Knead and Co. Pasta Bar + Market
- Maureen Cushing, vice president of technology and processes, USHG
- Missy Robbins, owner and head chef, Lilia
- Molly Cherry, attorney, Nexsen Pruet, LLC
- Nancy Cushman, founder/creator Cushman Concepts
- Nancy Selzer, managing partner, Tarry Lodge in Port Chester
- Pam Lewy, Mario Batali, LLC
- Rosanne Martino, national coordinator, ROC United’s Colors Restaurants
- Sam Appel, director of community and programming, Journee
- Sarah Abell, executive vice president/partner, Baltz and Company
- Sarah Robbins, Chief Hospitality Officer, 21C Museum Hotels
- Susan Spikes, executive vice president of operations, Hill Country Barbecue Market, Hill Country Chicken, and Hill Country Live
- Tara Berman, founder, managing partner, TaraPaige Group
Weinstein also imagines end-of-day stretches and yoga to shake out the day’s cobwebs. And then there will be a cocktail hour followed by intimate dinners where attendees can sign up to dine with one of the featured guests.
So yes, you can share wine with Barbara Lynch at the Charleston Grill if you like. The prices change based on the dinner you choose. There will also be curated salons, introspection, and conversations with panels of industry leaders.
Weinstein says she knows this year will be a bit of test run.
“The first time is always that learning curve,” she says. “Kind of what I did was I didn’t let people pick and choose the topics they would sit in on, So when you’re buying a ticket to the 101 or 202 you’re buying it for the full ride. I didn’t want people to sit there and say, ‘Oh my gosh, should I choose between business or should I choose between HR?’ I just felt that it was all so important that it would be hard to utilize those same speakers and then branch them out.”