Opening a restaurant is no mean feat — but opening a restaurant in the midst of a pandemic deserves praise. In July 2020, a month before Jakarta went under PKMM, a new restaurant in Menteng, Central Jakarta, emerged from Okuzono Hospitality Group. Housing a modern oriental palace, Twelve Chinese Dining merged two rich culinary cultures — Japanese and Chinese — together with an aim to transport travel-deprived Jakarta residents to Yokohama’s Chinatown.
Spearheading this effort is president director Nadia Sofiandi. Responsible for the operations and concept development of Okuzono Hospitality Group, Sofiandi came from a background in investment, co-founding Kanpeki Investama Group, which was behind ABC Cooking Studio Indonesia and Bariuma Ramen Indonesia. Although she started out in F&B strictly as an investor back in 2016, Sofiandi decided to take a more active role in business and operations, supporting her team in creating the best experience for diners.
This International Women’s Day, we check in with the entrepreneur on her journey as a woman in the industry, and the triumphs and tribulations she’s faced along the way.
Let’s talk about ambition. Was this what you envisioned your career to be when you were younger?
I grew up baking and cooking a lot with my grandma as a kid, so food has always been a big part of my life. But I never thought that I would work in the F&B industry. Finding the right partners who were able to mentor and push me was a big decisive factor in jumping into the F&B business.
What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated industry?
It’s actually an exciting time to be a woman in the industry. I’ve been blessed to come in at a time where so many female entrepreneurs have paved the way and have generously shared their experiences. This type of kinship is a great fuel, and hopefully, more female players will come out in the future.
Women have long fought for a rightful place at the top of the food chain, and for spaces that have been traditionally perceived as suited for men. What are some obstacles you face when it comes to gender bias and stereotypes?
I think gender bias is still quite prevalent in the service industry. Especially in F&B, where work hours could go on until quite late. When alcohol is involved, I have received inappropriate remarks and propositions which my male partners and colleagues did not encounter. As I am a single female with no children, I have also received plenty of lectures from people telling me that I need to stop pursuing my work to start a family soon.
The F&B industry needs to set the table for equality. How can it start doing so in Jakarta?
I think there can always be more room for inclusivity. We can start by creating a more accommodating work environment for working moms, and allowing more mentorship and learning opportunities for new skills and leadership positions.
In your opinion, are there still barriers of entry for women in F&B in Jakarta?
Yes. I have seen female employees with great potential who had to resign because of family restrictions. There are certain expectations of a women’s role in home life.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to a fellow woman who wants to have a successful career in F&B?
Find a balance between pursuing your career and self care. When you take good care of yourself and your happiness, you will then be able to lead and take care of your team, your business and your customers.
Lastly, who’s a woman in the scene to watch now and why?
Talita Setyadi of Beau always has something exciting cooking up in store, especially with her new line of sourdoughs!
Are you a restaurant owner and manager in Jakarta looking to digitise your business? Contact our representatives in Jakarta to find out more.