Powerful Partnerships

New P.O.W.E.R. Palates marketing campaign highlights women in hospitality
Illustration by Tony Healey
Jennifer Gibson Schecter was once a tourist in New Orleans herself and is now proud to call NOLA home. She also writes the Wednesday Tourism Blog on BizNewOrleans.com.

New Orleans has been home to some powerful women in the restaurant industry. The recent passing of Leah Chase, and just over one year before that, the passing of Ella Brennan, have matriarchs on my mind. But both of those trailblazing women ran restaurants with names that evoke men in an industry led overwhelmingly by men.

This month, a new marketing campaign has launched to bring a spotlight to the women working in the New Orleans metro-region restaurant industry. P.O.W.E.R. Palates is a campaign by Fidelity Bank that builds on its P.O.W.E.R. Program, or the “Potential of Women Entrepreneurs Realized.”

Liz Broekman, director of P.O.W.E.R., says that Fidelity recognized a need in the community to support women in business and female entrepreneurs and created the program to provide financial and networking tools to those businesswomen. She adds that the program also gives participants a platform for their voice.

P.O.W.E.R. Palates focuses on women in the restaurant business and has been designed to showcase them. The 26 participating restaurants (as of mid-June) have each nominated a woman from their organization who will be part of a social media campaign and possibly featured in a traditional media campaign as well. Telling their stories is designed to bolster their businesses and continue the conversation about female representation in hospitality.

At the 2016 Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference in Los Angeles, Jodie McLean, CEO of Edens, provided data that show women make up more than 50 percent of culinary school graduates and 59 percent of food prep workers. Yet, according to Eater.com, women hold only 21 percent of head chef roles nationwide.

The National Restaurant Association reported in 2018 that there are 9,533 eating and drinking locations in Louisiana, and state restaurant sales are estimated to hit $10.3 billion. Restaurant and foodservice jobs make up 11 percent of employment in Louisiana in 2019, equaling 213,400 jobs. With job growth in the sector projected to grow 7 percent by 2029, it is vital that we look for wage and opportunity parity for those working the sector.

P.O.W.E.R. Palates will highlight women in restaurants, but it is much more than an awareness campaign. Each of the participating restaurants are donating profits to the Louisiana Hospitality Foundation, some via promoted cocktails or menu items, and some through direct monetary contributions.

The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation is a nonprofit organization that provides direct support to individuals working in the hospitality industry. One of its programs gives crisis grants of up to $2,500 for qualified applicants faced with an emergency out of their control, such as a medical emergency or house fire. The funds can be used for temporary mortgage or rent assistance, payment of medical-related bills, payment of utility bills and funeral service assistance. In a field like hospitality, where so many employees are working without health insurance or paid leave, programs such as this are indispensable. To support workforce development, the foundation also provides grants to organizations for culinary and hospitality education and jobs programs.

Broekman says the success of P.O.W.E.R. Palates will be measured by the amount of money raised for Louisiana Hospitality Foundation as well as by the public engagement represented in the number of people who sign up to enter a sweepstakes through which one lucky winner will receive over $1,400 in gift cards to the restaurants that are participating in the campaign, most of which are a minimum of $50. Interested parties can register online and those numbers, as well as those who engage on social media with the hashtag #POWERPalates, will give Broekman a sense of the campaign’s impact.

P.O.W.E.R. Palates is meant to highlight all women, regardless of their role in the restaurant.

“Maybe they aren’t the restaurant owner or the head chef, but maybe they are the general manager or bartender,” says Broekman, “and we can highlight and acknowledge them and their importance to the industry that is so critical to our region.”

To learn more about the campaign and to register for the sweepstakes, visit powerpalates.com.

At the time of press, the participating restaurants and bars include: Bar Frances, Briquette, Claret, Commander’s Palace, Copper Vine, Hippie Kitchen, Mam Momma’s House of Cornbread, Chicken & Waffles, New Orleans Creole Cookery, Pizza Domenica, Ruby Slipper Café, Second Line Brewing, Seven Three Distilling, Slim Goodies, Victory and Whiskey & Sticks.