High-Touch to No Touch

By Adam Levithan

During my years working at restaurants and hotels I was taught the value of a smile and personal connection as the driver of a good experience. Today, these interactions are limited, and we look to technology not to replace them but to increase efficiency that allow team members time to focus on the customer. Built into your Microsoft 365 investments there are two key areas involving the interaction between back-office, managers and frontline workers, scheduling and training.

Scheduling with Shifts in Microsoft Teams

From the smallest restaurant using a sign-up sheet, call-ins and word of mouth, to chain of restaurants or hotels with self-created systems, a high percentage of time and thought is spent on scheduling. Aptly named, Microsoft created a solution called Shifts for creating and maintaining schedules that is fully integrated into the mobile Microsoft Teams app. You can:

  • Request Time off – Requesting time off sends an alert to the Owner, who can approve/reject the request.
  • Swap/offer shifts – Alerts are sent to the people that are chosen, and they can accept/deny the request.
  • Views/Reports – Back-office and Managers can review schedules in many different ways.

On-line Training

With your team members already in Microsoft Teams for scheduling, virtual meetings and finding documents, the next step is to embed training into the mobile friendly tool. While the best trainings in a restaurant or hotel are hands-on, you can come close to the experience.

  • Interactive Live Sessions – You can produce single or multi-camera training videos with minimal production effort to show all angles of the training, while simultaneously taking and answering questions.
  • One-time, Live & Recorded – If people couldn’t attend the original session it is recorded, and a questionnaire can be added to test knowledge. Team members can even submit video responses demonstrating their training.

Technology will never replace high-touch scenarios, but it provides more time for your team members to focus on delivering memorable and effective experiences in the new normal and beyond.

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

In 2016, Florida voters soundly passed Amendment 2, Florida’s medical marijuana law, with over 71% of the vote.  Since then, two bills have been passed implementing the law, there was one high-profile lawsuit targeting the legislature’s initial ban on smoking medical marijuana, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use was created as part of Florida’s Department of Health. We’d like to touch on what this means for marijuana in the workplace.

Where are we now?

Only “qualified patients” are entitled to use medical marijuana, which requires certification by a physician of a debilitating medical condition:  cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, PTSD, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, other medical conditions “of the same kind or class as or comparable” to the ones specifically identified, a terminal condition, and chronic nonmalignant pain.

Florida’s law specifically provides that no employment accommodations are required for any on-site medical marijuana use.  Thus, an employee can use medical marijuana on-site only if permitted by the employer.  Further, in order to qualify for a 5% discount on worker’s compensation premiums, employers are required to comply with the Drug Free Workplace Act, which demands a zero tolerance of illegal drug use (including marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law).

According to a June 21, 2019 report from Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, there have been 311,443 total patients in Florida who have been issued a medical marijuana card (more than double the number of total patients from the year before).  This roughly translates to about 1 in every 68 people in Florida having been issued a medical marijuana card.

Where are we going?

Based on trends in other states and changing attitudes towards marijuana usage generally, it would not be surprising if, over time, Florida’s medical marijuana laws expand and evolve.  Here are a few things we may see in the employment context:

  • Workers compensation. As noted above, many employers implement a drug-free workplace policy to receive a discount on their worker’s compensation insurance.  Florida’s medical marijuana law does not affect an employer’s ability to “establish, continue, or enforce” such a policy.  Consequently, employers who enforce a drug-free workplace policy may lawfully prohibit employees taking medical marijuana from work.  Additionally, medical marijuana is not reimbursable under workers compensation claims at this time.  Moving forward, however, workers compensation may change as medical marijuana becomes more accepted.  Some carriers have shown a willingness to reimburse for medical marijuana, and courts in some other states have required it.
  • Accommodations for medical marijuana. Marijuana (including medical marijuana) remains a schedule 1 narcotic and thus illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Additionally, Florida’s medical marijuana law does not require employers to accommodate employees’ use of medical marijuana.  Early court decisions in states other than Florida have sided with employers on this issue, but there are some more recent cases that are more employee-friendly.  Indeed, there are some states that have written employee protections into their marijuana legalization statutes.
  • Less drug testing.  Many employers in Florida have stopped testing job applicants for evidence of marijuana usage.  This is because they have had trouble recruiting and hiring quality employees when they are forced to reject a significant slice of the population who uses medical or recreational marijuana.  Although we can expect employers to continue broad drug testing for employees who perform high-risk or safety-conscious jobs, the movement is to eliminate testing for marijuana usage for other, low-risk occupations.
  • Recreational usage of marijuana.  To date, there are 11 states plus the District of Columbia which have adopted laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use.  A Pew Research Center survey from 2018 found that 62% of Americans believe that marijuana should be legalized – this is double what it was in 2000 .  Thus, the trend certainly is for legalization of marijuana for all uses – medical and recreational.  It is not a stretch to believe that Florida will eventually follow this trend.

