Meet our June Member of the Month

We are honored to have Heidi Dennis as our June Member of the Month.

From the beginning of her career, Heidi knew the hospitality industry was meant for her and aspired to become a general manager of a hotel. When people doubted her, she kept pushing with strength and determination, eventually becoming the general manager of the beautiful Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale.

With such a passion for our industry, it was a no-brainer to select this hospitality hero as our June Member of the Month. In addition, Heidi is a champion for FRLA and currently holds the position of Chair of Events for our Broward Chapter. Heidi is described by Regional Director Lynne Hernandez as being an “incredibly humble and generous person who cares so much for others.”

We can’t wait to see Heidi continue to grow and further her team at the Pelican Grand Beach Resort.

Watch Heidi’s highlight below to get to know more about her.

Want to see our previous Members of the Month? Click here.

Is Plant Forward the Way Forward?

With the amount of money and attention being invested in plant-based foods, it’s easy to get caught up in the wave of excitement.  From oat milk to cauliflower crust, plant-based foods have blossomed into a $3.3 billion industry at retail.  Meanwhile, foodservice operators are re-examining menus, foraging for solutions, and launching new concepts to capitalize on rising consumer interest in plant-based alternatives.   Take, for example, Burger King who announced this year it would run a 59-store test of the Impossible Burger, a soy protein-based burger being embraced by independent chefs and chains alike.  By offering a meatless option, Burger King provides current customers more choice, perhaps inspiring them to come in more often, while attracting new consumers who would not otherwise consider the chain.

In determining whether plants have a bigger role to play on menus, it’s important for chefs and operators to consider more than just the bump or buzz that may come from featuring products like the Impossible Burger or other meat “analogs.”  An intimate understanding of the consumer — their specific needs, interests and expectations of the restaurant and/or brand — should drive the vision or food philosophy for the overall concept as well as the menu strategy.  And if done right, cultivating a plant-forward menu will not require buzzwords like “plant-based, “vegetarian” or “vegan,” but rather resonate with guests on a more lasting and meaningful level that comes across as authentic and not forced.

As one of the primary drivers of consumer interest in plant-based foods, “better health”  can manifest itself in as many ways across the menu and across dayparts as there are guests, including allergen free, high protein, low carb and everything in between.  At minimum, incorporating plant-forward menu items can help create a positive health halo.  And, if guests are actively making food choices based on diet or health, cultivating a plant-forward menu that incorporates an array of vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and even dairy alternatives enables the flexibility and customization necessary to serve this health-conscious crowd.

Separate from better health, some consumers, particularly those from younger generations, seek out and extend loyalty to plant-forward restaurants whose values align with theirs around issues like sustainability and animal welfare.  In some instances, animal protein still has a home on the menu, but serves more as an ingredient and comes from more sustainable, animal-friendly sources.  In any case, a plant-forward menu can facilitate transparency and create an opportunity for greater engagement with guests by sharing the restaurant’s food philosophy, including the sources and stories behind its products and menu.

In the end, the most critical ingredient to a successful plant-forward menu that appeals to all guests is TASTE.   Whether plants are the primary focus or have a supporting role on the menu, they enable chefs to express their creativity and innovate with new flavor combinations that appeal to consumer’s desire for culinary adventure. While it may take some convincing to bring some guests along, leveraging the abundance of unique and flavorful plants available today can create an exciting and compelling point of differentiation to keep current and new guests coming back for more.


Blog written by Kathy Takemura, Partner, Tournant Inc

DBPR’s Food Safety Tips for the 2019 Hurricane Season

The 2019 hurricane season has officially begun, and DBPR’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants would like to provide the industry with the following food safety tips and reminders on how to operate safely during an emergency:

• Hot food should maintain a temperature of 135°F or above while cold foods should be kept at temperatures of 41°F or below.

• Minimize the handling of foods before, during and after preparation. Wash hands with potable or boiled water.

• Single-service articles should be used whenever possible. Discard single-service items such as paper or plastic plates, cups, plastic utensils, lids, straws, etc. if the items have been exposed to contamination.

