FRLA and Samuel’s Seafood Partner with Quest Kids Academy for Culinary Education Initiative

(Angie Berberich, culinary expert with Samuel’s Seafood, demonstrates proper chopping techniques with Quest students) 

The FRLA Central Florida Chapter has partnered with Quest Kids Academy and Samuel’s Seafood to provide a customized K-12 education for children and teens with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Since November of 2023, this collaboration aims to bring culinary education and hands-on experience directly to the students at Quest Kids Academy. Each month, industry professionals schedule visits to the Academy to demonstrate essential cooking skills.

The first meal focused on preparing a classic spaghetti and meatball dinner from scratch. Angie Berberich, with Samuel’s Seafood, showcased her mastery in the kitchen by teaching the art of knife skills. She skillfully demonstrated the proper techniques for cutting onions, carrots, peppers, and garlic – the essential ingredients for a delicious spaghetti sauce.

Erin Hennessy, the Work-Study Program Lead Teacher at Quest Kids Academy, shared her enthusiasm for the program: “Everyone had a great day, and all really learned a lot. After Angie left, we roasted all the chopped veggies in the oven, and everyone in the school kept talking about how good everything smelled!”

This monthly program aims to teach culinary skills and inspire the students to love cooking, eat healthy, and become more independent. The partnership between FRLA Central Florida Chapter, Samuel’s Seafood, and Quest Kids Academy is a testament to the power of community collaboration in enriching educational experiences.

“We are thrilled to see such a positive response from the students and staff at Quest Kids Academy,” said Brittany Pilcher, Director of Philanthropy at Quest, Inc. “This partnership is a perfect example of how industry and education can come together creating access for meaningful learning opportunities.”

To learn more about this partnership, please contact FRLA’s Central Florida Regional Director, Mel Coffey at


Chuck Prather, 2024-25 Restaurant Director, FRLA Board of Directors Executive Committee

President, Birchwood Development, St. Petersburg


Welcome to Executive Insights: The Interview Series where we will be sharing a bit more about FRLA’s 2024 Board of Directors Executive Committee. Enjoy this fun Q&A with Restaurant Director Chuck Prather!


How did you get started in the industry?

I started in the industry when my father had me pick up cigarette butts in the parking lot of his Burger King restaurant in 1968. I got my first taste of money when he would pay me 25 cents! Do you know how much candy a seven-year-old kid could buy for 25 cents in 1968?!

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Making smiles: The hospitality business is about service and exceeding expectations.

What is the most important piece of advice you have ever given/been given?

Speak less, listen more. With the advancement of social media platforms, society finds itself “speaking” of feelings, opinions, and positions. Too often, we don’t take the time to thoughtfully listen to each other.

Why is it important for professionals to get involved with FRLA?

Strength is in numbers. Whether it is the ability to share experiences and ideas with others in our industry or mentor students in our school culinary programs, FRLA has proven to be invaluable to me. FRLA also allows for a unified effort to confront those in government and present them with our challenges. Every year, new laws are written, or poor laws are modified to make for a better hospitality industry.

What emerging trends in hospitality do you find most intriguing?

The popularity of TV chefs and cooking shows have shown young people how much excitement can be had in hospitality.

What qualities make a successful hospitality team?

Communication and caring. With clearly written direction and stated goals, give the team members a clear vision of what is expected. We also must foster a “family” type culture allowing the employee to feel appreciated and respected.

What is the most interesting place you have ever traveled to?

Exploring the Amazon jungle on the border of Peru and Ecuador and spending time with the Achuar tribe. You have not lived until you have been served Chicha by the tribal chief.

Favorite Florida destination?

Anywhere is the Florida Keys!

If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?


If you could dine with any historical figure, who would it be?

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

What is the most memorable Florida hotel or restaurant experience you have had as a guest?

The World Equestrian Center in Ocala.  The entire property is breathtaking.

Beach or mountains?

Mountains on the beach!

How do you believe the principles of hospitality can be applied to other industries?

The old adage of “The customer is always right” should be the mantra of all companies, no matter the industry, who interact with customers.

What is the most important piece of advice you have ever given/been given?

We all have different temperaments, talents, and convictions. Do your best to respect everyone you have contact with, no matter how much you may agree or disagree with them.

What would you say to those coming up in the hospitality industry?

Embrace the excitement and energy that is had in hospitality.


To read Chuck’s biography, visit our FRLA Leadership Page or click here.

Miami Lakes Educational Center Wins The 2nd Annual Universal Orlando Handheld Food Competition


(Anthony Ocampo, Matthew Perez and Emily Espitia from Miami Lakes Educational Center hold their winning handheld item)

The FRLA Educational Foundation and UCF Rosen College have announced Miami Lakes Educational Center as the winner of the 2nd Annual Universal Orlando Handheld Food Competition. The Handheld Competition provides an opportunity for Florida ProStart students to put their skills to the test by creating a seasonal handheld item they would like to see featured in a Universal Orlando theme park. The competition was held at the UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management and the awards were presented at Universal Orlando on February 6, 2024.

