Congratulations to Florida’s New Michelin-Recognized Restaurants

TALLAHASSEE — Last night was a great victory for Florida restaurants, including dozens of FRLA Members across the state, who were recognized by the revered Michelin Guide. Restaurants in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were recognized in categories for one star, two stars, Bib Gourmand awards, and recommended restaurants. Sommelier of the Year and Best Cocktail were also awarded.

“Guests come from across the state, country, and globe to experience Florida’s world-class dining options, said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Not only is the Michelin recognition well deserved, but it will bring more people to our state, to our hotels, and to our restaurants, strengthening our communities and the overall health of our hospitality industry. Congratulations to our many FRLA member winners and to all recognized!”

MICHELIN WINNERS

Miami

2 Stars 

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Miami

1-Star Awards 

Ariete

Boia De

Cote Miami

The Den at Sushi Azabu Miami

Elcielo Miami: Juan Manuel Barrientos

Hiden:  Chef Shingo Akikuni

Le Jardinier

Los Félix

Stubborn Seed: Jeremy Ford

The Surf Club Restaurant: Thomas Keller

Bib Gourmand (Value for Money) 

Bachour

Chug’s Diner

Doya

El Turco

Ghee Indian Kitchen

Hometown Barbecue Miami

Itamae

Krüs Kitchen

La Natural

Lucali

Lung Yai Thai Tapas

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Michael’s Genuine

Phuc Yea

Red Rooster Overtown

Sanguich de Miami

Tinta y Café

Zak the Baker

Zitz Sum

Sommelier of the Year

Victoria James, Cote Miami

Exceptional Cocktail Award

Ruben Rolon, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Miami and Le Jardinier Miami

Michelin-Recommended Miami

 Mister 01 Extraordinary Pizza

Nossa Omakase

Macchialina

Jia

Estiatorio Milos

Joe’s Stone Crab

Kojin

Le Zoo

Tigre

Josh’s Deli

Latin Café

Leku

Sushi Yasu Tanaka

Taquiza

Kyu

Buya Izakaya + Yakitori

Versailles

Nave

Orno

Hakkasan Miami

Niu Kitchen

Mignonette

Luca Osteria

La Camronera

JATTO

Hiyakawa Miami

Doca Provisions

Café La Trova

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallman

Pao by Paul Qui

Hoja Taqueria

La Mar by Gaston Aurio

27 Restaurant & Bar

MILA

Havanna Harry’s

Orlando

1-Star Awards in Orlando

Knife & Spoon

Capa

Soseki

Kadence

Bib Gourmand 

Bombay Street Kitchen

Ravenous Pig

Papa Llama

Domu

Strand

Swine & Sons

Z Asian

Michelin-Recommended Orlando

Cítricos

California Grill

Orlando Meats

Ravello

Se7en Bites

Prato

The Pinery

Primo

Kabooki Sushi

Selam

Pizza Bruno

BACÁN

Kai Asian Street Fare

Black Rooster Taqueria

Hawkers

Tori Tori

Shin Jung

Maxine’s on Shine

Sticky Rice

The Polite Pig

Four Flamingos, A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen

Moriomoto Asia

Sear + Sea

TAMPA

Bib Gourmand

Ichicoro Ramen

Rocca

Rooster and the Till

Michelin-Recommended Tampa

Bern’s Steakhouse

Steelbach

Koya

Restaurant BT

Oak & Ola

Olivia

Haven

Élevage

Timpano

Mise en Place

Ulele

Columbia

Yummy House

Cena

Bistro BT

On Swann

 

To visit the Michelin Guide site for all Florida-recognized restaurants, click here.

 

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Celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Highlighting Asian American and Pacific Islander Contributions in Florida’s Hospitality Industry

Since the 1970’s, there have been efforts to celebrate the rich cultural contributions brought to America by those of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage. In recent decades, May has been designated Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI).

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed greatly to the American community through various industries including the arts, science, business, and more. Here in Florida, we could not be more proud of the numerous contributions of individuals from Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds to make Florida’s hospitality industry the strongest in the nation. In honor of AAPI heritage month, we would like to highlight just a few amazing individuals and their outstanding achievements to keep us Hospitality Strong.