Tips for Employers:

Employers should give real thought to their businesses, the type of work the employees do, and the risks of employee use of medical marijuana, and then determine whether to  limit or prohibit medical marijuana in their drug-free workplace policies.  The discount on worker’s compensation premiums is a powerful incentive for a zero-tolerance policy, but it may be worth giving up that discount in order to attract a larger number of qualified employees.  Talking with an employment attorney about these issues can be a worthwhile investment, as an attorney can help to draft a policy that is specific to the employer’s needs and ensure that the policy complies with any changes in federal or state laws pertaining to medical marijuana.

Blog written by Sally R. Culley, sculley@rumberger.com, and Chase E. Hattaway, chattaway@rumberger.com.  You can find this blog in the Florida Restaurant and Lodging MagazineFall Edition

Is email marketing part of your recipe for success?

It takes more than great food to get customers into your restaurant. It also takes a healthy serving of email marketing.

Email marketing is the most effective way to incentivize your best customers to spend more money with you, win back diners who haven’t been to your business in a while, and attract people that have never visited. For example, 44 percent of people check their email for a deal from a company they know, whereas only 4 percent will go to Facebook.

It may come as a surprise that social media is not the preferred way most consumers shop for promotions and deals. Research compiled by Campaign Monitor reveals that 72 percent of people would rather receive brand content through email, while just 17 percent look to social media platforms.

With that in mind, here’s some tips on how to leverage email marketing to keep your restaurant busy year-round.

Collect email addresses

To connect with potential diners, you’ll first need to collect their email information. Embed an email signup form on your website. Sweeten the deal by offering customers that opt-in a free appetizer or desert that they can use the first time they eat with you. Additionally, you can do a drawing for a free meal and ask people to enter by leaving their business card.

Also ask for email information when people order online and make reservations. And when they book a table, ask if it’s a special occasion so you can send birthday and anniversary emails later. Also print your email signup URL on all receipts.

Make your words count

Below are some topics to include in emails:

  • Highlight new and seasonal menu items, specials and themed menu nights
  • Tell the story of how your restaurant got started
  • Introduce subscribers to the restaurant owners, chefs and staff members
  • Give tips on food preparation
  • Show off interviews, reviews and positive coverage
  • Celebrate your customers
  • Provide discounts, deals and coupons
  • Ask customers for reviews and to send in ideas for new menu items

Another idea is embedding a video that shows how you create a recipe in your kitchen. On this surface, this may seem like you’re giving away secrets, but most people don’t visit your restaurant because they are incapable of cooking for themselves. They come for the food, convenience, atmosphere, and quality service. Recipes get people thinking about your restaurant, and eating there.

Emails should always point people to your website and information about your location, operating hours, how to order online and make reservations, as well as details about private dining or catering, gift cards and loyalty program. In addition, don’t forget to create an irresistible subject line that compels people to open your emails, otherwise it will be dead in the water.

Timing is everything

Develop a predictable email cadence without being spammy. Today, 87 percent of customers prefer to receive restaurant email marketing messages at least monthly – and 63 percent want them weekly. For a happy medium, send 3-4 emails per month. The time and day you send email marketing matters, too. Research finds that late mornings on Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best time to send emails. The worst day and time are Sunday afternoon.

Pay attention to email marketing analytics to see which emails work best and when you’re getting the most opens and clicks, then use this information to tweak your approach.