This year, 10 Florida ProStart High Schools competed in the competition with three schools advancing to the third and final round. Keystone Heights High, Miami Lakes Educational Center, and Ridgeview High competed in the final round for first place. The winning handheld created by Miami Lakes Educational Center consisted of a Plantain Bun, Cuban Inspired Beef and Pork Patty, Crisp and Chewy Fried Cheese, Central American Slaw, and a Special Sauce.

As the winner of the competition, Miami Lakes Educational Center received $2,500 from Universal Orlando towards the school’s ProStart Program and the winning handheld item will soon be featured at a Universal Orlando location. UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Scholarships were also awarded in the amounts of $1,000 to the first place team and $500 to the second and third place teams.

For more information on this competition or to learn more about Florida ProStart opportunities through the FRLA Educational Foundation, please visit


Outstanding work! Congratulations to these well-deserving students!



Are you guilty of committing these 5 payroll mistakes?

Of all the tasks it takes to keep your business running, timekeeping and payroll processing are probably the least exciting and most routine. But that doesn’t mean that getting it right is always easy. Or that getting it wrong is no big deal.

Noncompliance with employment, labor and payroll tax laws can put your business under a microscope, and even lead to fines and penalties. 33% of employers make payroll errors, and roughly 40% of small businesses pay an average of $845 a year in IRS penalties because of mismanaged payroll processes.

To keep your business from becoming a statistic and your costs in check, it’s worth auditing your payroll processes to ensure you don’t fall victim these common pitfalls:

1. Poor record keeping and inaccurate data

Like anything else in business, employing and paying workers generates a lot of paperwork. And preserving those records is important. Different federal, state and municipal agencies have rules defining what type of information employers should keep. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that individual employee’s records include no fewer than 14 different points of identifying information about the worker, the hours they work and the wages they earn.

In addition to guidelines about what type of information employers should gather and store, laws also define how long that data should be kept. For example, the law requires that you hold on to the following documents for at least four years:

  • Timesheets

  • Canceled checks

  • Tax forms

  • Proof of past payments

It’s also important that employee information be 100 percent accurate. After your employees fill out their W-2s, make sure to double-check the following information:

  • Employee’s full name

  • Current address

  • Social Security Number

  • Start date

  • Termination date (if applicable)

  • Date of birth

  • Payroll details, including hourly rate, overtime, etc.

For a more comprehensive list of labor and payroll tax recordkeeping requirements, visit the IRS’ or DOL’s websites.

2. Falling behind on payroll tax and filing deadlines

Generally the federal government collects payroll taxes on a pay-as-you-go basis. Almost half of all small businesses get fined every year for late or missed payments.

There are several reoccurring payroll tax deadlines you need to remember. A biweekly or monthly deadline is set by the IRS to deposit both withholding taxes and your share of taxes — including federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and Federal Unemployment Tax. If you fail to make a timely deposit, you are subject to a penalty of up to 15 percent, depending on how late the deposit is. There are also quarterly and annual returns that you must file with your W-2s. For a complete list, check out the IRS’ website. Also, keep in mind you will likely be responsible for remitting payroll taxes on a state or even local level, which may require different information and/or be due at different times.

3. Withholding errors

There are a lot of potential slip-ups in the withholding process. Misclassifying employees is one common mistake (we’ll get into that more later). Other potential pitfalls include:

  • Failure to withhold federal and state taxes

  • Inaccurate calculation of pre-tax and post-tax deductions

  • Making incorrect deductions from exempt employee’s salaries

  • Excluding taxable fringe benefits like gift cards, awards, and bonuses

  • Excluding specific expense reimbursements from the employee’s taxable wages

  • Issuing incorrect W-2 forms

4. Exempt or non-exempt?

A non-exempt employee (generally an hourly worker) is entitled to overtime pay while an exempt employee is not. When your non-exempt employees work more than 40 hours in a workweek, you owe them time and a half pay for those hours.

An employee must meet three criteria to be exempt from receiving overtime pay:

  • Earns more than $684 per week, or $35,568 annually

  • Is paid a predetermined or fixed salary, that can’t be reduced due to the quality or quantity of their work

  • Primarily performs professional, executive or administrative duties as defined by the law

Employees who don’t meet this criteria are considered non-exempt and owed overtime pay under federal law, no matter the circumstance. For example, if an employee works overtime without advance approval, they’re still entitled to overtime pay. Asking non-exempt employees to work off of the clock, or compensating them with time off in lieu of overtime pay would also result in noncompliance with the law.

Keep in mind we’re only covering federal laws. States and even some municipalities have their own overtime regulations that business owners must also follow.

5. Contractor or part-time employee?

Confusing an employee with a contractor can also cost you. Businesses are generally not required to withhold or pay taxes on payments to independent contractors who are subject to self-employment tax. If workers are your employees, you owe payroll taxes on their wages and taxable benefits. Accidentally misclassifying an employee as a contractor would lead to failure to withhold and remit payroll taxes. Which as we mentioned before, comes with its own set of fines and penalties.

