Female Hospitality Leaders Shaping the Industry

Female hospitality leaders like the one shown pouring a cocktail are paving the way for others in the hospitality industry.

During March, we celebrate Women’s History Month and tell the stories of women from the past and present who are making important contributions in all aspects of business, politics and other areas. The hospitality industry is just one field where women are acting as leaders and working to shape the industry. That is why we are going to take a closer look at five hospitality leaders and the characteristics and skills that help them succeed. 

Today’s Top Female Hospitality Leaders

Photo by @drinksat6 on Instagram

Lynnette Marrero

Marrero has been active in the hospitality industry since 2005. She is perhaps best known for co-founding Speed Rack, which is a female-only speed bartending competition that has been credited with advancing the profession. Participants show off their best mixology skills in front of a panel of experts who eventually crown a winner.

Marrero also founded the New York chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. If that wasn’t enough, she has helped to raise over $500,000 for breast cancer charities.  

Photo by @foodordeath_ on Instagram

Ashleigh Shanti

At just 29 years old, Shanti has already established herself as a leader in the restaurant industry. At Benne on Eagle in Asheville, NC, she designed a menu that questions assumptions about what food should be while also celebrating her heritage as a southern black woman. For example, she made hummus from black-eyed peas and fermented benne seeds. 

While Shanti has stepped away from her role at Benne on Eagle, she is now working on creating a restaurant group and creating housing for the restaurant industry workforce in Asheville. Ultimately, she wants all workers to feel supported and empowered.

Photo by Amy C Evans, Southern Foodways Alliance

Joy Perrine

When Perrine first started bartending in Kentucky almost 50 years ago, there was a feeling that whiskey wasn’t an appropriate drink for women. In fact, women couldn’t sit at a bar let alone bartend in the state of Kentucky until the 1970s. That didn’t stop her from making drinks and eventually becoming the bar manager at both Equss Restaurant and Jack’s Lounge in Louisville. She won numerous awards including being named “Best Bartender in Louisville” and becoming the first female to be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Sadly, Joy Perrine lost her battle with cancer in March 2019 and passed away at the age of 73.  Her legacy lives on.

Photo by @crustaceanbh on Instagram

Helene An

An left Vietnam during the Vietnam war. When she landed in America, she decided to make Vietnamese food available to an American audience. In the 1980s, she opened Thanh Long in San Francisco and Crustacean, which has locations in both San Francisco and Beverly Hills. In 2019, Smithsonian named her the “mother of fusion cuisine” and she was honored with a Pioneer Award in Culinary Arts. Today, she is making waves again with Da Lat Rose, which features a gastrobiography tasting menu that has been designed to tell her life story through food.

Photo by @maneetchauhan on Instagram

Maneet Chauhan

Many will recognize Chauhan as a judge on “Chopped” and “Wedding Cake Championship.” She is also a founder and president of Morph Hospitality group in Nashville, Tennessee. This group includes her flagship restaurant Chauhan Ale & Masala House along with Tànsuo, The Mockingbird and Chaatable. She has successfully brought global flavors to Nashville and helped to create a more diverse culinary experience. 

Important Qualities of Hospitality Leaders

Not everyone is cut out to be a leader. It takes a special combination of qualities to be able to make tough decisions, inspire others to be their best and move forward even in the face of failure. Hospitality leaders have to balance interpersonal relationships among staff while also catering to the needs of customers. With that in mind, here are the six most important qualities for hospitality leaders as identified by industry experts:

  1. Empathy. Leadership isn’t about being in power. It is the ability to take responsibility for everyone on the team and understand their feelings and motivations. Practicing empathy builds stronger relationships with staff and customers.
  2. Resilience. It is important to be able to show courage, strength and professionalism, especially during trying times. The ability to adapt and move forward is key to leading others.
  3. Emotional engagement. Not only do hospitality leaders have to establish clear goals, but they also have to inspire others to work towards those goals while showing care and compassion. The team has to be inspired, focused and motivated to work together for a common vision.
  4. Strong intuition. A strong intuition can help provide a forward-thinking perspective so that leaders can make tough decisions without hesitation.
  5. Solid listening skills. Inevitably, hospitality leaders will run into emotionally charged situations. Oftentimes, these can be resolved simply by listening to the grievances of everyone involved and showing some basic understanding. A level-headed approach can diffuse a variety of conflicts.
  6. Nurturing nature. Essentially, leaders need to take care of their team. That can come in the form of support, protection, encouragement, etc. 

How to Succeed in the Hospitality Industry

The female hospitality leaders mentioned above have been able to achieve success and thrive by developing some key skills.

  1. Teamwork. A bar or restaurant is a well-oiled machine that relies on everyone being able to work together and communicate effectively so that food is correctly prepared and on schedule. Everyone from the kitchen manager to the front-of-house staff has to do their part to create a high-quality and consistent customer experience.
  2. Flexibility. Working in the hospitality industry involves long shifts and holiday work. You have to be flexible enough to take on shifts when the restaurant needs the most help.
  3. Multi-tasking. Every day will present different challenges. It is important to be able to fill in gaps when needed and multi-task as business ebbs and flows.
  4. Attention to detail. Developing attention to detail will come in handy in practically any industry. It is especially important in restaurants in order to establish a standard of quality and ensure customer satisfaction.
  5. Industry awareness. It never hurts to stay on top of industry news and trends. While it is easy to pick up knowledge on the job, it is always a good idea to continue researching and learning off the clock. 

The hospitality industry is demanding and requires a large skill set. This is especially true for those who want to take on leadership roles. The women mentioned above, and many more, have successfully developed unique culinary and mixology skills while also inspiring others. They are true leaders and poised to continue to contribute to the industry and help cultivate future leaders.  


Who are the key players in the hospitality industry?

Some notable female leaders include Ashleigh Shanti, Lynnette Marrero, Joy Perrine, Helene An and Maneet Chauhan.

What are the qualities of successful hospitality leaders?

Successful hospitality leaders need to show empathy, practice good listening, be resilient, demonstrate emotional engagement and be nurturing.

What are your top 5 skills in hospitality?

The top 5 skills that will lead to success in the hospitality industry are teamwork, attention to detail, flexibility, multi-tasking and industry awareness. 

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