Viewpoint: We need to clear the path for female role models in hospitality

06 January 2017 by
Viewpoint: We need to clear the path for female role models in hospitality

With a background in branding, then film production, Tabun Kitchen founder Hanan Kattan learnt valuable lessons for her new role as a restaurateur

I opened Tabun Kitchen, serving Jerusalem-inspired Palestinian food in London's Soho in September, coming from a background in branding that started with my own haircare range. Against massive odds, I got that launched and sold through Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury's in a world dominated by conglomerates. After that I moved into feature film production, a world where fewer than 6% of producers are women. I focused on female-led stories in an industry that didn't think those stories were financially viable, which taught me several lessons that I've brought with me into my new role as restaurateur:

1 Think like an entrepreneur. Have a unique vision and think it through. Know your intended market and be able to articulate verbally and financially why your offering is what that market needs and wants. If you are building a brand, you need to know why this brand will succeed and how because for a long time, you may be the only one who believes in it.

2 Learn to be financially literate. Being a restaurateur is an expensive enterprise. You will need to raise money, manage expenses and cash flow. There is a language that bankers, investors and financial directors speak and it is essential to learn that language if you want to expand beyond a small, single site brand.

3 Network and learn. Women can often be over-sensitive about not wanting to trouble peers who are doing well. Those successful restaurateurs are your role models and learning from their early mistakes or advice can save years of pain.

4 Learn new skills. When I started in film, I started at the top - as a producer. My first film was a massive learning curve and very painful at times, but the learning is essential to growth. It's been the same with Tabun Kitchen, and because I dived straight into ownership, I spent nearly two years studying the market, talking to people with more experience than me, and building a business plan. And still I was overwhelmed by how much I needed to know.

I love learning and growing and I love hospitality - so the growing pains with Tabun Kitchen are all worth it when I see the restaurant packed with appreciative guests. But as a Palestinian woman I often had to find my own path in a world where there were few role models. I do feel as if things are slowly changing in the hospitality industry, but we can all help the process and expand the way restaurateurs are defined in the future.

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