Meet the women behind FARE healthy fast-casual restaurants in Chicago

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Two Chicago entrepreneurs went from restaurant workers to restaurant owners when they discovered they couldn't find the kind of healthy food they wanted to eat.

Even though they're the owners, Kasia Bednarz and Britni DeLeon still serve customers sometimes at their restaurant FARE, with four downtown locations in Chicago.

"It's nurturing, it's nourishing. We want you to leave here feeling really good about the choices that you made," DeLeon said.

"The catalyst was our friends and family"

They weren't always restaurant owners. They used to be employees at the Gibsons Restaurant Group. That's where they met in 2010, noticed they shared a love of healthy food, and started cooking.

"At the time there wasn't a place where we felt like we could go out, grab something quick that we knew we trusted the ingredients, that it was actually going to taste delicious," DeLeon said.

"The catalyst was our friends and family; like, they're the ones that were like, 'Hey, you guys really have something here. Like we want to come and eat your food,'" Bednarz said.

So they decided to take the leap, and open their own restaurant.

It all started with a counter at a food hall on Wells and Wacker in 2018.

But as two women heading up a new restaurant brand, there were challenges.

"The restaurant industry is definitely male-dominated. I've been in so many meetings – you know, construction meetings, for example – where no one's talking to me, and I'm like, 'Hey, I'm the one paying this bill," Bednarz said.

"People have been skeptical that we had the chops to get where we really want to go," DeLeon said.

"Women just need to believe in themselves"

They didn't have to go it alone, though.

Bednarz and DeLeon credit a great network of friends and family members, as well as a supportive business community of women and men with helping them get to four locations.

They plan to open their fifth in Charlotte, North Carolina, later this year.

"If you feel really passionate about something, you can make anything happen," DeLeon said.

"Women just need to believe in themselves. Like, really pursue your dreams, and lead with that intuition," Bednarz said.

According to the most recent U.S. Census data, about a third of restaurants in Illinois are majority-owned by women.

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