Q&A: Meredith Sandland's new job
The first edition of Women in Restaurant Tech, a new column.
This is the first installment of a new Expedite column highlighting exceptional women in the industry. It’s meant to serve as a reminder that representation matters and to highlight the ideas, platforms, companies, and technology that will change the future of hospitality. Why is this paywalled?
Oh, hello fellow women in restaurant technology. I see you and your industry contributions, and I believe you deserve more attention. So here we are!
The choice to interview Meredith Sandland for this column’s inaugural installment was intentional. I’ve heard her speak numerous times, and this is not the first (nor second!) time I’ve interviewed her. Her perspective is especially relevant given her tenure and expertise and she’s a must-follow for anyone wanting to understand the future of ghost kitchens and the restaurant delivery business.
Sandland is an accomplished restaurant industry executive and co-author of a recent book titled Delivering the Digital Restaurant. Previously, she held leadership roles at Kitchen United and Taco Bell. She’s now the co-founder and CEO of Empower Delivery, a company building software specifically for delivery-focused restaurants.
This conversation, in which I manage to ask about opportunity in delivery-only at least four different ways, has been edited for length and clarity.
Expedite: To jump right into women in restaurants, you’ve been in the industry for years and you’ve seen it — I hope — changing, evolving. Who’s leading these companies? Who’s building? Who’s marketing? And is that different than just five or 10 years ago?
Meredith Sandland: I was very fortunate, I was on the Taco Bell executive team at a time when it was 50 percent female. I was never exposed to the predominantly male-led organizations because the one I happened to find myself in was both women and men. It was wonderful and a great diversity of thought.
But yes, I do think the industry is changing. I think you are starting to see more female leaders. You’re seeing a huge sea change of who’s leading these companies. I think the big change, I don’t know if this is universal, but when I look at it from the outside — you used to have to get to restaurant leadership coming up through operations, that was the only path. As restaurants have become much more tech savvy, much more marketing savvy, much more financial strategy-heavy, jobs that are a little easier to do if you also have a family, I think you are seeing more equality as a result. The next generation of leaders coming up comes from a variety of different places; operations is certainly one of them and that will always be important. But there are other backgrounds that are also really useful.
E: That’s a good observation and one I hadn’t considered. Could having this literal gender diversity but also diversity of thought change the trajectory of a large company that becomes focused on things beyond operations?
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