Chicago Restaurants

Women Restaurant Owners Join Forces to Navigate COVID-19 Pandemic

The collaboration turned into a nationwide women's movement designed to support each other through the pandemic

NBC Universal, Inc.

The coronavirus pandemic has been a real struggle for restaurant owners, but a Chicago woman came up with an idea that is spreading rapidly throughout the industry. 

Rohini Dey, owner of Vermillion, closed down for remodeling right before the pandemic shut down many restaurants. After relaunching in July, she still had questions.

“I really didn’t know how to cope with the whole health issue of it, the morality of it," Dey said.

She reached out to some of her fellow female restaurant entrepreneurs, and, to her surprise, “the response was magical.”

That’s how Let’s Talk Womxn was born.

The collaboration started with 15 Chicago area restauranteurs. As word spread about the mission of helping each other navigate through the pandemic, Dey said more than 350 women in 12 cities joined the effort.

“Everyone was dying for connection, everybody was just wanting so much to be connected to each other, to hear each other’s stories and not be so isolated," Deann Bayless, CEO and co-owner of Frontera Hospitality Group and Let’s Talk member, said.

“I joined, then came up with a few ideas, and I see it happen. It makes me feel very fulfilled, like, 'oh my gosh, they actually listened to what I just said,'” said Mary Aragoni, owner of Saigon Sisters.

Let’s Talk is celebrating the momentum with an event called Dine Together & Let’s Talk.  

On March 8, which is International Women’s Day, they are offering a collaborative multi-restaurant dining take-out experience, featuring food from participating Let’s Talk members.

“Imagine experiencing eight courses of the best of Chicago women restauranteurs with some cocktails thrown in -- at your doorstep,” said Dey. “It’s not just about the food or the menu. It’s about elevating the conversation about what its’ going to take to change the equation, and what better way to do that than International Women’s Day.”

Reservations for the event must be made by March 4.

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