Lessons from Emerging Female Leaders

These 10 female restaurant leaders are making waves and leaving lasting impacts at their respective organizations and beyond. From taking initiative to embracing data-driven insights, their stories and actions showcase wisdom in leadership, excellence, and the importance of serving others. Here’s what we’ve learned from these trailblazers who are shaping the future of the foodservice.

Image credits:Bar Louie

1. Take initiative

Lauren Lumbley, senior director of marketing for Dallas-based Brix Holdings’ brands—such as Friendly’s, Red Mango, Orange Lead, and Smoothie Factory—successfully spearheaded and implemented brand-specific marketing campaigns, such as “How Do You Orange Leaf” and “Treat Yourself Well” for Red Mango, and continues to drive innovation for the Friendly’s brand, which has almost 88 years of history. Under her leadership, Brix Holdings’ brands have experienced double-digit sales growth and new store openings.

Image credits:BRIX Holdings

2. Focus on excellence; demand respect

Ashley Moncada transitioned from her role as Chef de Cuisine of Michelin-starred Ariete in Coconut Grove—led by Chef Michael Beltran and Ariete Hospitality Group—to overseeing the entire kitchen at Brasserie Laurel as Executive Chef. She brings a sharp focus on excellence that positions French Brasserie Laurel as one of the finest new restaurants in Miami. “You have to have the right attitude and not be scared,” she says. “You have to demand respect.”

Image credits:Brasserie Laurel

3. Commit to serving others

Monica Johnson has earned a reputation for being an innovative leader by driving successful strategies for restaurants in operations, supply chain initiatives, development, and more. In her current role as director of supply chain at First Watch, she provides thoughtful solutions for vendor and distribution partners for the brand’s 2,500-product global portfolio. ​​Johnson’s dedication to doing good extends beyond her professional responsibilities, as she mentors high school students in the culinary arts program and actively participates in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshops. She also serves as a founding board member of the Foodservice Women’s Alliance, working towards equality and positive change within the industry. 

Image credits:First Watch Restaurants

4. Fight for a seat at the table

Dubbed “The Flavor Queen” on the Dr. Seuss Baking Challenge, Rebecca Reed has received numerous accolades such as Best Dish Award at the 2023 St. Augustine Food Festival. At 36 years old, Reed has fought for a seat at the industry’s table, showing others that being a present mother and accomplished professional is possible. She recently accepted the role of Executive Pastry Chef with Viva Hospitality and will oversee various pastry programs throughout the North Florida area. She continues to use her notoriety to build up the local community and mentor other chefs. 

Image credits:Viva Hospitality

5. Embrace data-driven insights

Brandy Blackwell arrived at Another Broken Egg in May 2022 with 16 years of restaurant marketing at her arsenal. In just six months, Blackwell was promoted from senior director of marketing to her current role, where she oversees all national and local store marketing strategies, as well as the NextGen Casual’s approach to F&B innovation. She helped reorganize Another Broken Egg’s marketing team and functionality and is known for her digital-forward touch and innate ability to understand guest behavior and embrace data-driven insights and emerging technologies. 

Image credits:Another Broken Egg Cafe

6. Invest in your people

As chief operating officer at Asheville, North Carolina-based Tupelo Honey, Caroline Skinner’s approach to leadership has held steady; her focus has always centered on consistently investing in people from the time they train to internal promotions to helping them through challenging times. She led the way on many of Tupelo Honey’s people-focused initiatives, from a Fair Start Wage plan that begins all positions at $15 per hour to “Honeypot,” which is a diverse array of benefits from medical and dental insurance to PTO, wellness, and tuition reimbursement. Also, Biscuits for a Cause, a program that diverts profits of the popular menu item to an employee relief fund. 

Image credits:Tupelo Honey

7. Engage with younger generations

As the director of brand at Polly’s Inc., Jacklyn Mitosinka oversees all marketing and brand-related details for Polly’s Pies, a full-service restaurant with 13 units across California. She’s played a pivotal role in modernizing the legacy brand’s marketing program, introducing it to younger generations through digital strategies like TikTok videos and brand crossover events. 

Image credits:Polly’s Inc.

8. Dream big

Launching the company’s first 401K program and implementing leadership development initiatives are just some of the ways Jessica Presnell has made an impact at Another Broken Egg Cafe as director and head of HR. She helped transition the brand through franchise acquisitions and new cafe openings that resulted in substantial employee growth. She’s also been a driving force behind streamlined workflows and recruitment processes, as well as improved onboarding experiences and enhanced performance management systems.

Image credits:Another Broken Egg Cafe

9. Stay connected

In many ways, 28-year-old Chanelle Noray is the perfect general manager. She has a fierce commitment to servitude that has not quit since she entered the restaurant industry in 2009. Noray joined Bar Louie in 2022 and has become a trusted boots-on-the-ground voice for the corporate team. Her guidance has led to successful campaigns and new training initiatives for GMs companywide. She continues to lead community events and was nominated for Bar Louie’s General Manager of the Year award. 

Image credits:Bar Louie

10. Be a source of inspiration

Adrienne Cole, cofounder of Louisville, Kentucky-based House of Marigold, aspires to be a source of inspiration for Black women in the industry, creating a platform that celebrates diversity and champions underrepresented voices. “In our industry, there’s not a ton of representation in regards of Black women in the forefront and in ownership and management, and so for me, it just felt like a natural opportunity to be a vessel for other Brown and Black and female people within the industry to have a space,” she says.

READ MORE: 20 Rising Restaurant Stars Under 40

Image credits:Josh Merideth
Leader Insights, NextGen Casual, Slideshow