Dennis Chan, Chef and Owner, Blue Bamboo, Jacksonville, Florida

Dennis Chan grew up in the hospitality industry and his family’s record of restaurant ownership dates back more than 80 years. His dream was to follow in the family business, and, after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, he opened his own restaurant. His leadership in his community and in the local and statewide hospitality industry is commendable. During the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was able to not only survive but grow and thrive. He was recently announced as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Small Business Person of the Year for the entire state of Florida. We cheer him on as he travels to DC next week for his honors and nomination for the national award. Thank you, Dennis, for your passion, your service to your community, and your leadership on the FRLA Northeast Florida Chapter Board!

 

Sheldon Suga, VP & Managing Director, Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key

Sheldon Suga is an outstanding and longtime leader in the hospitality industry – not just in Florida – but across the world. His background extends to hospitality executive positions in Canada, Puerto Rico, Japan, and more! Sheldon is known for his kindness and business leadership and has served on his local FRLA chapter boards. Most recently, Sheldon served as FRLA’s Chairman of the Board in the longest tenure and throughout the worst crisis to face the hospitality industry in recent history – the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the crisis he faced in his day-to-day position managing a top national resort in The Keys, he was leading efforts as Chairman of our statewide Board to strategize on best practices and policies to help alleviate the struggles that were paralyzing our industry. His involvement in advocacy for Florida hotels and restaurants was key to our accomplishing so much during the 2021 Legislative Session and helped our industry begin its long road to recovery. Thank you, Sheldon, for your tenacity, kindness, and leading us back into doing what we do best – providing the best customer service for our guests to keep them coming back!

Olivia Hoblit, Regional Manager, Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island and Current Chairwoman of the FRLA Board of Directors

Olivia Hoblit is incredibly special to Florida’s hospitality industry and FRLA. She currently serves as Chairwoman of the Board for FRLA. We recently highlighted Olivia’s thoughts on leadership during Women’s History Month. Coming to the U.S. from the Philippines as a young teenager, she was determined to succeed in a new country. And she surely has! One of Olivia’s most well-known principles is investing in the people around her, those who serve underneath her, and locating those individuals with talent to mentor them. She gained so much from being mentored and invested in, so her passion is paying that forward. She believes strongly in the high school programs that introduce students into hospitality – HTMP for hotels and ProStart for culinary. Knowing there are leaders out there like Olivia, with her focus on the people and the future of the industry helps us to secure that future as we face historic labor challenges. Her mantra is to “always make things” better, and with Olivia leading, we know she will continue to do just that.

Thank you to Dennis, Sheldon, and Olivia for speaking with us and letting us feature you this month!

To learn more about Asian American and Pacific Islander Month, click here.

Congratulations to FRLA Members For Winning Forbes Five-Star Awards

Congratulations to the following FRLA members in Miami for being awarded the 2022 Forbes Five-Star Awards!
Read the full list in the Miami Herald article here:
SPAS AT HOTELS:
The Spa at Carillon Miami Beach

Take advantage of these tax credits

The tax credit landscape has become a bit complicated over the last year. Don’t miss out on every opportunity to claim credits you’re due.

 

ERTC, WOTC, FICA, the alphabet soup of tax credits can be confusing, especially when the rules for some, such as the ERTC, have changed over the past two years. Nonetheless, it’s worth verifying that you’re claiming all the credits you qualify to receive.

ERTC

The Employee Retention Tax Credit can be applied retroactively and allows restaurant operators to lower their federal quarterly payroll tax bill.

The ERTC was originally intended to be a localized credit to apply in singular situations—for example, a tax credit to help you pay employees should a hurricane render your restaurant inoperable. It became a national tax credit option in 2020 for small businesses shut down by the pandemic.

For the 2021 ERTC, a business with 500 or fewer employees can claim up to $7,000 per employee per quarter for the first three quarters of the year. To qualify, the business must show a 20% or more decline in gross receipts for each quarter claimed or show it was subject to a government-ordered capacity restriction.

Funding for the ERTC in the fourth quarter was pulled back to help fund the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. So, note that you cannot apply for the ERTC for the fourth quarter of 2021 (Oct.-Dec.). The IRS has become severely backlogged in processing ERTC payouts (which will happen when a tax intended for localized applications goes national), but rest assured, qualified credits will all be paid eventually. (Note: If you received a Paycheck Protection Program loan and are applying for loan forgiveness, consult a tax professional to navigate how PPP loan forgiveness and ERTC work in the same year.) Read more on the ERTC .

WOTC

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a federal tax credit for hiring applicants from groups who face significant barriers to employment—including individuals unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

With hiring needs at an all-time high, now is a great time to take advantage of this tax credit, which can help offset the cost of turnover and cover recruitment incentives, including hiring bonuses.