If you are unsure about a worker’s status, you can request an IRS determination by filling out Form SS-8. If you’ve already made the mistake of misclassifying employees, the IRS offers relief through the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program. You can also contact your attorney or legal counsel for advice on how to proceed if you believe you’re noncompliant.

As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate. The right payroll software will eliminate the confusion and stress that often accompanies paying employees, filing forms and meeting all your tax requirements. Working with a provider that offers SHRM-certified HR professionals to give you a hand whenever you need it is helpful too. Heartland offers these services and more.

So if you’re ready to process payroll and tackle compliance with confidence, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line, or check out our website to learn more.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this document does not, and is not intended to constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only. Information provided may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information, and readers of this information should contact their attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter, in the relevant jurisdiction. All liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the contents here are hereby expressly disclaimed.

Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at

Executive Insights: The Interview Series, FRLA Executive Committee – Greg Cook

Greg Cook, Secretary-Treasurer & Lodging Director 2024-2025

FRLA Board of Directors Executive Committee

Luxury General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Welcome to Executive Insights: The Interview Series where we will be sharing a bit more about FRLA’s 2024 Board of Directors Executive Committee. First up, may we introduce Greg Cook, our Secretary-Treasurer & Lodging Director who is new to the Executive Committee. Let’s get to know Greg a bit more with the interview questions below!


How did you get started in the industry?

I started as a bellman at Marriott Harbor Beach in Fort Lauderdale when I was in school and 20 years old. I joked when the recruiter asked if I would be interested, “Is that the guy that wears the funny hat with the chin strap,” and she said, “Our guys don’t wear those hats and make about $100 a day in cash!” I said, “Sign me up.” It was 1984 and that was a lot of money!

What is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Developing future leaders and watching them grow both professionally and personally.  I love seeing an entry-level person develop into a great Department Head and go from living in an apartment with roommates to buying their first house.

What is the most important piece of advice you have ever given/been given?

Been Given: “Listen!” and ask the question “What do you think?” – Mr. Marriott

Given: “Do not limit yourself; you can do anything if you just say yes and go for it.”

What emerging trends in hospitality do you find most intriguing?

AI – it is here and quickly starting to play a larger role in our industry.  It will be interesting to see how our guests ingest it, particularly in the luxury space.

What qualities make a successful hospitality team?

Several: They must have a common goal, a diverse set of skills, be candid in how they speak to one another, be open to ideas, and decide on an action plan and then execute that plan. Then they must measure success and failure and be accountable to the results both good and bad, and then tweak and repeat the process. It is the pursuit of perfection that you never actually achieve, as Mr. Marriott would say, “Success is never final.”

What is the most interesting place you have ever traveled to?

Wow, great question! I have been very fortunate to travel to many places around the world, but I would have to say China. Standing on the Great Wall is an incredible feeling, and being in the Forbidden City is overwhelming as you walk from one section to the next. I would also have to add a personal tour I had of the Kremlin in Moscow to the list, I don’t think that could ever be repeated.

Favorite Florida destination?

So many to list, Florida is such a diverse state and has so much to offer.  For many years it was the Florida Keys as I love to boat, fish, and scuba dive. As I have gotten older, I would now say it is Amelia Island. I love the marsh, ocean, and historic downtown Centre Street in Fernandina.

If you could only eat one cuisine for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Easy – pizza!

If you could dine with any historical figure, who would it be?

I was fortunate enough to dine with Muhammad Ali so that was incredible. If I had to add another, it would probably be Elon Musk.

What is the most memorable Florida hotel or restaurant experience you have had as a guest? Joe’s Stone Crab is always my favorite. It was a regular lunch spot for me when I managed the Marriott Stanton; now it is always a “go-to” when I am in South Florida.

Beach or mountains?

For most of my life, the beach. As I get older, I am enjoying the mountains.

How do you believe the principles of hospitality can be applied to other industries?

Simple, take care of your people and they will take care of your business. Life is really not that complicated.

What would you say to those coming up in the hospitality industry?

“There are no limits…Go big and enjoy the ride – I have!”

Why is it important for professionals to get involved with FRLA?

I have been working with FRLA for over 20 years. FRLA keeps us informed of legislation that may help or hurt our business. They are our voice in Tallahassee and any legislation presented.  They are also a great resource for our business from Human Trafficking Training to assistance with Liquor License. Also, the best Tourism Networking group Statewide. And of course, Carol Dover is the most influential leader of tourism in the State of Florida. When it comes to protecting our industry, there is no one better.

What do you hope to accomplish on the FRLA Executive Committee?

I plan to positively represent, protect, and improve the hotel industry for Florida so it continues to thrive and offer opportunities for all Floridians.


To read Greg’s biography, visit our FRLA Leadership Page or click here.