About Heartland

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.us.

Let the Beer Shine – Understand Beer Consumers to Increase Sales

While beer consumption across the globe seems to be stagnant or even slightly declining, there are certain markets within the beer industry that appear to be thriving. There is the old saying of consumers are “drinking less but drinking better.” Premium and craft beers seem to be responsible for this attitude.

Craft Breweries are small, independent operations. They produce roughly 6 million barrels of beer a year (or less) and are responsible for roughly 3 percent of annual U.S. sales. That last sentence should tell you they are the polar opposite of the major breweries in America.  The big brewers have been around for what seems like the entire history of this country and have survived prohibition.  To think that our craft breweries can topple these behemoths is unrealistic, but they can and do, carve out a very nice profitable piece of the market.

With over 7,000 breweries contributing to U.S. sales in 2018, the next question is “what do these craft beer drinkers look like?”

Craft beer drinkers are predominantly male, between the ages of 21-34 and typically earn between $75,000 and $99,000 annually. They drink craft beers weekly. This is a good start, but a survey conducted showed the above group is less than half of all craft beer drinkers. The remaining percentage consume craft beers several times a year, just not as regularly. The good news is under half of the individuals surveyed said that they are drinking more craft beer, while a third of the craft beer drinkers said they are drinking more in general.

How can you capitalize on this growing market? The following tips might be a good start!

  1. Invite New Beer Drinkers with Promos & Events

Many beer drinkers are intrigued by the idea of craft beers, but might feel a bit intimidated to explore and order something that they have never had before. Create events that allow beer drinkers to explore new flavors. Beer and bites perhaps? The launch of a new craft beer?

  1. Add Beer Cocktails to your Menu

Cocktails are fun and very friendly to the palate. Cocktails also allow you to play with different flavors that might be more approachable for some people.

  1. Market to Beer Lovers

Some of your customers already love craft beers, knowing and understanding what they are about. Make sure you are also creating opportunities for these beer lovers to visit your restaurant or bar more often. Happy Hour could be replaced with “Craft Beer Hour” certain days of the week, or you might just add a special menu for craft beer lovers during Happy Hour.

  1. Make it Easy!

It might be time to take another look at your menu and make sure you have enough craft beers to please all palates, but not so long and complex that it becomes a task to read the menu.

  1. Take it to a New Level

Place craft beers under a different light by creating beer and food pairings or by pairing local food with local craft beer. This approach will not only open the door to non-traditional beer drinkers but will also enhance the experience altogether.

Understanding as much as we can about a new market developing within the beer industry and the types of consumers who are interested in purchasing these products, we can make informed decision and begin to see the benefits of adding more choices for our guests.  Just in time for end-of-summer fun!

See more articles like this in the FR&L Magazine – Beverage Edition.

Florida Administrative Rules Govern Temporary Event Food Safety, Licensing

Temporary events have always been a part of the American culture. Fairs, carnivals, athletic contests, farmers’ markets and local celebrations all have one thing in common – a variety of available foods. Food vendors range from restaurateurs trying to increase revenue and brand exposure to home cooks hoping to develop businesses around family recipes.

Florida Administrative Rules define a temporary event as any event of 30 or fewer consecutive days, advertised and recognized in the community, where food is prepared, served or sold to the general public. The statutes and the rules also specify food safety guidelines and licensure requirements food vendors must follow.

Most events take place outdoors and portable facilities and equipment are permitted. The minimum requirements include:

  • Overhead protection
  • Dustless flooring
  • Potable water for cleaning and hand washing
  • Approved cleaner and sanitizer for food-contact surfaces
  • A hand-wash facility with soap and single-use towels,
  • Equipment to maintain food hot (135°F or above) or cold (41°F or below)
  • A food thermometer
  • The means to protect food from environmental contamination

If warewashing facilities are not available on site, an adequate supply of spare preparation and serving utensils must be present to replace in-use utensils that become soiled or contaminated. All food must be stored and prepared at the temporary event or in a licensed food establishment. Food prepared or stored in private homes is strictly prohibited.