• Food should be covered and protected from dust, dirt, insects, vermin and other contaminants.

• Add bags of ice or dry ice to refrigerators and freezers prior to the emergency if a notice is given and loss of power for an extended time is expected.

• Do not operate if the establishment has no safe water supply or electrical power (or generators) to run essential equipment.

• Do not operate if the establishment has no roof or is not structurally sound.

• While power is off, keep the doors to freezers and coolers closed in order to maintain temperature as long as possible.

• When power is restored, identify all potentially hazardous foods (PHF) that may have been above 41°F or below 135°F for more than four hours. PHF foods that have been out of temperature for more than 4 hours must be properly discarded.

• Thawed foods that still contain ice crystals and are 41°F or less can safely re-freeze.

• Discard any food that has been contaminated or come in contact with floodwater, sewage, smoke, fumes, chemicals, or other liquid contaminants.

• Discard vulnerable containers of food such as those containing peel-off covers, scored pop tops, waxed cardboard, cork or screw tops or paraffin seals such as glass or plastic containers of catsup, dressing, milk, mayonnaise, soda, beer, sauces, etc. if the containers have been exposed to contamination.

• Discard foods packaged in soft, porous containers like cardboard boxes, paper, foil, plastic and cellophane such as boxes or bags of food, cereal, flour, sugar, rice, salt, etc. if the packages have been exposed to contamination.

• Discard shell eggs exposed to any contamination – the shell is porous

• Do not use swollen, leaking or damaged canned goods.

• Smoke damage to food is difficult to assess. Insoluble tars and plastics and their byproducts suspended in smoke is a major concern. Discard all foods exposed to smoke.

• Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans can be saved if you remove labels that can come off, thoroughly wash the cans, rinse them, and then disinfect them with a sanitizing solution consisting of 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of potable water. Finally, re-label the containers with a marker.

• If the establishment was exposed to contamination, clean and sanitize all equipment and food-contact surfaces with potable or boiled water. Do not operate until the entire establishment has been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized or disinfected. Š

• All water filters on equipment should be removed and replaced if not designed to be cleaned in place.

Division Director Rick Akin would like to remind all operators, Food Safety is in Your Hands!


For more hurricane tips, visit our Hurricane Resources page.

Our May Member of the Month Came to Play🍴

Have you met our May Member of the Month?

Meet the owner of 21 Spices in Naples, Chef Asif Syed. Chef Asif makes a mean Tandoori Chicken, and is well known for beating Chef Bobby Flay on his own show, Beat Bobby Flay!

Chef Asif says it best: “Hospitality runs in my blood.” He was raised in a city in Indian known for its hospitality. Because of this, he has developed a passion for helping young adults entering the industry find their passion. It is important for him to teach “youngsters” his knowledge, so that they can one day go on and succeed in the industry.

Congratulations, Chef Asif, for being our wonderful May Member of the Month!

 

5 Easy Ways to Get More Reviews for Your Establishment

Getting great reviews. That should be the goal of any restaurant, shouldn’t it? To have your restaurant praised for what it does best, and shouted out to the world; that’s what any restaurant or hotel owner truly desires.

Reviews aren’t just marketing. Their core component is that they’re authentic. People trust reviews more than anything you could possibly tell them from an official channel.

The difficult part, of course, isn’t getting people to enjoy the experience. (Your establishment is great already, right?) It’s getting people to actually go through with the review. Read ahead for five easy ways to get more reviews in your restaurant or hotel.

Go The Extra Mile

Unfortunately, getting a review requires more than just good food and good service. Getting a review requires you to do something that makes customers think to themselves: “Wow, that was really cool… Maybe I should leave a review!”

You see, once the customer checks out, they’ve already paid for your services. The transaction between establishment and customer is complete. They don’t feel like they owe you anything anymore.

Why should they take their time to post a review?

The key lies in the psychological concept of reciprocity. As defined by Dr. Robert Cialdini, in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, reciprocity is the mental pull that we feel to reciprocate when something is given.

Establish something unexpected that you’ll do for customers. Whether it’s free bread for the table, a complementary dessert, chocolates or mints with the receipt, or even all of the above, it’s often the little things that influence people.