Legislative Session Welcome: Support Local Members

As we welcome everyone to the official commencement of the 2024 Legislative Session, we hope you will take some time in Tallahassee to support some of our local member restaurants, lounges, and live music spots. Whether you need to quickly pop by a quick-service restaurant or want to make an evening out of it, we have you covered. See a sampling below and enjoy!

4 Rivers Smokehouse

Bella Bella

BJ’s Brewhouse

Bonefish Grill

Cafe De Martin

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Chicken Salad Chick

Chili’s Grill & Bar

Chuck’s Fish

Dave’s Pizza Garage

Firehouse Subs

Glory Days Grill

Golden Corral

Governors Club

Hangar 38

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

Hayward House

Hobbit American Grill

The Huntsman


Island Wing Company

Jacob’s On the Plaza

Juicy Blue Tapas Bar & Bistro

Leroc Bistro

Level 8

LongHorn Steakhouse

Madison Social


Milk Me Treats LLC

Miller’s Ale House Tallahassee

Mimi’s Table

Mom & Dad’s Italian Restaurant

Olive Garden

Outback Steakhouse

Red Lobster

Rock N Roll Sushi


Shula’s 347 Grill


Social Catering & Events/Social Kitchen

Steak ‘n Shake

Table 23

Takko Korean Taqueria

Tally Fish House & Oyster Bar

Tasty Pastry Bakery

Ted’s Montana Grill

The Blu Halo

The Edison

The Melting Pot

The Sound Bar

The Tally Strip

Township TLH

Tropical Smoothie Cafe

Waffle House

Willie Jewell’s Old School Bar-B-Q

WXYZ Lounge


Zingales Billiards & Sports Bar

Tips for tipping: How to increase employees’ earnings without annoying your customers

Tips for tipping: How to increase employees’ earnings without annoying your customers

The good old-fashioned tip jar that used to proudly sit on counters of businesses across the country seems to be a thing of the past. And it makes sense since the days of customers carrying cash are also largely behind us.

While tip jars might be on their way to becoming a relic of yesteryear, the practice of tipping is still alive and well — digitally, that is. As a result, the way people think and feel about tipping is changing.

But it all depends what side of the counter you’re on.

As a small business owner, you face a dilemma: You want employees to earn more by taking advantage of digital tipping options, but you don’t want to burn customers out. So, how do you strike the right balance? In this article, we’ll get to the bottom of just that.

Follow along as we dive into how attitudes around tipping have changed, what drove that change and how configuring tips properly in your point of sale system — and combining it with great service — can help fight tip fatigue, increase employees’ earnings and keep customers coming back:

How customers really feel about tipping — and why

Tipflation, tip creeping, guilt tipping, tip fatigue …

New tipping terms are springing up like mushrooms. And much like mushrooms, it’s a divisive topic. One that people have strong opinions about.

As a restaurateur, if you want to build a tipping structure that won’t rub people the wrong way, it’s important to understand those opinions. Let’s unpack your customers’ mindset.

The social experience of tipping: It’s complicated

Where leaving a tip was once a voluntary act of generosity and goodwill, today’s tipping can feel more like an anxiety-inducing guessing game. To put it bluntly, it’s complicated.

Not sure what we mean? Here’s a scenario to help explain:

Let’s say Bob orders a latte at his local coffee shop. The employee working behind the register takes his order without so much as a smile or hello. Then, the inevitable happens. The iPad swivels toward Bob with a series of tip options staring back at him.

His mind starts to race:

  • Do you tip a barista the same as you’d tip a waiter at a full-service restaurant?

  • Should you tip the same percentage for a to-go coffee as you would for a sit-down meal?

  • Does the quality of service impact your tip anymore?

  • Would you have tipped for this service five years ago?

The line behind Bob grows restless. He doesn’t want to look bad (even if it was lackluster service), so he begrudgingly accepts the first suggested tip amount he sees, blindly tapping his finger in a panic.

As he walks away, Bob gets a sinking feeling. He really didn’t mean to tip that much. But between the imploring eyes of the cashier and the line of waiting customers breathing down his neck, he felt pressured into it. Bob sips his cup of coffee — and sighs. After all that, his order came out wrong.

As a restaurateur, the last thing you want is for your customers to leave your restaurant with a bad taste in their mouth. But all too often, Bob’s experience is the status quo in 2023. As a Forbes study revealed, one in three people now feel pressured to tip, while 18% feel uncomfortable about tipping.

The question is, why?

Smiling barista hands customer coffee as he pays with card at the point of sale and answers tip prompts.

A brief timeline of tip fatigue

In recent years, the practice of tipping has expanded beyond traditional venues to quick service restaurants, curbside pickups, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, concession stands, movie theaters and more. Although tipping is nothing new in the US, developments over the past few years have changed the game. And no one seems to know the rules anymore.

Icon of person in mask

The pandemic

One big reason for this? COVID-19. Due to the severe hardships placed on workers in the hospitality or service industry during the pandemic, customers were willing to leave bigger tips for more services — services they didn’t normally tip for before the pandemic.