To qualify, a new hire must fit into one of the target groups identified by the U.S. Department of Labor, which includes long-term unemployment recipients, qualified veterans or justice-involved individuals, food-stamp recipients, summer youth hires and others. For a complete list, see here .

Restaurants can earn a maximum credit of $2,400 for each employee coming off long-term unemployment at the time of hire. Employers earn a credit equal to 25% of the employee’s wages if the staffer works at least 120 hours in the first year and 40% if the individual works at least 400 hours—up to the $2,400 cap, but some targeted categories offer an even larger credit. For more information, check out IRS Form 8850 .

FICA

The Federal Insurance Contributions Act is only available to businesses in the food and beverage industry who employ tipped servers. If your tipped employees made above the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour), you may be eligible for the FICA Tip Credit.

According to the IRS, this tax credit equals the amount of Social Security and Medicare taxes the employer paid on tips received by the tipped worker whether they were cash tips, charge-card tips cashed out at the end of the shift, or charge-card tips distributed through payroll.

To qualify to receive the FICA tax credit, employers have to ensure that their employees are making at least the federal minimum wage. If the state has a higher minimum wage, employees’ wages have to hit that minimum (total compensation includes wages, tips, meals, lodging, and service charges).

If your tipped employees made above federal minimum wage (or the state’s minimum wage, whichever is higher), you as an employer can claim the FICA tax credit on that portion of their wages.

The formula is:

Hours x (hourly rate + reported tips) = Weekly wages
Hours x federal wage rate = Wages paid at minimum wage
Weekly wages – (Wages paid at minimum wage x FICA 7.65%) = FICA Tax Credit
FICA Tax Credit x 52 Weeks = Total tax credit you can receive per employee

The form to claim FICA is IRS Form 8846.

 

Heartland provides entrepreneurs with software-driven technology to manage and grow their business. The company serves more than 400,000 merchants nationwide, delivering trusted solutions for payment, payroll and human resources, point of sale, customer engagement and lending. Heartland is a leading industry advocate of transparency, merchant rights and security. Heartland is a Global Payments Company (NYSE: GPN). Learn more at Heartland.

Finding Peace Through Travel – Rozeta Mahboubi – Women’s History Month

Rozeta Mahboubi, FRLA Broward Regional Director

Finding Peace and Life Through Travel

Throughout a life filled with change and progress, a steadfast love of travel always comforted and centered Rozeta Mahboubi, FRLA Regional Director for Broward. Originally from Iran, her family first came to the United States to find better medical care for her sister. While here, her parents continued to do what they always did – travel. They traveled around the U.S. to find where they would call home for a few years, but when the Iranian Revolution began, they knew they could not return and were in America to stay.

With a stop in Maryland, they later settled in Denver. “It had all 4 seasons and beautiful mountains. It was very similar to Tehran,” Rozeta says. They had found their home base. And while Colorado was home, they never stopped traveling. It was something Rozeta developed a passion for early in life. Whenever big decisions in life arose, Rozeta took to travel – to the skies and to boats (Did you know that she originally wanted to be a Cruise Ship director?). Immersing herself in travel and other cultures helped her find her way through the next big decision she had to make.

Her passion led her to study Hospitality Meeting & Travel Administration in college after switching from computer science. She wrote her thesis on cruise lines in her quest to become a Cruise Ship Director. After spending time on a ship in Norway running events and catering for charter cruises, she visited her parents who had then settled in San Diego and began working for the San Diego Princess Resort. While there, she met someone, fell in love, and ended up moving to Las Vegas, where she was surrounded by all of the great hotels and developers. She worked at The Luxor Hotel & Casino in sales and marketing for a period, but eventually took a job with a German Tour Operator who hired her to put together tour packages across North America for German-speaking travelers. As it turns out, Florida is an incredibly popular place for German travelers, and she wanted to learn all she could about the state, so she relocated here in the late 1990’s.

She spent time in Naples opening The Inn on Fifth and then settled in Southeast Florida, worked for the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Airport, followed by seven years as the Tourism Director leading the Hollywood Office of Tourism. During that time and under her administration, they opened the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and The Diplomat Resort & Spa. She loved her time in destination marketing and had amazing experiences like traveling with Governor Jeb Bush and Enterprise Florida to South America and Europe to promote tourism for the City of Hollywood.

