“In both customer and
[women] are capable of
handling situations more
delicately while still getting
the point across without
Cofounder of the Gerber Group
Bailey’s Cafe (far left and top left) and Peabody’s Sports Bar & Grille in Saratoga Springs, N. Y., are owned by
36-year-old Stephanie Richardson; the 30,000-square-foot sports bar S TATS in Atlanta (above) is managed by
Shireen Herrington, 38; and 29-year-old Niccole Trzaska (bottom left) brings a touch of style as she manages
New York City’s Stone Rose venue for the Gerber Group.
would want for them. It gives me empathy
when I consider [that] everyone I employ
is someone’s kid.”
To show her appreciation for jobs well
done, Richardson takes her staff to the
Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade
Show in Las Vegas, all expenses covered,
and offers monthly staff incentives for
those delivering high sales.
While Richardson has sought out higher
education through her bachelor’s and
master’s degrees, the industry does hold
appeal for many women who view it as
a place where they can learn and grow
on the job. “The Gerber Group is family
owned and operated so it’s close knit,”
offers Trzaska. “You learn from the best
operating managers. The only education
I have ever had was in-the-field knowledge. As a mixologist and a manager,
this job has offered me the opportunity to
go to distilleries to see how the product
is made and learn from the people who
That on-the-job training is invaluable.
Although Alissa Conte holds a degree in
hospitality and management, “I definitely
think it’s an industry that doesn’t require
a degree,” says the 34-year-old restaurant
general manager of Tao in Las Vegas.
“Especially now, moving into the GM position and dealing with certain situations,
I realize I didn’t learn to handle those
[scenarios] in school.”
Under the same roof as Tao restaurant
is the famed 10,000-square-foot nightclub,
and Tao Beach brings the magic outdoors.
Tao is the highest-grossing food-and-bever-age operation in the U.S., with an estimated $67 million in revenue in 2008, and
it ranks first on the 2009 Nightclub & Bar
“People who haven’t gone to university
can excel in this industry,” she continues.
“I would love to be a director of operations
for multiple restaurants some day. Here at
Tao I am constantly challenging myself, and
I know that the skills I would need to run
multiple venues I could learn right here.”
Not Always Easy
Thirty-eight-year-old Shireen Herrington
has been a manager at STATS sports bar in
Atlanta since it opened in November 2007.
While the sports bar arena is still a bit of a
final frontier for young women in operations, Herrington is proving that a feminine
touch works wonders in the world of high-contact, competitive sports.
“Knowing I would have a predominantly
male clientele, I initially thought people
would have a lower respect level for me as
a female, but I think it has put me ahead.
When guests get a bit rowdy, having a
female come to the table seems to calm
things down a bit,” she says.
But dealing with problems is only half
the battle for Herrington, who came into
the position knowing very little about
sports. The venue occupies 30,000 square
feet and can seat more than 1,000. To keep
up with what games to play when and
who’s who on the VIP list, Herrington does
“I started going to sports bars, reading
the sports page every day, going online to
visit travel sites off the beaten path and
networking with other sports professionals.
And we have a good relationship with the
Hawks and Braves teams here in Atlanta,”
she says. “I knew a lot about the major
sports, but to really see the difference in
the teams and the players and the coaches
and to have that face recognition when
they come in, it’s been a challenge. But it’s
a challenge I think any prepared woman
She’s faced it well, and her management
of the business and the guests is apparently earning points with both: STATS cleared
$5.3 million in total sales last year.
While women are making their mark
as owners and operators, these ladies
still face a few more challenges than their
“Certainly in Vegas there is a sex angle
to partying. You can’t be a big feminist
here in this industry. At the end of the day,
we have to hire some people that have a
certain look. We are talking about [hiring]
people — men and women — based on
their looks. You can’t get offended, and I
don’t,” Conte says.
Trzaska says some old-school sentiments still exist all over the country, but
they can be overcome.
“I think we are still a bit of a rare breed
as far as immediate respect levels are
concerned,” Trzaska says of women in
top management and ownership positions. “People come up and say, ‘Where
is the manager? I want to talk to him.’
Sometimes it’s a little hard for people to
be approached by me when they have a
complaint. Some people don’t take me
seriously until I speak to them. But I think
graciousness helps. I pay a little extra
attention to compensate for predisposed
opinions people may have.” NCB