Statistics show tips for full-service and quick-service restaurants surged from 2020 to 2021. This trend seeped into 2022 but lost some steam. Now in 2023, it seems people have reached, well, their tipping point.

Icon of open sign


The overwhelming, constant nature of tip requests has led to a wave of tip fatigue. What does that mean? People who would normally be happy to tip are getting tired of it. Research shows Americans are tipping less regularly than they did during the pandemic — and less often than they did prior to the pandemic.

And it’s no wonder. When faced with ever-present tip prompts, people are unsure of when they should actually be tipping and what size tip is appropriate for which services (remember Bob?).

But regardless of the murky guidelines, customers still feel obligated to leave a tip. Which can stir up negative feelings on the lower end of the scale and cause customers to call it quits on tipping altogether on the more severe end.

Icon of value of money decreasing

Economic pressures

On top of that, after years of generous tipping finally taking their toll, rising inflation and a looming economic recession have arrived on the scene. With economic pressures cutting into purchasing power, people are growing more budget-conscious than usual.

Icon of online ordering

Declining service

One more factor driving tip fatigue? Poor customer service. Due to ongoing labor shortages, it’s a serious challenge for understaffed businesses to provide high-quality service while trying to keep their heads above water.

We get how difficult it is. But in customers’ eyes, not only are they being asked to tip more, but they’re being asked to do so in exchange for less-than-satisfactory service. And at the end of the day, it’s not a good recipe for inspiring big tips — or customer loyalty.

The digital experience of tipping: A tale of technology and tipflation

Perhaps the biggest contributor of all to our changing tipping culture is technology.

Swiveling point of sale touch screens and kiosks rose to popularity due to the demand for contactless digital payment options during the pandemic. Since then, far from reverting to pre-pandemic ways, technology-based tipping is here to stay. Tip requests, or suggested gratuity, seem to be everywhere you go — and it has fundamentally transformed the way we tip.

For businesses, digital tipping is a great opportunity to bring in more revenue for employees. For customers, it’s a little less rainbows and sunshine.

Many customers feel that while they’re already taking the hit of higher prices for goods and services due to inflation, they’re being asked to give even more with the inescapable tip prompts at the end of their transaction. Tip prompts that often ask for larger tips than usual (sometimes starting at 20% and reaching 35%). The result? One study revealed 65% of people tip at least 10% more when they tip digitally than they do with cash.

If you’ve been wondering what exactly tipflation is, this is it.

Here’s one more way to look at how tipping has changed: Instead of tipping being an activity the customer opts into as it has been in the past, it’s now an activity they have to opt out of. Why? Screens require customers to make a tip choice in order to complete checkout if they’re paying with credit card or debit card. In other words, there’s no way around it.

It’s easy to see why customers have mixed feelings about tech’s role in tips. But the moral of this story isn’t to avoid using technology for tipping at your restaurant. It’s to be considerate of how your patrons are feeling and to learn how to use technology in the right way. Speaking of…

How to find the right balance for configuring tips at your restaurant

Although customer attitudes towards tipping have seen better days, your employees still rely on tips. Which begs the question: What can you do as a small business owner to max your employees’ earnings without driving customers away?

Glad you asked.

Communication is key

We don’t have to tell you: Tips make up a large portion of your waitstaff’s salaries — especially if they’re getting paid a minimum cash wage. At the federal level, the minimum cash wage is $2.13/hr. However, this might look different depending on where you live since certain states have their own requirements.

A good amount of customers are generally familiar with this concept. But what they don’t always realize is that tips often benefit more than just their server. With tip sharing and tip pooling, other members of staff who are not tipped directly by the customer (think hostesses, bussers, food runners, etc.) may rely on shared server tips too. At some restaurants, they even leave separate line items for patrons to tip their server and the kitchen.

No matter how you decide to distribute tips at your restaurant, doing this one thing will save you a lot of headaches down the road: Communicate your tipping policy to your patrons.

If customers are hit with tip requests for multiple groups or are unsure about where their tip money is going (and are already struggling with tip fatigue), they probably won’t feel too warm and fuzzy about leaving one at your restaurant. That’s why it’s a good idea to educate customers about who exactly receives tips on your staff and why. Chances are, they’ll be less likely to feel blindsided and more likely to tip willingly thanks to your transparency.

Bottom line? Customers don’t want to feel they’re being taken advantage of or hoodwinked into doing something.

Customer uses their watch to pay with digital wallet at the point of sale.

Understand your customers’ motivations

Despite the grumbling and griping, people (for the most part) are probably still going to leave a tip. A study on US tipping culture in 2023 reports that 95% of respondents say they tip at least some of the time, while 76% report always tipping. The top motivations for tipping include:

  • Helping service providers
  • Rewarding servers for their effort
  • Encouraging good service for the next visit

  • Gaining social approval (from observers and servers)
  • Abiding by social norms or fulfilling a social obligation to avoid disapproval

This tells us a few things. First, customers generally understand how little service workers get paid, and they want to help. They also see tipping as a fair exchange for good service.