When Rozeta felt she needed a change, you guessed it. She went traveling – this time to Thailand, Indonesia, and Europe – a very “Eat, Pray, Love” moment, she tells us. She wrote a lot during her travels, a prized possession being her journals which she hopes to turn into a book one day. She eventually settled back in South Florida, initially as the President/CEO of Martin County Convention & Visitors Bureau and ultimately consulting for various travel and tourism partners before she found her way to FRLA in 2019. She loves advocating on behalf of her members and bringing her diverse background across destination marketing, hospitality, and events to her work as Regional Director. She credits her happiness in her current role to the people she works with. Not long after joining FRLA, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and then her father passed away. With so much going on, she was comforted by the bond she shares with her members and board who helped her through such a tough loss.

Throughout her diverse career, she faced some challenges, feeling that she lost out on certain positions because she was female, but she used those experiences to improve and grow. Rozeta is thrilled to see more women GMs and in other leadership positions, something she think certainly deserves celebrating this Women’s History Month.

Her desire is to share her experiences and help inspire younger women in her community and in this industry. She wants to contribute to helping build future leaders and advises women coming up in hospitality to follow their strengths and passion and go for their dreams. “Don’t be afraid to break barriers,” says Rozeta. She sure wasn’t!

Closing Question: Is there a woman from history who you admire? Why?

“My grandmother. She was raised in very small town in Iran where religion and culture limited her capabilities, but in her own way, she broke the mold. Women weren’t supposed to do things in Iran like speak up or earn respect, but she was a strong woman – a true matriarch. Despite the rules and expectations, she was highly educated and self-taught, which was rare in a place where no schooling or reading was allowed. She would tell me, ‘I have read more books than the hairs on my head.’ She was always a student, reading about history, geography, politics, you name it. She had to hide her books and her writing journals and was placed into an arranged marriage at an early age. She had everything against her, but she overcame it, eventually raised her family, and has left us a legacy of strength and determination. Whenever I was faced with a decision, she would encourage me and say, ‘You decide your life. You find your path.’ She was a trailblazer for sure.”

 

 

 

 

Getting to Know Anna MacDiarmid – Women’s History Month

Anna MacDiarmid, General Manager, W Fort Lauderdale

Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.

I have loved dedicating the last 35-plus years to the hospitality industry through the Starwood & Marriott brands. I began my career in my hometown at The Westin Winnipeg in Canada and later moved to Toronto to work at The Westin Toronto, a 1,000-plus room property, where I served as Director of Food and Beverages, Director of Operations, and ultimately General Manager.

From there, I joined W Hotels where I was General Manager at three New York Properties, including W Times Square and W Hoboken, where I managed the property through its opening and helped lead it to win Hotel of the Year two times. I also worked at the brand’s original W property – W New York.

Since coming to W Fort Lauderdale as General Manager in 2015, we have worked to re-establish this world-class property, and I am so proud of our accomplishments here! In my personal time, I get a great deal of fulfillment from volunteering for causes close to my heart like Covenant House and Children’s Miracle Network.

How did you get into hospitality? 

I started in the hotel industry at a very young age and absolutely loved the business. Every day is different and no matter what position I was in, I was able to make a positive impact on my team and my customers.

What qualities make a great female leader?

Humility and confidence. Being motivated and celebrating other women’s successes. Make sure to teach and mentor and also be true to yourself.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month is an opportunity to remind us of the accomplishments of women throughout history to our culture and society. It’s a chance to reflect on the trailblazing women who lead the way for change.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

Having more female leaders changes the perceived conception about who can lead and what qualities are necessary in a leadership position.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?

Be yourself. Never let anyone take your joy or passion away – both in business and your personal journey.

What professional, personal or community service driven accomplishments are you proud of?

While General Manager of W Fort Lauderdale in 2015, I oversaw a multi-year, $60 million renovation and our hotel has achieved numerous awards and recognition, including being named a Top 10 Best Hotel in Florida by U.S. News & World Report. I am honored to have been nominated for General Manager of the Year and love being active in my community. I was recently named a Smart Meetings’ 2021 Hall of Fame honoree after being recognized for their “Women Who Inspire Us” awards over multiple years. I think it’s important to remain active in your profession and community. I currently serve as Chair of the Fort Lauderdale Beach Business Improvement District (BID), Chair for my Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA), member of Marriott’s General Managers of Americas Committee (GMAC), and as the Chair of Marriott’s South Florida Business Council.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?

I feel that I was able to take on all challenges that were presented to me and never sat back. I always took the front row seat. I never focused too much on titles and levels but instead focused on my personal growth. It’s important to realize that there is no superwoman. We set such unrealistic bars for ourselves. Be kind to yourself. It’s fine that things aren’t perfect. Don’t try and have it all. Just do your best!

