LOR aim to empower women working in a male-dominated industry
In 2016, Natalia Ribbe, Libby Andrews and Grace Welch, all working within London’s hospitality industry, founded Ladies of Restaurants (LOR). The aim of the collective was to provide an opportunity for women who work in all aspects of hospitality to meet other women for support and advice - over a glass of wine, of course.
The group now has more than 500 members from all areas including front of house, kitchen, marketing, PR and beverage service. After hosting a successful Hub talk at this year’s Northern Restaurant and Bar Show, the trio have begun to make plans to expand across the UK, starting with a LOR networking event at Hatch on September 5th.
Confidential spoke to one of LOR’s co-founders, Natalia Ribbe, to find out a little more:
LOR is not set up to take down the patriarchy, it is set up to cheer on the matriarchy
What is Ladies of Restaurants all about?
NR: “LOR was set up initially by me and two friends, out of our selfish desire to want to connect with other women of the industry and to feel a little less alone. Maybe to vent and to have a little bitch, but also to look at ways in which we can support each other; whether that would be passing on different contacts, to help those looking for a new job, or to offer some kind of mentorship to each other.
“That evolved from a casual meet up at the pub to a more structured environment, because we realised that the audience was a lot wider than we’d anticipated and that we could really do something that could have a long-term effect for the industry and for women over all.
"So we set up networking events for between 50-100 women, each centred on a specific topic. We always make sure we put on a good spread of food and drink, because we think it’s important for people of the hospitality industry to be fed and watered – we are often the ones who forget about ourselves. Events are ticketed, but we keep them very low cost but to make sure we can cover or own costs."
Are LOR events mainly about networking?
NR: “We recently introduced in-training sessions, as a way for women in hospitality to further their education in specific areas. We’ve covered wine and coffee so far, but we have sessions coming up in marketing and PR, as well as a property talk about the best way to secure a restaurant site and put together your media pack to answer any questions you might be asked if you’re opening your first restaurant.”
So now you’re planning to roll LOR out across the UK.
NR: “It’s always been in London so far, because that’s where we are based. Having a strong core audience there has allowed us to gather an audience outside London. Now we have a decent following on our social media and also on our closed Facebook group of people outside London.
"When we came up to Manchester in March to speak at NRB, without doing too much shouting about it, we had a really great turnout at our hub talk. We had about thirty women there who asked us to come up again because they believed it was something that would help, so I was really keen to arrange something as quick as possible.”
LOR has made her confident enough to actually leave a position where she was being mistreated
Can any woman working in hospitality in Manchester come along?
NR: “Everyone is welcome, whether you work in hotels, whether you’re a KP (kitchen porter), front of house, back of house, accounting...any aspect of the industry. We are all a team and our main goal is to create that synergy with all women who work in hospitality.
“We’re kicking off with this party next Wednesday at Hatch. We had 50 of the 60 RSVPs go in the first day, which speaks volumes about what women want. It’s a tone of voice, like being part of a union, but less serious.”
What can people expect from the Manchester event?
NR – “I wanted it to be an opportunity to meet as many women as possible, as well as a networking event for the ladies of Manchester. I’ll be making a brief speech to encourage women to speak to me and say what they would benefit from. Although the model we’ve been working on is great, and the training and panel sessions have gone well, that might not necessarily be what Manchester needs, so it’s a chance for us to really hear what Manchester wants from LOR so we can deliver that.”
Have you had many LOR success stories?
NR – “Definitely. A chef who did our Taste of London pop-up and a wine waiter who did one of our training events are now off doing something together. There have been friendships forged from every single event that we’ve done and we’ve had so many repeat guests come back. Also, opportunities for LOR have come out because of our talks. We were asked to come to the inaugural PX+ hospitality Festival this month because one of the ops girls had come to our panel talks and though we should be there.
“I got an email last Thursday from a chef, asking if we could arrange some mentorships, because LOR has made her confident enough to actually leave a position where she was being mistreated and find the right kitchen where she feels she belongs. So getting notes like that, one of two last week asking for mentorship advice, is the bread and butter of LOR.
"The whole premise is bringing people together to make them feel less alone and supporting each other and cheering each other on. Like I always say, LOR is not set up to take down the patriarchy, it is set up to cheer on the matriarchy.”
Gender titles can be a tricky issue. Have some people had problems with the word ‘ladies’?
NR: “I wanted it to be a tongue-in-cheek version of ‘ladies who lunch’ because it’s actually completely the opposite lifestyle for anyone who works in hospitality. There are no ladies who lunch in hospitality – unless it’s their day off, or unless they’re cooking or serving it. But yes, ‘ladies’ is a bit controversial and condescending and I definitely did that on purpose. Also, people refer to it now as LOR. I mean the word ‘ladies’ is so ridiculous – what does it even mean? How am I supposed to act if I’m a lady? There’s something playful about it, it’s not meant to be too serious.”