Great Taste, Great Stories: Exploring Women-Led Restaurants In Canada

What does it take to run a restaurant as a woman in a male-dominated industry? We sat down with women chefs and business owners to share their stories and inspire others.

9 min read
Ana Gonzales and Hondina Silva, Co-owners of OMG Cafe and Tapas in Toronto.

Across Canada’s entrepreneurial landscape, women-led businesses continue to make a splash, bringing new flavours to new places and sharing unique dishes with the community. 

As part of Women's History Month and our yearly “Stories from Women Restaurateurs” series, we’re shining a light on women-owned restaurants across Canada, and sharing their advice for aspiring business owners. And this year, we’re excited to announce a new program — Made By Women — offering grants to Canadian women restaurateurs.

What percentage of restaurants in Canada are owned by women?

Despite growing numbers in past years, women restaurateurs are still relatively rare. 

According to the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH), only 18% of businesses in Canada are majority-owned by women, and only 12.5% of restaurants in Canada are currently owned by women. 

"Many women entrepreneurs, particularly those with intersectional backgrounds, have less access to the social networks needed to participate fully in innovation ecosystems, and programs focusing on developing mentoring, networking and sponsorship. There is still much work to be done to level the playing field." 

WEKH, The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship, 2023

This underscores the need for greater representation and support for women in the culinary industry – and makes these popular women-owned establishments worth even more celebration. 

How DoorDash empowers women entrepreneurs in Canada

In an ongoing effort to promote and highlight diverse entrepreneurs and restaurateurs, DoorDash has launched Made By Women, a new branch of our Entrepreneurship & Access program. Made By Women celebrates the heart and soul that women in the restaurant industry bring to the table and lays a foundation for aspiring women chefs and entrepreneurs to build successful businesses. 

Women restaurateurs that are part of the Made By Women program get:

  • Additional marketing and visibility opportunities to reach more customers

  • Access to funding and grant opportunities for women-owned businesses

  • Exclusive partnership opportunities with organizations dedicated to empowering women in business

Meet the women bringing new life to Canada’s restaurants 

Introducing the Made By Women Grant Program

We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Made By Women Grant program from DoorDash and Monday Girl. Through this new program launching March 1, we’ll be opening up access to $10,000 grants for 15 Canadian women-owned restaurants. Interested candidates can check out the Monday Girl website for eligibility and application requirements. And you don’t have to be an existing DoorDash partner to apply for the grant! 

Reminder: Get your application in by April 15, 2024 to be considered.

Want to hear the stories behind some of the remarkable women-owned restaurants making waves in the dining space in Canada? Check out some highlights from our interviews with the owners of Arthur’s Nosh Bar, Flavours, SugarKane, and OMG Cafe. 

Canada’s women chefs and restaurateurs share their stories

Raegan Steinberg, Co-owner of Arthur’s Nosh Bar, Montreal

For Raegan Steinberg, co-owner of Arthur's Nosh Bar, her start in restaurant ownership began with plans of starting a catering company. Only after renting the perfect space in Saint-Henri, Montreal, Québec, did she realize the full potential of the location. 

Arthur's Nosh Bar

Today, Arthur’s Nosh Bar – named as a tribute for her late father – is a must-try for brunch enthusiasts in the Montreal area. “It really just naturally evolved. And over time we've had organic growth; we used to have 20 seats, now we have 55. We've expanded our kitchen. And we've grown over the years within the space and community.” 

Arthur's Nosh Bar food

Her advice for up-and-coming female restaurateurs? Never be afraid to take risks. “I think something I wish I had known starting out in the industry was my value, and that it's okay not to know something. You're in a learning process. And I wish that I had taken the time to explore all my avenues, work with chefs in France, go to New York, take all those risks.” 

“There's like a whole world out there. And every little bit that you experience is going to change who you are as a chef, and it's going to change the plates that you're going to eventually create and put out.”

Arthur's Nosh Bar Raegan
Raegan Steinberg

“I've been so fortunate to work with a lot of amazing young women in the kitchen. I want to lead them with kindness and positive encouragement, because I don't think I always got that when I was young, and coming up in the world. And I think we can only be as amazing as our team.”

Raegan Steinberg, Co-owner, Arthur's Nosh Bar

Adebola Esan, Chef and Owner of Flavours, Calgary

Chef and restaurant owner Adebola Esan describes her Calgary establishment as “a place where flavour ignites your palate with delicious meals all the way from Africa.”

For Adebola, Flavours is more than just a thriving business – it’s an opportunity to offer the local African community a taste of home, and give the community as a whole the opportunity to try Nigerian cuisine. 

Adebola Flavours owner in kitchen

Of course, getting the word out to the community – particularly to Calgary residents who are not so familiar with Nigerian cuisine – has been a challenge. She explains: “It’s a little bit difficult for people to know that this is a food that they can come and eat and also enjoy. Like  the food they've grown up with.”