I feel that it is important to help young women in business. At each of my properties over the years, I have spearheaded Young Women in Leadership groups to help coach young female talent who are up and coming in our industry.

How do women positively impact Florida’s hospitality industry?

Women provide career opportunities for women from all walks of life. Their leadership and guidance help strengthen our up-and-coming young female leaders through their experiences and mentorship.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

Women leaders bring skills, different perspectives, and innovative ideas to the table, which help create new perspectives that lead to better decision-making as a whole for the business.

 

Getting to Know Keri Burns – Women’s History Month

Keri Burns, Central Florida FRLA Regional Director

Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.

My professional background includes 15 years in non-profit association business where I worked with the International Society of Refractive Surgeons, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, and the Urban Land Institute. I also served as a brand ambassador and business development manager for YUM! Brands and most recently was the VP of Business Development for Ballantine Management group, where I consulted with hotels, convention centers, and special event venues on everything from food and beverage operations to show content development, as well as sales and marketing.

In my spare time, I am completing a Doctorate degree in Community Care & Counseling with a focus on the sandwich generation, and, along with two of my gal pals, I started a 501©(3) organization called LILAC (Ladies In Leadership And Community) supporting causes related to women and dedicated to creating a positive impact on the community. My husband and I have three remarkable children and three amazing rescue pups. We like to travel and enjoy going to concerts.

How did you get into hospitality? 

I got into hospitality because I needed a summer job to help pay for college and worked for RTM, Inc., a major franchise owner in the quick service market which led to other restaurant leadership roles. As my career expanded, I took a role in business development for an allied member company that supported hotels and event venues nationwide.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?

As a woman, I find relationship building to be my strongest asset. My ability to nurture and protect clients and customers has served me well. Knowing how to be a strong presence without being intimidating while also prioritizing the growth and development of my teams has also contributed to my success. I’ve also made choices that benefit my family whether with my time or resources, which means sometimes saying no to specific opportunities.

What qualities make a great female leader?     

Compassion, inspiration, thoughtful and mindful speech are all important attributes for a female leader. It’s also important to encourage those around you and lift others up as much as you can. You never know who you influence through your words.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

It’s a time to truly celebrate where we are today and reflect on those who helped pave the road forward. Its also a perfect time to think about the roads we can pave for future generations and to never take for granted those who came before us.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

Having female leaders in positions of influence who serve as role models is not only vital to the career advancement of women, but it also stands to generate broader societal impacts on pay equity, changing workplace policies in ways that benefit both men and women, and attracting a more diverse workforce.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?

Embrace your strengths and never underestimate your abilities. As women, we can be critical of ourselves while we should be elevating one another.

What professional, personal or community service driven accomplishments are you proud of?

Professionally, I’m proud of how FRLA impacted the industry during COVID and how we continue to work together to support the community in such a meaningful way.  Through our legislative, educational, and community involvement, we truly helped our partners and members. I am also extremely proud of LILAC, which celebrates women and women’s causes throughout Central Florida. Inspiring leadership, philanthropy, and professional development is the mission of LILAC and we work hard (and have a lot of fun) making a difference.

Is there a woman from history who you admire? Why?

Catherine Hershey has always been someone I admired. While Milton Hershey built an empire, Catherine taught him to care for others and his community. She was the force behind the Milton Hershey School which started as a home for orphaned children. Her love for children provided a safe haven for families who struggled to support their children and through her selfless dedication to children, provided free childcare services through MHS and was the driving force behind so many programs and services for at risk youth.

 

 

In the Kitchen with Chef Lindsay Autry – Women’s History Month

Chef/Owner Lindsay Autry, The Regional

 

Photo credit is Alissa Dragun Photography

Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.

I am originally from Fayetteville, NC and grew up surrounded by food. My family had a peach orchard where we spent our summers selling peaches and homemade ice cream at a roadside stand. I started participating in cooking competitions through 4-H when I was a child and really fell in love with cooking. While attending Johnson & Wales University in Charleston and Miami, I worked in a variety of restaurants and hotels to gain experience.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?

I was fortunate to work under Chef Michelle Bernstein for many years early on in my career. Even though I worked for a female chef, most of the time, we were the only two women in the kitchen. As women in a kitchen, we have to establish ourselves just as anyone else. Being efficient and valuable keeps you moving in the right direction.

How do women positively impact Florida’s hospitality industry?

There are many women in the hospitality industry here in South Florida, and I am so glad to see more up and coming from the next generation. There are many more women-owned operations today than even 10 years ago. I find it refreshing as I think women bring a different approach to hospitality. Not better, but different.

