Female Restaurateurs Form RE:Her to Empower Women Entrepreneurs in LA
Los Angeles restaurateurs band together to support female-owned businesses.
In 2020, a pandemic shook America’s restaurant industry to its core. Banding together during the crisis, Regarding Her formed to support women restaurateurs in Los Angeles' hospitality industry.
Because of the pandemic's impact, restaurant owners had to reconsider their business models and strategies, adapting to fit the new demands and restrictions in place. Some transformed dine-in restaurants into markets and ramped up to-go options, while others created meal prep services to ride the tidal wave of the pandemic. Restaurateur and Chef Curtis Stone, for example, rebranded his meat-centric Hollywood restaurant, Gwen, to a butcher shop and takeaway market to pursue an influx of steady business despite the widespread closures.
One of the most intriguing and inspiring developments that came about amid the circumstances was the formation of the LA organization called Regarding Her (RE:Her). Evidently, "hardship brings people closer together if you share it," as UCLA’s basketball coach John Wooden once said. Re:Her is a "nonprofit devoted to the advancement and empowerment of women restaurateurs."
According to the organization’s mission statement, participants “strive to create opportunities for connection and success by way of programs that support, unite and uplift female food and beverage entrepreneurs in Los Angeles and beyond.” The group offers its members opportunities such as grants for women-owned culinary businesses, has industry-focused resources for education and networking, hosts virtual and physical events to promote women in food and beverage, and represents women restaurateurs in the industry.
“In fall 2020, nine women restaurant owners joined forces to support the female hospitality leaders of LA and drive business to women-owned restaurants in a time of need,” explains Heather Sperling, the co-owner of Botanica. “The response has been wonderful. The support, enthusiasm and engagement is incredible.”
The founding female restaurateurs all boast impressive backgrounds and business acumen. Sandra Cordero opened Gasolina Cafe in 2015 in Woodland Hills. The restaurant serves Spanish-influenced foods like patatas bravas and pan con tomate that honor her native roots from Spain. Heather Sperling, the co-owner of Botanica, a restaurant and market in Silver Lake, provides “nourishing hospitality” and aims to promote respect, equality, inclusivity and healthfulness in every aspect of her business.
Lien Ta is the co-owner of All Day Baby, a feel-good restaurant with the soul of a diner in Silver Lake, and Here’s Looking At You in Koreatown, which was named Restaurant of the Year by Food & Wine magazine in 2017. The additional founders include Sylvie Gabriele (Love & Salt), Bricia Lopez (Guelaguetza), Mary Sue Milliken (Border Grill, Socalo and BBQ Mexicana), Kimberly Prince (Hotville Chicken), Dina Samson (Rossoblu and Superfine Pizza), and Brittney Valles (Guerrilla Tacos).
On Jan. 21, the organization hosted its inaugural festival on the anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March. Almost 100 women-owned restaurants participated in the 10-day event, collaborating with other female chefs, offering themed menus and facilitating conversations among female leaders in the industry. Diners had the opportunity to win a gift bag by filling the festival passport with stamps and receipts from 10 participating restaurants.
With a tremendous response from the public, Re:Her has nearly 200 members today. “We're working hard to create more events and resources to support them!” Heather exclaims. Though the organization originated in LA, Heather points out that there has been a lot of interest from female restaurateurs outside of the area. “We hope to serve as a model for ways local restaurant communities can connect and mobilize [in their area]," she says. “In fact, female restaurateurs of San Luis Obispo County recently created a March festival inspired by RE:Her, called At Her Table."
Re:Her has set the stage for groundbreaking advancements for women in a male-dominant industry. Heather advises that donations help support the organization's small-business grant program, which is launching soon, saying: "We’ve got lots in the works — all intended to support LA’s women restaurateurs and encourage the public to eat their spectacular food."