Randi Weinstein is getting shit done. The former director of events for Charleston Wine + Food, a popular annual food festival, Weinstein is familiar with the food industry and, particularly, the lack of women in the food industry. Her last gig was at an organization that gave scholarships to women who wanted to pursue careers in food. Now Weinstein is going one step further. Her newest project is FAB, a two-day educational conference hosted by women in the food industry, for women in the food industry. “I felt like since we were [in the business of giving women the means to get an education], the natural progression of that is to educate women in the industry about the true business of the hospitality industry,” she says, “whether you want to be a business owner or never want to have a business but want to have the knowledge to make yourself a valuable player wherever you want go.”
Weinstein has invited a group of speakers and presenters to FAB that includes chefs like Boston’s trailblazing and award-winning Barbara Lynch; Brooklyn’s popular Missy Robbins (Lilia); and Nashville’s noteworthy Maneet Chauhan (Chauhan Ale & Masala House). Restaurateurs like LA-based Marie Petulla and Charleston’s Karalee Fallert will host panels as well.
But opening a restaurant involves more than finding a space and cooking some food. Weinstein has invited a wide range of experts to present, including lawyers who specialize in labor and real estate law; technology wonks like VP of Technology and Processes at Union Square Hospitality Group Maureen Cushing; food stylists; and retail product developers who know how to take a family’s favorite recipe and turn it into a consumer good.
On the other side of things, the conference will also feature women in food media, including Dana Cowin (formerly of Food & Wine and current creative director of the magazine’s restaurant concept, Chef’s Club); Kat Kinsman of ExtraCrispy.com; and Eater’s own Editor-in-Chief Amanda Kludt.
There are two sessions: FAB 101, the basic course, outlines everything from drafting a business plan to hiring a diverse array of candidates to dealing with food waste to expansion. FAB 202, which is tailored more to the already-operating businessperson, will get into topics like media outreach, labor laws, and mentorship.
The conference is positioned as a female positive environment; its website reads: “Fab is about connecting, sharing and learning about the business of food and beverage. It’s about moving forward, standing up for yourself, being brave, baller and badass.” Something about the tone might suggest that it’s similar to another female-focused food conference that’s been around for a few years: the magazine Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee.
On that note Weinstein explains that there is a difference: “This is a two-day conference that is a curriculum,” Weinstein says. “It covers the pertinent topics starting with the financials of the business and then going into HR and branding. It's more of the unsexy things that it takes to sustain your business and open your business, and the knowledge that you need.” Like Cherry Bombe’s Jubilee, which takes place annually in NYC, FAB aims to give attendees a sense of empowerment. But it’s more educational than it is simply inspirational.
“It's really a group of women that are in the trenches, and... the content of it is really different [from what else it out there] but I think our messaging, whether it be from Cherry Bombe or Journee or Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is similarly empowering.” Weinstein believes FAB is just another opportunity for women to learn from each other — after all, as she noted over the phone, “knowledge is power.”
And, since each session at FAB is like a day-long university course in how to open a restaurant or keep a business relevant, the cost for each of the two sessions is comparable to a one-day course. FAB 101 will cost attendees $500 per person and include the opportunity to network over coffees or lunches with speakers and presenters. FAB 202 ($700 per person) has the same overall benefits as 101 but covers topics more applicable to owners of businesses that are up and running.
FAB takes place in Charleston, S.C. June 11 through 13. Tickets go on sale on January 16, 2017.