What qualities make a great female leader?          

A great leader, female or male, is often characterized by empathy, passion, and the ability to motivate others to reach a common goal.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?

Women’s History Month is a celebration of all of the women that have paved the way for our generation and to recognize the ones that are making impacts in their respective communities currently.

Is there a woman from history who you admire? Why?

There are so many to choose from! For me, on a more micro level, I would say both of my grandmothers. They both were the first women in their families to hold a profession outside of the household and were tremendous role models for me.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?

It is important that we support each other as women to recognize that the glass ceiling isn’t as durable as it used to be.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?

To make yourself valuable within your current role, and strive to be the best in what you do. Treat others kindly, as kindness gets you much further than expected because it makes you pleasant to work with. Everyone loves that!

What professional, personal or community service driven accomplishments are you proud of?

I am most proud of the relationships and mentoring that I have had the honor of contributing to the next generation of chefs. It is often a scary feeling to lose a valuable employee, but it gives me a “full circle” feeling to see my former staff go on and become executive chefs or general managers and successful in their path.

 

 

Barbara Bowden – A Heart for Hospitality and Helping Others Along the Way – Women’s History Month

Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando

Tell me a little bit about your background personally and professionally.
Originally from St Louis, Missouri, I have loved being part of our Central Florida Hospitality Community for 38 years. I am currently serving as Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, overseeing the operation of the destination’s premier and preferred hotels, including Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. Prior to my current position, I was recruited to a front desk position at The Peabody Orlando in 1986, where I served in various roles for 27 years, ultimately as VP/GM. I am passionate about our industry and the organizations that support it. In addition to FRLA, I serve on several community industry boards including Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, Visit Orlando and UCF Rosen College.

One of the best rewards of my career was meeting my husband David when we worked together at The Buena Vista Palace 38 years ago. He is the love of my life and true partner. We have always worked together to balance family and career. We have two married children who are both living in Orlando-along with our first grandbaby-and we are so incredibly grateful to have our family close. We also have a new addition to the family: our 5-month-old Golden Retriever-Sophie.

How did being a woman affect your professional path/path to leadership?
I am fortunate that I have always worked for organizations that value inclusiveness. I have worked for organizations where I have had incredible support and mentors, both male and female. There have been times in my career, I have felt like I had to work harder than my male counterparts-particularly as a young working mother. However, I have also learned that hard work, passion and commitment does lead to success-male or female-so I am grateful for the journey I had. Overall, any challenges placed before me created a greater resolve to pave the way for others.

How did you get into hospitality?
I always dreamed of having a career in the hospitality industry. My first job in high school was at Six Flags St. Louis, where I learned the core value of the term ‘hospitality.’ I went on to study hospitality and business at Missouri State University. My freshman year I was recruited by Walt Disney World to participate in, what was called at the time, the ‘Magic Kingdom College Program.’ I spent the summer in Orlando-and fell in love with the hospitality community here. I saw terrific opportunity for a career path, and upon graduation, I immediately returned to Orlando to begin the journey.

How do women positively impact Florida’s hospitality industry?
In my experience, diverse teams are the most effective teams. Additionally, studies show that women make the majority of all travel decisions-some studies indicating up to 85%. So, it certainly benefits an organization to have women involved in decisions impacting travel and hospitality.

What qualities make a great female leader?
The same qualities of any great leader: Vision, Strategic thinking, interpersonal communication, empathy, creativity, and trustworthiness.

What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
Many women throughout history have paved the way for those of us in leadership roles today. More importantly, though, it is critical to continue forging forward so those coming in behind us can rise to even greater achievement.

Is there a woman from history or your life who you admire? Why?
My mother, Shirley Ducey. I was raised by a single working mother who valued hard work, integrity, resolve and never let her four daughters believe in limitations. She taught us that we could do anything we put our hearts into if we worked hard. She was a servant leader and directed a large non-profit organization, impacting thousands of lives over 3 decades. From her, I learned the values of passion and commitment.

Why is it important for more women to be recognized in leadership roles?
It is important to tell the stories of women leaders to inspire other women and encourage them to use their talents to their fullest potential. These stories illuminate what is possible for any aspiring woman seeking a leadership role.

What piece of advice would you give to women coming up in hospitality?
Love what you do, trust who you are, surround yourself with a strong, inspiring network and help others along the way. The hospitality industry holds countless opportunities for those women entering this field that have the desire to succeed.