Second, there’s a social element attached to tipping. And modern payment systems make tipping more of a public affair than ever before. Since those screens aren’t exactly shielded from curious eyes, that means customers have to declare how generous they’re feeling to everyone who has a view of the point of sale … which plays into the societal pressure to tip well.

The takeaway? Different customers have different motivations for tipping, but it’s important to be aware of them. They’ll help you better understand where your patrons are coming from — and make an informed tipping strategy.

You have options: Service charge vs. suggested gratuity

So, we’ve established that employees need tips and that customers generally want to tip. But how to handle it the right way? There’s no cut-and-dry answer, but you can make informed decisions based on your restaurant type and customers.

Your three main options are to:

  1. Leave an open-ended tip line with no suggested tip

  2. Include a set tip via a service charge or automatic gratuity

  3. Provide suggested tips via prompts on the point of sale screen or receipt

So, which one to choose? A survey shows that 63% of customers prefer free discretionary tipping over included service charges. However, take that with a grain of salt.

Icon of receipt with service charge

Service charges

If you’re not familiar, a service charge is when a server’s or bartender’s tip (usually around 18%) is included in the bill.

For some restaurants that pride themselves on exceptional hospitality, like fine dining or higher-end establishments, automatic gratuity often is the best course of action to ensure waitstaff is well taken care of. Another instance where this might make sense is for larger parties —usually of six or more guests. Again, this is to protect the server from doing taxing work without proper payoff.

If either of these situations applies to your restaurant, you’ll want to do as we discussed earlier and communicate about it with your customers. Sneakily slipping a service charge into the total amount without telling your customers won’t work in your favor. Adding a tip prompt on top of that definitely won’t. Double tipping only leads to angry customers. Best to avoid it from the start!

Icon of person requesting tip

Suggested tips

If you choose to go with suggested tip amounts, the same rules apply: Be upfront and honest.

For example, if you provide a few different tip amounts on the screen, but the default, preselected amount is 30%, a customer might accidentally select that and feel they’ve been tricked into it. And the employee is usually the one who will face the brunt of the backlash over it. It’s a good idea to leave suggestions in a way that doesn’t promote one option over another. After all, tipping should be the customer’s choice.

Now, let’s get into the weeds of different ways to configure suggested tip amounts based on price points, the kind of restaurant you run and the structure that makes the most sense for you.

Icon of paying for percentage of a pizza


Percentage-based tipping is most common for sit-down restaurants. Diners in these types of restaurants are already used to tipping their server 15-20% of their total bill due to the waiter’s continuous service throughout their meal.

With modern point of sale systems, you should be able to customize your suggested gratuity percentages — and calculate them either with or without tax included. A common method is to suggest 10%, 15% and 20% options. But if your restaurant is a little more upscale, a 20%, 25% and 30% range might suit better. Keep your average customer in mind, as well as the average price of your menu items when selecting suggested percentages.

One more thing to consider — if you go the percentage route, it’s also a nice touch to include the dollar amount the percentage equates to on the screen or receipt. Most customers will appreciate not having to pull out their smartphone calculators to do the math themselves.

Icon of cash flow

Fixed dollar amounts

As far as fixed dollar suggestions go, this option is most widely adopted by quick service restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

Here’s why: If you run a coffee shop and your customers are regularly making low-dollar purchases, suggesting simple dollar amounts instead of percentages might yield better results for your staff.

These suggestions often look like $1, $2 or $3 tips for a coffee that costs around $5. A customer would probably balk at a 50% tip but look at leaving an extra $2.50 as not so bad. See the appeal?

Icon of online ordering app


We get it. It’s not always black and white. If your restaurant offers a wide range of menu prices or varies greatly depending on the time of day (perhaps you have a low-dollar lunch menu but increase prices for the dinner crowd), you may want to take a mixed approach.

This is when you alternate between suggested percentages and fixed dollar amounts for tips based on whether a purchase is above or below a certain price point. For example, you could set fixed-dollar gratuity suggestions for anything below $10, but change to percentages for anything above $10.

Whichever tipping strategy works best for your restaurant, here’s the golden rule: Be transparent with your customers, and don’t try to manipulate them with suggested tip ranges that will likely be out of their comfort zone. You might get a higher tip that one time, but will you get a repeat visit?

Smiling waiter takes tableside payment from customer with mobile point of sale system.

Great service trumps all

We saved the best tipping tip for last: The most foolproof way to get customers to tip well (and gladly) is to deliver great service. As it happens, that’s also the best way to get them to return to your restaurant.

Easier said than done, right? If you’re wondering how to train employees to provide great customer service, take a page out of Danny Meyer’s book and explore his top strategies for creating a culture of stellar hospitality.

Another piece of the puzzle? Let your employees know why they should deliver a great customer experience.

While some members of the younger workforce who are more accustomed to the digital age may expect a tip regardless of the quality of service, the research says otherwise.