Except for specific statutory exclusions, food vendors must obtain a license prior to operating at temporary events. Event sponsors are required to notify the Division of Hotels and Restaurants at least three days prior to the start of the event. Division staff issue licenses on the event day after conducting a satisfactory inspection.

Fixed and mobile public food-service establishments with a current license from the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, may operate one unit at an event without obtaining a temporary-event license. Single-event license fees are $91 for one- to three-day events and $105 for four- to 30-day events. A $456 annual license is also available and can be used to participate in multiple events.

Licensing exclusions include:

  • Events held on property regulated by Florida Department of Health, on Native American Indians sovereign land, or on church property
  • Events lasting one to three days and sponsored by a nonprofit organization
  • Food stands operated by a nonprofit organization
  • Vendors offering only ice, popcorn, whole fruits, peanuts in the shell, prepackaged items and beverages without additions or further preparation

Food vendors, including those excluded from licensing, must follow all sanitation and safety requirements to protect public health. A temporary-event brochure and checklist published by the Division of Hotels and Restaurants is available on DBPR’s website at www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/hotels-restaurants.

Read more food safety articles in FR&L Magazine’s Food Safety Edition.


This week’s blog is by Carlos Lezcano, Statewide Training Manager, and Lisa Lambert, Training and Research Consultant, at the Division of Hotels and Restaurants, Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Path to Power: Insights from Fontainebleau Miami Beach’s Mary Rogers

Florida Restaurant & Lodging Magazine presents Path to Power, a feature that showcases our industry’s top hotel and restaurant leaders. The questions posed by FR&L are structured to be of interest to all readers, but particularly those readers who are just beginning to hold management roles with his or her employer. Path to Power offers insight into valuable lessons learned or experience earned by our hotel and restaurant leaders.

Our Fall 2018 Path to Power leader is Mary Rogers. Mary Rogers was recently named as the Vice President and General Manager of the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach.  She is the first woman named to this position with the Resort.

How did you get started in the hospitality industry? 

I worked for five summers in a bed and breakfast and fell in love with the service industry.   I derived great satisfaction from ensuring guests had enjoyable and memorable vacations.  I also realized that the hospitality industry would be a great gateway to travel the world, while enjoying a very fulfilling career.

Early in your career what was the most valuable lesson you learned? 

I feel the lesson that has stood with me through the years is to always treat others the way you would want to be treated.  I also feel it is very important to let our team members know that the work they do every day makes a difference, and that they are hugely important to our success.

Do you have any mentors who were instrumental in helping you achieve your goals? 

I am fortunate to have a number of mentors in this business.  Individually each played a very important part in my career development.  Most recently I have worked very closely with our President and Chief Operating Officer of Fontainebleau, Mr. Phil Goldfarb. He taught me to look at each operational department as an individual business unit, and how each unit plays their part in the overall success of the hotel.

What is the single greatest factor in the success of your career? 

I took advantage of every opportunity for growth that came my way.  In many cases it involved relocating to another state or even another country by myself, but with every move I learned something new, my career grew, my network expanded and the opportunities increased.  Do not be afraid of the unknown, take chances and grab every opportunity you have to broaden your horizons.

How have your philanthropies and giving back to the community affected your business decisions? 

Fontainebleau recently launched “Bleau Adopts”, a new internal pet adoption program that matches our employees with dogs from the Greater Miami Humane Society.  The initiative invites a dog to our hotel for a day each week where it gets to meet our team members.  So far we have found homes for nearly twenty dogs.   This philanthropic effort has had the dual effect of boosting the morale of our employees during their workday while saving the lives of many dogs.

Is there anything you would like to share with Florida’s hospitality industry members? 

Our industry is complex, ever changing and evolving.  As such, I encourage our members to stay involved and up to date with all the changes that affect our industry.  It is hugely important to be active in an organization such as FRLA, as they advocate on our behalf at the local and state level.  Use your resources wisely to ensure your voice is heard and that you partner with the right organizations to fight on your behalf.   Be involved, be heard, be seen and don’t stand on the sidelines while others make decisions that affect your business.


Thank you, Mary!  Congratulations again on your new role.  We wish you much success!