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Hospitality & Entertainment

‘Perfect storm’ leads to rise of female restaurateurs

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Recession was occasion for them to ‘take control’

By Kathy Canavan

What triggered the explosion of new woman-owned restaurants in Delaware? It was a perfect-storm situation, according to Carrie Leishman, president of the Delaware Restaurant Association.

• When 2008 dished up a recession, Delaware found itself with a large pool of talented unemployed and underemployed entrepreneurial workers. “It was an opportunity for women to take control and take a leap of faith and start their own businesses,” Leishman said.

• Alternative lenders like Kabbage and Swift Capital were willing to put the pieces together for more would-be restaurateurs when traditional lending sources tightened up.  “During the recession, you saw a downturn in lending. Restaurants are hard to lend to. What you saw in the market was the rise of alternative lenders,” she said.

• During the downturn, lower-priced leases became available. “Let’s face it, if the economy is way in the tank, real estate people looking to bring in business offer more opportunities,” Leishman said.

“It’s like the perfect storm,” she said. “Some of it springs from the recession — maybe women have lost their positions and they’ve always wanted to own a restaurant. I think women are realizing the industry is flexible. They sort of put two and two together and say, ‘Now, it’s time to open a restaurant.’”

Leishman had no figures, but she said there’s a huge trend toward healthy, quick-serve restaurants millennials favor in Delaware.

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