According to one study, nearly 80% of participants said the size of their tip was directly proportionate to the service they received. This goes to show tipping is subjectively determined by the quality of the service.

Be sure to adjust your employees’ expectations during training — and let them know this is ultimately good news. Why? Because it gives them autonomy over their situation and empowers them to make a significant impact on the size of their tips through performance.

If your staff starts to implement small behaviors like increasing their number of visits to the table to check in, smiling, repeating customers’ orders after writing them down and exhibiting kindness and attentiveness — they might just tip the scale in their favor.

How technology can help

Keeping both customers and employees happy in general is difficult. It’s an even finer balance when it comes to tipping. But there’s no reason why you should navigate it alone.

Using the right technology in the right way can help your restaurant beat tip fatigue, increase employee earnings, keep customers coming back — and do it all without breaking a sweat.

Meet Heartland Restaurant point of sale. Our point of sale systems offer secure tip management features that make it easy to accept tips at the time of sale, collect post-authorization tips and track tips throughout shifts. Our tech also helps you take care of your people with secure tip cards, payout apportions, tip pooling and convenient server banking.

With Heartland Restaurant, you can:

  • Ensure staff is rewarded for great service: Make it simple to add a tip with a sleek, customer-facing touchscreen. Users can choose between two different types of tipping styles — or not tip at all.

  • Enable onscreen tipping: Customize suggested tip options and allow customers to make a tip selection before paying. Display a screen on the payment device where the customer can select their desired tip, whether it’s a suggested tip amount, a custom amount or no tip. You can also capture customers’ signatures on-screen or via a paper receipt.

  • Offer receipt tipping: Take a payment, then allow customers to add a tip later (also known as “Tip/Adjust”). You can print separate receipt slips for the merchant and customer, including tip and total lines, plus a line for the customer’s signature.

Best of all, our restaurant point of sale tech comes in different pricing plans, built for every budget.

Ready to unlock solutions that make every day work better for you, your customers and your employees? Learn more here.

Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at

Senator Debbie Mayfield Recognizes Long Time Restaurateurs, FRLA Members as Constituents of the Week

Spotlight on Malabar’s Stuart and Nancy Borton 

Our Constituents of the Week are Nancy and Stuart Borton, local restaurant entrepreneurs, most notable for their 25 years as founders and owners of the Yellow Dog Café in Malabar. 

The Borton’s opened the Yellow Dog Café over two decades ago to provide local residents and visitors to the community a restaurant specializing in “comfort food with a flair.” They quickly became a neighborhood and county-wide favorite recognized for their unique menu, scenic location on the Indian River, and their staff’s friendly and professional service.

The history of the Yellow Dog Café is as interesting as the story of Stuart and Nancy Borton. For years, Stuart and Nancy dreamt of owning a restaurant on the water.  They discovered an old building on the Indian River Lagoon in Malabar, purchased it, quickly remodeled it in 1997, and welcomed their first customers in 1998. They have since added a riverfront covered porch, pier, a dock on the beach, and a landscaped area for weddings and special occasions.

Their culinary interests began long ago. Stuart is originally from Michigan and credits his mom for his interest in the food industry. While in the Army, he was stationed in Germany and traveled to Japan, and finally to Australia where he settled to work in the insurance industry. Yet, culinary remained his calling. He purchased his first restaurant in the Australian city of Adelaide in an old Parliament building, and soon after he opened a second restaurant near Adelaide called Oxfords Café.  

Nancy’s culinary interests began early in life too. From the age of 12, she was working in the culinary field serving assorted treats and managing a grocery store kiosk. She used her entrepreneurial spirit, talent, and experience in the food industry to enroll in the Worcester Fanning Trade School where she graduated with a degree in restaurant business administration. She won several competitions for cake decorating and was class president in her senior year. Shortly after graduation, she was hired to manage The El Morocco Restaurant in Massachusetts.

Later, while vacationing back in the U.S., Stuart met Nancy in Orlando and they married shortly thereafter.  Together they opened a restaurant, The Steer Inn, in St. Louis, Michigan at the Michigan Livestock Exchange. 

The cold weather left the Borton’s longing for Florida and in short order, they moved to the Micco area and opened Stuart’s Bistro and The Pizza Store, and ultimately the Yellow Dog Café in 1998.

Today, nearly 25 years later, Stuart and Nancy take on the daily challenges of owning and managing a thriving restaurant. They divide and conquer the important tasks of menu perfection, food tasting, meal presentation, professional dining service, selecting décor, staffing, training, inventory, sales, and all other critical functions in running a successful business.  They also are well known in the community for their gracious support of many charities including Promise in Brevard.

Their success is enviable. The Yellow Dog Café was recently named one of Brevard County’s best local fine dining restaurants by Space Coast Living magazine. Florida Travel and Life magazine featured their restaurant as one of the best tables with a view in the state of Florida. In Touch Magazine recently wrote about Yellow Dog Café: A legendary Florida restaurant cooks up one of the world’s best chicken dishes. Orlando Sentinel food reviewer Scott Joseph wrote that Yellow Dog Café is adrift in flavors along the river’s edge; The views of the Indian River make Yellow Dog Café a scenic setting for a wonderful dining excursion.

