The women at WAR for Australian hospitality

Anna Pavoni is co-owner of Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman.
Anna Pavoni is co-owner of Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman. Photo: James Brickwood

COMMENT

Balancing family and work life in hospitality is a crazy juggle. It's an industry with unforgiving hours and, unless you have a child, you pretty much have no idea about the unrelenting pressure and guilt you receive from all sides of life.

Daycare is ridiculously expensive. Colleagues get frustrated when you dash out to collect the kids. You're never performing well enough at work, at home or at being a parent. I believe this also applies to women in any industry.

Hospitality can also be a rewarding career path for any woman (or man). If you're passionate about the industry, if it's in your blood, there are millions of opportunities waiting for you.

I graduated university with a bachelor of business and now manage the office for Ormeggio Group and its Sydney venues Chiosco, Via Alta, Sotto Sopra and Ormeggio at The Spit, which I opened with my husband, Alessandro Pavoni, in 2009.

I look after marketing and accounts and all the other non-customer-facing aspects of a restaurant business that people forget exist. Majoring in accounts and management ended up being perfect for the job I have now. But there are many things that have helped Alessandro and myself maintain a successful business and family life balance.

We learn from each other. We support each other. We cheer each other on.

To name a few:

1. Hard. Work.

2. The acceptance that we might be ships passing in the night for most of the week.

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3. Owning the business. This means more flexible hours and an opportunity to work from home when the kids go to sleep (if they ever do).

4. Employing staff for roles that require specific skills, such as wine service. Don't be scared of hiring people who are better than you – learn from them!

5. Family support, whether that's having grandma available to babysit occasionally, or a husband who does the morning daycare drop so I can get to work early and smash my things out. Or vice versa, with me looking after the kids in the evening so Alessandro can do his chef thing.

6. Control of the numbers. It's easy to push back everything on the to-do list because you're tired, or the kids are sick, or the inbox is overflowing, but the cash flow needs to be controlled daily. Chase up suppliers when they get a price wrong; question the bank if your fees go up.

A year ago I started a very informal, very unofficial group called Council of W.A.R. (Women and Restaurants). There's about 10 of us on the invitation list and we meet every few weeks to have lunch and talk shop about pressing issues such as work visas and to share advice.

We learn from each other. We support each other. We cheer each other on.

On the back of our informal council, I became involved with WOHO (Women in Hospitality), the official not-for-profit association fostering development of women in all facets of the industry.

At a recent WOHO dinner, only 10 per cent of the women in attendance were from restaurants. We had people specialising in everything from terrine making to web development. There are many sideways moves in hospitality. This is something I am passionate about advocating. Our industry needs to keep its talent!

We are in a moment of change right now where the girls are saying "F--- it, we're here too!" I'm organising the first Convention of W.A.R. to be held in June. The invitation-only two-day convention is solely for women restaurateurs. If you're interested in becoming involved, please email me. We want to know who you are. We all have our strengths so let's build on them together.

Anna Pavoni is a restaurateur and co-owner of The Ormeggio Group and can be reached at anna@ormeggio.com.au. For details about WOHO, visit womeninhospitality.org.