Elizabeth Meltz of Dig Inn and Erin Fairbanks of GROUT Consulting were frustrated and confused. It was late 2017 and it seemed like every day the hospitality and food and beverage industries were being rocked by new allegations of harassment.
“We were thinking, ‘What’s next?’” says restaurant industry veteran Fairbanks. “Reflecting on own our work histories, if there were things we wish we had done differently and thinking about what we would do now.”
The answers to those questions led them along with Liz Murray of Marlow Collective to create Women in Hospitality United: an organization seeking to revolutionize the industry for the better. At its core Women in Hospitality United is a place to build community by creating safe spaces to gather. Throughout the past year they’ve held informational talks with restaurant staff during family meals, but the women also aim to empower change and set new standards for equity, accountability, transparency and more within the industry.
“The organization was born from a specific time and events, but it’s not just about creating community and mentorship but about creating solutions that lead to higher levels of accountability and transparency,” says Fairbanks.
To accomplish this the organization is hosting its first Solution Sprint this coming Monday, September 24. Modeled after a hackathon, the organization created teams in advance to work on projects such as how to create a “set of novel, realistic approaches to sexual harrassment training,” or “an equity policy that outlines best practices in producing diverse and inclusive panels, conferences and summits” and more. Women in Hospitality United solicited applications for those who wanted to participate in one of the teams, of which there will be five, and also those who had an idea for an issue to tackle in August.
About 40 people will participate in the Solution Sprint, which Murray, Fairbanks and Meltz describe as a day of putting to paper thoughts about specific issue areas, combined with lots of good energy and good food. At the end of the day each group will share what they worked on and next steps and follow it up with a reception at the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg that is open to the public.
“It’s an event but it’s really a tool that meets all the aspect of our mission,” Fairbanks says.
The Solution Sprint is designed to be a tool that can be replicated not only across the country but also in specific silos of the industry such as people in the wine space, or folks in food procurement.
At the end of any Solution Sprint, “sprinters” will be sent back out into the world with the resources to create change from within their companies.