Find Out Which Review Platform To Cater To

Knowing which review sites your audience seem to favor will help you in encouraging them to post reviews about you. Here’s a helpful trick. First, run through the top review sites. We’ve listed a few of them here for your convenience.
● Yelp
● OpenTable
● Google
● Zomato
● Foursquare
● TripAdvisor

Check your local competitors on each of them. Analyze who’s getting reviews and on which sites. It’s important to understand what type of audience each site attracts and how your establishment can leverage customers to gain positive reviews. Hopefully, your competitors can provide some of that insight.

Also, (this should really go without saying) make sure that your hotel or restaurant is listed to begin with!

Social Media

Social media, much more so than targeted review sites, is a little bit easier to get recommendations on. The likelihood that customers might post something positive about your restaurant, especially in the heat of the moment, following an excellent night out, is substantially higher.

Whereas posting on targeted review sites might be a hobby for some customers, posting recommendations and reviews via social media tends to be more well, social. Doubling down on your social media marketing is an awesome way to promote these types of reviews.

Be Constructive

It’s hard to avoid the occasional negative review. Whether justified or not, for one reason or another, there’s always something to be gained from such criticism. Be constructive by addressing each complaint with diligence and concern. Respond to reviews so that these customers know that you’re listening.

You won’t be able to erase a negative review, but you can counteract it with future positive reviews. For example, let’s say I’m researching a restaurant I’m considering to eat at. I go to my review site of choice and being scrolling. I notice that the most recent bad review is from a few years ago, and that since then, the majority of reviews have been fairly positive. In fact, one of the more recent reviews even mentions how much the restaurant has improved in the last couple years!

Get Better Reviews With CoGoBuzz

Do you need more reviews in your establishment? Get better reviews easily and automatically with CoGoBuzz, our incredible state-of-the-art marketing service.
Leveraging powerful WiFi, SMS, and Email solutions, CoGoBuzz connects directly to your customers’ mobile devices, – heightening engagement both in-store and out. Featuring a built-in custom landing page (tailored to your hotel or restaurant), accessed automatically through a one-time connection to the HotSpot, you can promote and incentivize customers to provide feedback.

CoGoBuzz comes with a fully-digital, text-based loyalty program, allowing you to connect with your loyal customers wherever they go. Engage and reward them to help promote more positive reviews!


Article written by the CogoBuzz team. To learn more about CoGoBuzz, visit www.cogo.buzz.

Well Shot Photos Can Make the Sale

Photo by Jared Ng

A picture sells a thousand meals: get serious about your photography.

It’s still one of the hardest things to make people see the value of, but custom professional photography makes all the difference. Yes, phones have great cameras these days, and they can add all sorts of filters and effects, but they are still a poor substitute for someone who understands lighting and composition and uses professional tools. Did you know, for example, that a crucial tool in the food photographers kit box is WD40? Not to keep the camera shutter from sticking, but to give the food that freshly cooked glisten. This is just one of the many tricks that a professional can employ that is going to heighten the photograph’s impact.

I routinely work with clients who can’t – or won’t – afford the time and effort required to do it properly. Real estate agents who provide phone-camera images taken from across the street at 2pm on a rainy day, for example. Or restaurants who provide instruction such as ‘use a nice picture of some shrimp’ without considering how this photograph needs to make their shrimp seem worth the extra time it takes to drive to their location.

If your budget won’t stretch to a professional, here are some tips to give your photos some value:

  1. Put some time into lighting and composition. When shooting food, for example, you can employ a little color theory. Most food is not blue, and anything in the brown/orange range (say, a nice apple pie) will contrast well on a blue background. The blue will recede, providing more focus to the food.
  2. Another valid route is stock photography, of course. Here you can benefit from the experience of a professional without the expense of a custom shoot. This limits you, however, to a certain generic quality to the imagery. If your shrimp cocktail is unique, it deserves its own photograph.
  3. If stock photography is necessary, try to limit the amount of ambient content in the scene. Go close in on the food, to avoid portraying elements that a guest won’t find in your establishment. The same can work for pillows or towels; just don’t accidentally show a beach in the background if you’re not on the coast. Ultimately, stock photography will be limiting because you won’t be able to find every shot you need in the same style, or from the right angle, and location-based marketing can only employ so much pretend ambience before appearing to be fake.
  4. If you’re shooting property, don’t just stand in the doorway and click; take shots from several angles and review them to see which is most flattering. You might vary your height as well as your angle, and crop out less flattering elements like air vents.

