Women are changing the restaurant world, and DoorDash is on a mission to support as many women restaurateurs and business owners as possible with resources, opportunities like increased in-app visibility and access to marketing promotions, and education.
This Women’s History Month, we are excited to share stories from successful women entrepreneurs in Canada, and highlight their advice for aspiring business owners.
Inspirational women restaurant owners in Calgary, Vancouver, and beyond
Fay Bruney opened Simply Irie in Calgary in late 2013 after deciding she was done with the limitations of the corporate world. She took her love of food and her business skills and built Simply Irie — and today, she’s proud to lead by example. “The more women know it’s possible, the more will try,” she said. “Despite all the challenges we have faced through the years, we are in our 10th year. We feel we are a Calgary staple now, and we are very proud of that.”
The more women know it’s possible, the more will try.
Over in Vancouver, Jackie Avery has been running The Burrow with her co-owner, Aiyana Kane, since 2009. She initially felt nervous about leading a large team as a woman, but realized that it actually helped her create a great leadership style.
Aiyana and I were easily able to create a family-like culture at the restaurant that has brought the best out of ourselves and our employees. So many staff over the years have told us how much they appreciate working for us and that they found a place of belonging and lasting friendships at The Burrow.
Christine Allen, of Halifax’s Brawta Jamaican Jerk Joint, said she’s proud to still be in business through serious COVID-era challenges. She started out selling her food at home, along with her two daughters, because she saw a need for great Jamaican food in Halifax. Then, the team sold at a farmer’s market stand, and eventually grew to a brick and mortar, opening in 2019. Despite the incredibly difficult years ahead, they made it through. “We are still here because of God’s grace, cutting personal spending, loyal customers, good staff, and family support,” she said.
Overcoming the challenges of restaurant ownership in 2023
Foxies Bakeshop in Toronto is run by Carly and Jessica, who are sisters and business partners inspired by a love of art, baking, and the desire to build something amazing together.
They shared that one of their biggest challenges as a new business is dealing with wild inflation and ingredient costs. Their brick-and-mortar is only eight months old, and each month has brought financial changes: “The hardest is the increased pricing of our ingredients, they shared. “Every time we purchase from our supplier, there’s an increase week to week. It’s crazy.”
Jackie Avery, of The Burrow in Vancouver, also said the restaurant industry is still not out of the woods. “Inflation, labour shortages, and supply chain issues are a constant worry. The Burrow has not bounced back to pre-pandemic sales, and my sense is that the restaurant industry is in a state of emergency right now,” she said.
When asked about the challenges of being a woman restaurant owner, Christine from Brawta was able to bring several to mind. “Access to finances, discrimination, and the stereotype of men being better chefs still exists,” she listed.
“Why do you think there aren’t more women starting their own restaurants?” she continued. “It’s daunting to start a business without seeing successful role models. Access to financing is a turn-off, and the long hours and stress of running the restaurant can be a deterrent.” But she and the Brawta Jamaican Jerk Joint team continue to feed and grow their community.
Fay from Simply Irie faced challenges above and beyond what she expected, as last summer her restaurant dealt with a break-in and a string of thefts. “As much as I love the shift in our culture to move towards being more in tune with some of the difficulties minorities face in our world, it sort of put a target on our back,” said Fay. “We are a Black female-owned business right in the hub of the city’s downtown core. As tough as I am, I can’t pretend it doesn’t get to me. Overcoming it is something I’m still working on.”
However, through it all, the Calgary community showed up in support of Simply Irie. “We are a safe zone for everyone, and I think that’s why the city rallied around us during our attacks last summer.”
There’s no limit to what women can do
Christine from Brawta shared the following advice to burgeoning woman restaurateurs: “Find support, plan for the long term, watch your spending, keep positive, and rest and rejuvenate,” she said. Her whole business was deeply inspired by the women who raised her, and she hopes to do the same for other restaurateurs. “My mother, aunt, and grandmothers passed on a legacy of cooking good food from barely nothing and sharing with others,” she said.
Find support, plan for the long term, watch your spending, keep positive, and rest and rejuvenate.
Foxies Bakeshop is also inspired by a powerhouse mom — “She ran her own business with her sister for 30 years,” said Carly and Jessica.
Follow your dreams because if you don't take the risk, you'll never know how far you can go.
Fay from Simply Irie opened her business after her kids had grown up and left the house. She said “Don’t be afraid to try and fail. It’s never too late to start,” and hopes that other women will do the same.
Jackie Avery shared that despite the fact that women are still often overlooked by much of the food media world, she and her partner Aiyana are working on advocating for themselves. “Figuring out how to have a louder voice, better brand visibility, and more influence is one of our greatest challenges and learnings right now.“
Being underestimated and facing a lack of support has long been a reality for women restaurant owners. But by bringing an excellent product to the table, and standing strong behind a great business, anyone can work towards their dreams. Fay said, “I think people expect me to be a bit softer as a business owner. I can come off pretty strong, because that’s exactly what I am. I don’t apologize for that.”
The right tools can make a difference
These four restaurants have moved mountains over the past three years, and continue to do so with the help of the right tools. Jackie mentioned that The Burrow team brought on DoorDash at the beginning of the pandemic while dealing with public health restrictions. “Without the online delivery, we would not have survived the pandemic,” she said.
Christine from Brawta mentioned that DoorDash was able to connect the business with new hungry diners. “It provided more customer access,” she said.
And Fay shared that “DoorDash empowers the restaurant, which is a nice change of pace.”
At DoorDash, we’re proud to empower women entrepreneurs. Stay tuned and subscribe to the Merchant Blog for more inspirational stories from the DoorDash community and ways to support women-owned businesses in Canada.