With women typically making up 65% of respondents in hospitality company surveys and as more women are hired as non-executives within the industry, it’s imperative that male investors and business leads appreciate and understand the behaviour of female customers and colleagues writes Ann Elliott in a piece that was originally published in Propel to mark International Women’s Week 2021.
International Women’s Day prompted me to consider the role of women in our sector – not only within our businesses but within our customer bases.
I have worked with numerous food-led hospitality companies that have been surprised when we have conducted analysis of their databases, at the high percentage of females in there. A figure of 65% isn’t too unusual. That’s sometimes blamed on what the client perceives as the propensity of women to want to complete surveys versus the perceived lack of enthusiasm of men to do the same. So any brand insight from these databases is often questioned because the client thinks the results will be female-biased and that’s just not how they see their brand.
Then the brand analysis often progresses to who (ie. which sex) suggests going out in the first place and who proposes the location (and then goes on to make the booking). Client expectation often is that these figures will be more balanced in terms of male/female but, most of the time, this is simply not the case. Generally, women suggest going out for something to eat, decide where to go and go ahead and book it. They do this on behalf of their friends and their family. Some work I have done on delivery and click and collect suggests the role of women in these routes to market is very similar to their role in choosing when and where to eat out.
Mentally, women who are choosing where to go on behalf of their male family or friends often do consider if their chosen destination will suit them, particularly from a food and drink perspective. If they think it does then job done and they book. Of course this isn’t always the case and men do choose and book dining occasions but, more often than not, this is down to women.
This can often be a surprise to senior management teams but actually when they look at what happens in their own family and friendship groups, they realise these findings just reflect the reality of their own lives.
The most important point in this is to remember most women do things differently to (not better than) men. They think, organise and socialise in a different way, and to build a brand that appeals to them, it is critical to understand these differences. Everything has to be seen from their perspective. Every step of the customer journey has to appeal and work for them.
And, of course, not all women are the same nor are their motivations for eating out. A woman earning £26,000 with a family and working full time will not necessarily approach eating out in the same way as a 55-year-old retired woman who has never worked. There are nuances.
It does mean a 55-year-old male leading a team of investors in, or indeed running, a food-led business, has to be able to appreciate and understand the behaviour of his female customers because they are so critical to his business’s success. Their own personal views on portion size, pricing, wine lists, music, etc. patently have to be listened to but only if they reflect what they understand about their target market rather than reflecting their own beliefs.
This female bias has huge impact on everything to do with a brand, from site choice through to the number of peas on a plate.
It stands to reason that men have to be prepared to accept they need to know more about the role of women in their brand’s performance and they have to be open-minded enough to accept challenge to their own beliefs. They have to take time to listen to the women in their business.
That pre-supposes they have enough women in their business in key roles in the first place. It is really heartening to see more and more women appointed as non-executives within our sector. It’s great news. I would like to see more women in investment and board teams with real executive power and strength – in roles men have to listen to and respect.
I really shouldn’t, in this day and age, be presenting analysis and insight on the behaviour of female customers to largely male audiences. I choose to challenge this scenario and hope it changes sooner rather than later.
Ann Elliott is a Senior Director and Adviser at Fleet Street Communications.