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Grit & Grace


Let’s Talk Womxn is not for “ladies who lunch”. It’s a powerful and growing movement for women restaurant owners and entrepreneurs who are demanding change and taking back their economic power. The first Canadian chapter just opened in Toronto, and they’re looking for new members.

Let’s Talk Womxn (LTW), founded by Chicago restaurateur Rohini Dey, Ph.D., is a pivotal, action-based movement addressing unique challenges faced by women in the restaurant industry, including marginalization and lack of economic power. Now in 15 cities in the U.S. and now Canada, LTW fosters collaboration among women restaurateurs and entrepreneurs. It aims to amplify their visibility and scale in an industry traditionally dominated by male counterparts, promoting empowerment through shared knowledge, innovation, and collective action.

Rohini Dey owns Vermilion restaurant in Chicago. During the lows of the pandemic, a period that highlighted the vulnerability of independent, women-led restaurants, she developed and launched LTW. Dey’s vision was to create a network for these women to collaborate, share resources, and support each other, transforming them from isolated entrepreneurs into a powerful, unified force. This initiative rapidly expanded to include hundreds of women across America, organized into local, city-based “chapters” that mirror the goals of the movement.

This summer, LTW launched its first Canadian chapter in Toronto. Led by city co-hosts Angela Lawrence of Gusto 54, Jacqueline Nicosia of ARDO and DOVA, Kate Taylor Martin of Nutbar, and Nicki Laborie of Reyna Hospitality, the movement is open and ready to welcome like-minded women hospitality entrepreneurs in the greater Toronto area.

The story of how the movement made its way to Canada is a testament to Rohini Dey’s personality and drive, Nicki Laborie recalls. “Last June, Rohini reached out to me – I think mostly because my restaurant’s name is “Reyna”, which means “queen”, and so very much fits the LTW brand and vibe. My personal goal is to empower women through my restaurant and, wherever I take the Reyna brand, be it restaurants or hotels, I want to empower women in hospitality. On the call, Rohini told me, “You know, we opened in 14 cities, and this is exactly why we did it.” We talked for over an hour – her energy is intoxicating.”

Rohini wasn’t very familiar with the Toronto market, so Nicki suggested the names of three other women owners she was familiar with to come on as chapter co-hosts. “I brought each of them to the table for different reasons,” Nicki shares. “I have huge admiration for Angela; she has helped me many times when I’ve hit roadblocks. Her experience in marketing, business development and management are so valuable. I worked with Kate at Assembly Chef’s Hall (now Chef ‘s Halls), and I have watched her journey – I’m so impressed with her. She’s got her niche market and she’s putting out great product and a unique, multi-location health food store/restaurant concept. I’ve known Jacqueline and Roberto for over 12 years, and I just love their food, so I brought Jacqueline to the table.”

One of LTW’s core goals is to improve the visibility of women owners in the industry. Rohini sent Nicki a list provided to her by Sysco, the LTW Toronto Chapter’s launch partner. She was astonished to see that the list had 132 names. “I was floored to see so many women owners – I think maybe 20 of us are known,” Nicki recalls. “This was just another reason it was so enticing to me to help bring this to Toronto and to Canada because there are a lot of women in the industry, and it’s a hard industry.”

At the end of 2022, Nicki opened Reyna New York in Union Square. “I can’t even explain to you how hard the year was,” she shares. “Being a female alone in this industry can be brutal. Having to still struggle with misogyny and landlords who can’t even look you in the eye because you’re a woman… When women get together, which isn’t very often because we’re always in our restaurants, we talk about our problems. Let’s Talk Womxn gets us together online once a month. It’s completely candid and not recorded. No employees are allowed; it is strictly owners talking about their challenges with other owners who offer solutions based on experiences they’ve had – things they’ve tried that were successful, and others that failed.”

Nicki had never attended an LTW session prior to coming on as co-host. Rohini led the first Toronto session and Nicki helmed the second. The third was a national session with representation from chapters across the U.S. “I found it really helpful to hear other owners’ stories from different cities and the obstacles they’d come up against. It makes you think about what you would have done differently.
 I love the concept because there’s no hierarchy. It’s almost like a bunch of friends sitting at a table talking about their problems.”

The Toronto chapter is growing and seeking new women restaurant owners and entrepreneurs to join the group. Each session has a focus topic, called a “Deep Dive” centred on a shared challenge or issue in the industry. The December session was about succeeding in difficult times. “This is a place where you can grow and learn; we’re not looking for your money,” Nicki emphasizes. “Having a place to talk about the things we’re all going through makes a huge difference. I have made time for this because I’ve struggled this year, and I’ve encountered difficult relationships with men in business. I really do feel women are more candid with other women, and that you can be honest and say what you’re thinking and feeling without being judged. You’re not alone.”

Let’s Talk Womxn is an organization that makes no demands of its members other than their time and perspective. “You can come to the table and just listen, if you just want to learn,” Nicki says. “It really is a supportive, open space for women to help each other grow. There are big changes happening in the world of women in business, especially in the hospitality industry. It’s time to see some superstars out of Canada.”

For more information on Let’s Talk Womxn or to inquire about joining the movement, visit: or

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