If you have to shoe-string it, try remembering these few nuggets.

  • Invest in a tripod so you can make the most of natural light. Early or late in the day will appear the most appealing but are challenging to do well.
  • Shoot in landscape format, it’s more appealing and natural.
  • Use the right lens for the job: wide angle for property, macro for food.

Jeremy Spinks is VP of Online Design at BowStern Marketing Communications

All About our April Member of the Month

Our April Member of the Month is Steve Keup with Hersha Hospitality Management. We are proud to have Steve as our Member of the Month because of his passion in the industry and involvement in the community.

Steve has been a member of FRLA for the past 7 years, and is currently the President of the dynamic Miami Dade Chapter. Steve came into the chapter with a take-charge attitude and has helped lead fundraising efforts on behalf of the education programs. He loves being a part of the hospitality industry because it allows him to promote others entering the field. Outside of FRLA, Steve is involved with numerous charities.

Thank you, Steve, for being an involved member of the community and an FRLA role model.

Watch his video below, or check out our other Member’s of the Month.

VISIT FLORIDA and Partners Work to Create Memorable Experiences for Visitors

There really is no other place like Florida! When people think of the Sunshine State, they imagine beaches, springs, trails, campgrounds, theme parks, hotels, shopping and culinary delights, but Florida is about experiences, making connections and memories.

With record numbers of visitors to the state, it is more important than ever that VISIT FLORIDA works together with its partners to help create these experiences. To help make these connections, VISIT FLORIDA relies on its private sector, state agency and trade association partners, like the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. VISIT FLORIDA’s vision is to establish Florida as the No. 1 travel destination in the world and we can accomplish this together.

Tourism supports Florida’s economy, creates jobs for residents, and its economic impact is felt across the state. Year after year, Florida has welcomed a record number of out-of-state visitors, and based on the latest economic impact study, these visitors spent $112 billion and supported 1.4 million Florida jobs. According to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research, for every $1 the state invests in VISIT FLORIDA, $2.15 in tax revenue is generated.

Each year, Florida Tourism Day gives the industry a chance to come together in Tallahassee to talk with legislators about the impacts of tourism on the state’s economy. Working with FRLA, VISIT FLORIDA looks forward to a successful legislative session for the tourism and hospitality industry. The industry’s hard work makes a difference in the experience visitors have in Florida and keeps them coming back! VISIT FLORIDA’s goal is not just to share sunshine, but to brighten the lives of all.

Some of the benefits of partnering with VISIT FLORIDA include marketing tools, hospitality training, industry contacts, discounts, promotions, partner to partner benefits and increased marketing exposure to visitors. VISIT FLORIDA works to leverage marketing for its partners through a number of creative and affordable co-op opportunities such as digital and print advertising, domestic and internationally targeted social media, video content production and more.

To learn more about the resources available to Florida tourism businesses, go to VISITFLORIDA.org.


Article found in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Magazine Spring 2019 Edition

Eat Local This World Food Travel Day

World Food Travel Day is a special day dedicated to bringing awareness to the importance of local culinary cultures around the world. Taking place on April 18, the World Food Travel Association invites you to join in and share your favorite culinary culture.

Throughout Florida, you can find different cuisines from all over the world. However, we think it’s important to share with you Florida’s local cuisine. Our state is home to a wide selection of culinary staples – most of which are unique to Florida. Here’s a few of our favorite culinary staples that make the Sunshine State stand out.