Thankfully, DoorDash has been able to assist. “[Our exposure] has grown because people were able to order the food and try it at home.” 

Adebola recommends that female restaurateurs just starting out get a mentor to help them navigate the challenges of running their own establishment. “But first and foremost,” she says, “just put your mind there and enjoy what you do. Once you enjoy it, you can grow on it, enjoy it, and put your heart in it. And then tomorrow will tell.”

Flavours food
Adebola Esan

“I love to cook. It’s a passion. I was cooking out of a kitchen at the Abbeydale Community Center and it was getting busier and growing. I told my husband, ‘I think it’s high time we go find a place where Canadians or non Nigerians can enjoy the meals we grew up with.’ We found this place, we’ve been here 10 years and people are getting to know us.”

Adebola Esan, Chef and Owner, Flavours

Nicky, Renée, and Donna Charles, Owners of SugarKane, Toronto

In the heart of Greektown in Toronto, Canada, sisters Nicky, Renée, and Donna Charles have built an escape to the tropics. 

“We want [guests] to feel that…they're on vacation. That same feeling like ‘Oh, I remember when we were in Jamaica, or I remember when we were in Trinidad’. It brings back memories and a feeling of comfort because we're all about comfort food.” 

SugarKane food

SugarKane – a Caribbean fusion restaurant with a dash of Cajun influence – is the culmination of years of love and tradition. 

“I want people to know that it's from family, it's family recipes. It's recipes passed down from our parents, from our grandparents, from cousins and uncles and aunts. When you come here, it's family recipes.”

SugarKane owners

For Nicky, Renée, and Donna, having a good support system has been invaluable. “It's always good to have somebody there to kind of back you up and to help you or even just to be a lending ear to help you get there, trust people a little bit and lean on,” Nicky explains. 

And of course, a little extra exposure doesn’t hurt either. “I think a lot of people tasted our food for the first time by ordering through DoorDash. And, then they've tasted it, they liked it. And then they decided to come in, and they still order through DoorDash as well.”

Donna Charles

“We have a lot of women on staff and they’re very proud of how we’ve run the restaurant, how we own our business — they look up to us in regards to that. They know they can talk to us about anything.” 

Donna Charles, Co-owner, SugarKane

Ana Gonçalves and Hondina Silva, Co-owners of OMG Cafe and Tapas, Toronto

“We wanted to make a landmark for being Portuguese and Brazilian, great food, drinks and just a place to enjoy a good time or relax. Get the homesick feeling away.”

Hondina Silva OMG Cafe

For Ana Gonçalves, co-owner of OMG Cafe and Tapas, creating this home-away-from-home meant wearing a lot of different hats. “We are managers, we are cooks, we are baristas, we are servers. We are accountants, we are marketing persons”. She even attributes the look and feel of the restaurant – from the decor and design, to the layout of the space itself – to taking a hands-on approach to the experience. 

One of Ana and Hondina’s main goals with OMG Cafe was to create a comfortable space for all people in the neighbourhood. “We are a queer business, so we wanted to have a safe space for the community to just hang out.” 

Ana Gonzales and Hondina Silva, Co-owners of OMG Cafe and Tapas in Toronto.

“Being the third country I’m living in and starting a life again, the accomplishment of having my own business fills me with happiness and a sense of pride for sure,” Ana shared.

With everything on her plate, the ability to expand their marketing reach with DoorDash has been a huge growth differentiator for the business. “DoorDash is very important in those low periods of revenue. We can increase sales and reach more customers with delivery systems. DoorDash will [help] increase our sales by having our presence on [their] platform.” 

Ana Gonçalves

“When customers take our food home, we want you to experience the best food quality possible in the comfort of their own home where they feel relaxed and safe. And we take care and pride in how we package and prepare our things fresh to order every single time to have the ultimate experience of what a home meal should taste like.”

Ana Gonçalves, Co-owner, OMG Cafe and Tapas
OMG Cafe food

Diners in Canada love to place repeat orders from their favourite restaurants and support small businesses – so make sure your restaurant is on your community’s online ordering radar.

Resources helping level the playing field for underrepresented restaurant entrepreneurs

At DoorDash, we’re committed to helping businesses owned by women, immigrants, and people of colour succeed. 72% of consumers think about social consciousness and who is behind the business they’re buying from. We want to help surface this information and boost visibility for underrepresented businesses. 

For women-owned businesses (and immigrant-owned businesses, and black-owned businesses) that partner with DoorDash, they can choose to self-identify in the app, and get access to exclusive promotional opportunities. To sign up, visit our Entrepreneurship & Access page

Looking to level up your restaurant business operations and grow? Explore DoorDash for Merchants solutions.


Allison Van Duyne
Allison Van Duyne

Content Marketing, DoorDash

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