To celebrate this International Women’s Day (and really, shouldn’t that simply be everyday?!), we’re profiling some incredible women in the lifestyle space. Meet Megan Buckley, COO of Hy’s of Canada. —Noa Nichol
What’s a day in the life like for you?
Communicating, all day long. I am constantly in touch with our locations either in person in Vancouver, or via phone or e-mail with the others. And I travel a fair amount, so I’m usually visiting other locations about a week out of every month. My job touches all areas of our operations, so no two days are the same. Could be menu planning, could be working with our Director of Marketing, could be training, could be reviewing results. Lucky for me I am very proud of and inspired by our teams, so spending time with our people is invigorating.
How does your brand empower women?
I’m proud that as somewhat traditional steakhouse brands, we have a dedicated female guest following. And in our ranks, we have 2 female GMs, 1 female AGM, at least 1 female dining room manager in every location, and a female Executive Chef…all pretty good odds for 6 restaurants.
What are the current challenges for women in your industry? How do you overcome them?
The restaurant business is still disproportionately male-dominated, and in my experience at least, whether consciously or unconsciously, many guests still assume that men are in charge. And I feel that may be more of a fine-dining phenomenon, which may relate to a bias that professional, business expertise is the male domain. Put a man and a woman at the door of a restaurant, and people will almost always address the man first, assuming he’s the boss. I think we need to actively encourage balance in assembling teams, not just gender balance but balance of age, experience, and point of view. Particularly in hospitality, I think we need to encourage women to pursue roles that challenge and engage their business acumen as well as their soft skills. And I think we need to encourage policy that allows parents to work in the restaurant field while still spending time with their kids.
How do you create a supportive environment for yourself and your team?
This is a very challenging business, in a very challenging business environment. The pace of change is relentless and can be overwhelming. I try to be available, and empathetic. Having done their jobs, I hope my insight and understanding resonates with what they are going through. And I try to retain a sense of humor, because a lot of what happens in restaurants can be ridiculous. It can be very lonely at the top, so I try to remind myself about perspective. This too shall pass.
Who has been your greatest influence/mentor in your life?
I tend to be quite self-motivated, always trying to grow in my experience, to learn from my mistakes , and to keep things in perspective and stay focused on the big picture.
What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing?
I am proud of conquering quite a few significant challenges, including launching 2 restaurant brands from scratch, navigating 4 and counting economic downturns, the Olympics, SARS, and a global pandemic, coming out stronger in every case. I am very proud of the mentorship I have provided to so many people over the years, and to see so much success among people who still work for us and people who have moved on to other operators or other careers. Nothing is better than connecting with someone I used to work with and hearing their fond memories of their work experience. And hearing about their success.