Stone Crab

Photo from Joe’s Stone Crab

The Stone Crab is a Florida native, and a popular menu item when in season! From mid-October to mid-May, you can find this in many popular seafood restaurants. Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami discovered the Stone Crab and is now well known for this Florida food! We’re getting hungry just looking at them…

Cubans

Photo from Columbia Restaurant

Fun fact – Cuban sandwiches are not actually from Cuba! These tasty sandwiches originated in Key West and Ybor City to cater to early Cuban immigrant communities in Florida. If you love Cuban sammys, we suggest you look in these two cities. Some of our favorites are Columbia Restaurant, Havana Cuban Food, and Sergio’s.

Oysters

Photo from Acme Oyster House

If you’re in Florida and haven’t tried oysters, you haven’t had the real Floridian experience. Apalachicola is a great hub for fresh oysters, and you can find them all throughout the panhandle. From Up the Creek Raw Bar in Apalachicola to Shunk Gulley in Santa Rosa Beach, they’ve got some of the best oysters around.

BBQ

Photo from The Bearded Pig

Of course, we can’t forget our southern staples. Southern food is our comfort food, and one of our favorites is bar-b-q. Check out this brisket sandwich from The Bearded Pig!

Key Lime Pie

Photo from The Bay

Another great cultural food from Florida, and our favorite sweet treat, is the infamous Key Lime Pie. Although key limes were brought to the states, the key lime pie is a Key West native. Most famous are Key West’s Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie Bars. Of course, you can find this tasty treat all over Florida. The Bay Restaurant in South Walton has a must-try key lime pie when you’re in the area.

Beer

Photo from Funky Buddha Brewery

Florida is home to a handful of breweries located across the state. In fact, we have so many that Visit Florida created a Craft Brewery Finder so visitors can find one that suits them perfectly. Some of our favorites are Proof Brewing Company, Cigar City Brewing and Funky Buddha.

Want to share your favorite world or Florida food culture?

Post on social with the hashtag #WorldFoodTravelDay on April 18 to participate!

Short-Term Vacation Rentals and FRLA

Vacation rentals have long been a part of the fabric of enjoying the Sunshine State, and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association believes that all forms of lodging play an important role in providing Florida’s visitors a place to stay. Each year, Florida’s tourism numbers rise as more and more people choose to visit our incredible state, and we are proud to provide them with a wide array of lodging options.

So what’s the problem with short-term vacation rentals?

Traditional vacation rentals have provided countless families the opportunity to enjoy Florida with the comforts and conveniences of home. However, the advent of online hosting platforms has dramatically changed the landscape of vacation rentals. Hosting platforms have significantly expanded the searchability and availability of vacation rentals. These hosting platforms have also caused an increase in the use of traditionally residential homes as vacation rentals. Intended to connect renters and owners, the platforms may in fact facilitate large commercial operations that look and function exactly like hotels but evade important safety and sanitation requirements. The hospitality industry owes it to our guests to ensure that all are safe and protected, regardless of their chosen type of lodging.  To do that, we must address the issues with the current vacation rental landscape.

Municipalities across the nation are grappling with these issues, working to regulate hosting platforms for a variety of reasons including collecting proper taxes, ensuring the safety and privacy of guests and, and protecting homeowners who find themselves living next door to a vacation rental in a neighborhood whose zoning regulations are strictly residential. This issue is complex, and it can be difficult to strike a good balance between respecting the individual rights of property owners and protecting visitors and neighboring residents.

How do we move forward?

I believe the solutions are simple and fair, and FRLA and our Government Affairs team are working towards achieving the needed change by sitting down with regulatory agencies, our lodging members, and representatives from hosting platforms. We’re asking that all vacation rentals be licensed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and that hosting platforms require that license number for an owner to post a listing.  We also feel that the required taxes should be collected from all lodging establishments, and that transparency and audit requirements apply equally to all.

There is a place at the table for all of types of lodging.  Having many different types of lodging available to visitors makes Florida more open and accessible to all visitors. But we need to update our regulations to ensure that we not provide special treatment to any one type of lodging.  Most importantly, we want to continue to make sure that we are providing a quality visitation experience to all of Florida’s guests, no matter where they choose to stay.

 


 

This op-ed was originally published in Today’s Hotelier in March 2019.