 To view the Yellow Dog Cafe’s iconic menu or make a reservation, click here.

District 19 is proud to congratulate Nancy and Stuart Borton on 25 years of success in Brevard County and we wish you both and the Yellow Dog Café another 25 years of blessings and prosperity!


4 Reasons to Add Tech Solutions Like Fintech to Your Restaurant

Restaurants are gearing up for the busy holiday season. In preparation, operators are looking for areas to make improvements, considering rising labor demand, costs, and competition. Managers can improve operations by implementing tech solutions that automate manual tasks and drive higher return on investment (ROI).

Operators may think they need a catch-all solution that tackles everything at once, but there are more cost-effective solutions that improve the customer experience and protect the bottom line. Fintech’s PaymentSource® targets restaurants’ beverage alcohol management by streamlining tasks to save both time and money that can be invested in other areas of the business.


1) Maintain Consistent Margins

There isn’t always room in the budget for investing in a high-tech solution, especially when margins are tight from rising costs. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) published a report earlier this year that projected $997B in sales for the foodservice industry, so while revenue is expected to increase, that means finding ways to keep pace with the demand. There is also an emphasis on finding products with the highest ROI to improve margins.

Fintech’s PaymentSource has detailed reporting features that help restaurants improve buying strategy and stay competitive. One example is the Cost Variance Report, which tracks fluctuations in product costs so restaurant operators can take action to protect margins. The Top Products Report determines fast-moving products to take advantage of quantity buys and ensure the right selection is stocked in line with consumer demand. For restaurants burdened by split case fees, the Split Case Report identifies money lost in the ordering process and pinpoints when to order or buy the case or the bottle.

These cost savings and margin-enhancing reporting tools will preserve more of the restaurant budget that can be invested elsewhere.

2) Save Time With Automation

Wasting time on manual tasks is an efficiency killer in the restaurant industry. Managers have to stop what they’re doing to handle payment for each alcohol delivery, then have to take more time to manually input line-item invoice details into the restaurant back-office or accounting system. Wouldn’t it be better to have technology in place that automates alcohol invoice payments with each distributor? Wouldn’t it be even better to have technology that also seamlessly integrates line-item invoice data without having to lift a finger?

Fintech helps restaurant operators with both. Alcohol invoice payments are paid in compliance with state regulatory terms for beer, wine, and spirits. There is also an electronic data interchange (EDI) component that integrates with over 200 back-office systems like Quickbooks, Restaurant365, Compeat, and more.

These automations allow operators to receive their delivery and get back to business with minimal interruptions.

3) Reliability

It is no secret that turnover is high in the restaurant industry. This turnover slows down operational efficiency and leaves managers scrambling to interview, hire, and train new employees. Employing technology solutions that automate tasks provides consistency in key areas. With reliable technology in place, there is one less area to worry about “no call/no shows,” employees calling out on busy shifts, and high turnover rates.

Reliability is a great trait in restaurant workplace culture, and Fintech has yet to miss an alcohol invoice payment, call in sick, or request a day off.

4) Enhance the Customer Experience

The restaurant industry is built around hospitality. The biggest driver of success is ensuring customers have a positive experience that keeps them coming back. Restaurant operators shouldn’t be bogged down with manual tasks that keep them in the back office, they should be out on the floor with customers and helping their staff.

While some may argue that more automation in restaurants limits human interaction, there are certainly some forms that foster more human interaction. With a system like Fintech running in the background, restaurant operators can put more time and energy into the customer experience versus dealing with time-consuming manual tasks.

Restaurants Should Use Technology to Their Advantage

With so many moving parts in successful restaurant management, a helping hand goes a long way. Restaurants can leverage technology solutions like Fintech to streamline their beverage alcohol program. Operators should take the little time left before getting into the full swing of the holiday season to identify solutions that protect and improve margins, build better purchasing strategies, and deliver better experiences to their customers.

Written By: Matthew Bruner

Natural Gas: Limitless Opporunity

Limitless Opportunities Await With Natural Gas. Increase Your Bottom Line and Customer Satisfaction

Whether you’re new to natural gas or you’re already enjoying its many benefits, now is the time to maximize your savings. Natural gas is a reliable, domestic, and environmentally friendly energy source, fueling a large variety of applications in the restaurant and lodging industries. And with high-performance natural gas equipment, you can save money on operational costs and reduce your carbon footprint — all while keeping your customers satisfied.

  • Reduce your operational costs
  • Improve business efficiency
  • Decrease your carbon footprint
  • Boost your bottom line
  • Save money for other business expenses
  • Contribute to the U.S. economy

Explore the many benefits of natural gas, plus start saving right away with equipment rebates that may be available through your local utility provider.