Stop Overpaying in Taxes

This one credit provides substantial savings.

About $1 billion in tax credits are claimed each year under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program. Sadly, many restaurants and lodging businesses are unaware of the program or simply don’t take advantage of it.

WOTC was founded in 1996 by the Small Business Protection Job Act to reduce the federal tax liability of employers who hire from “targeted groups” that commonly face significant obstacles to employment. In return, businesses receive compensation for hiring these workers.

WOTC offsets the costs of hiring a new worker. This should be welcomed news for the hospitality industry, where the turnover rate approaches 75 percent and businesses spend $1,200 per employee on training.

Here are five common reasons why businesses miss out on WOTC money.

  1. Failure to screen applicants

While there is no limit to the number of new hires employers can claim for WOTC tax credits, businesses often fail to screen new employees to see whether they meet the certification criteria. The remedy is to screen new employees when on-boarding new hires to determine WOTC eligibility. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars in tax savings each year.

  1. Short submission window

The federal government requires that WOTC applications be processed within 28 days from the applicant’s hire date. Thus, it’s important to identify candidates immediately upon being hired to take the swift action needed. An integrated workforce management solution can make it simple and fast to capture all necessary WOTC information and promptly submit the documentation to qualify for the tax credits.

  1. Unsure who qualifies

Over 20 percent of workforce qualifies for WOTC, and you wouldn’t know if you were hiring eligible applicants. Many of the questions to determine eligibility would not come up in an interview. For instance, three-quarters of the program’s beneficiaries are food stamp recipients. So it’s important to have a system in place for new hires to access and complete WOTC qualification.

  1. Need a tax liability to benefit

It’s a misconception that you must use your WOTC credits immediately or need a tax liability to benefit. Once an eligible applicant is certified, the credit can be applied to estimated quarterly tax payments. You can carry the credit forward up to 20 years, and companies may keep the credits on their books as an asset in a possible sale.

  1. Don’t understand potential savings

WOTC tax credits can substantially reduce the total amount of money you owe to the IRS. You can claim between $2,400 to $9,600 for each qualifying new hire depending on which target group the employee falls under. The only catch is that your new team member must work a minimum of 120 hours within the first year in their hired role to qualify. After 120 worked hours, you can claim a credit equal to 25 percent of the new hire’s first year of qualified wages. After 400 hours, a tax credit equal to 40 percent of their first year of wages can be claimed.

When looking for a payroll provider, make sure they have the ability to screen new hires during on-boarding to determine WOTC eligibility, flag candidates, and can assist you in completing and submitting applications within the required timeframe to secure your tax credits.


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.

The Inn-side scoop on our Member of the Month

Our September Member of the Month is inn-spiring! Meet Anthony Sexton, owner of the Victorian House Bed & Breakfast in St. Augustine. Anthony is a member of our newest chapter, the Florida Inns.

While he’s always loved the hospitality industry, managing an Inn is his first time on the lodging side. Now a seasoned innkeeper with 8 years of experience under his belt, he has enjoyed every minute tackling his goals with his wife, Marilyn, by his side.

Anthony truly has a passion for the hospitality industry, and enjoys getting to meet every friendly face that walks through the door. As an “ambassador” of St. Augustine, he always makes sure guests are set up for a successful trip!

Take a look at Anthony’s highlight video!


Know someone you think should be our next Member of the Month? Nominate them today!

Preemption and Home Rule: Why Businesses Need Both

Lately, the fight between Floridians promoting home rule and those advocating for statewide preemption has been as hot as the late-summer afternoons. Preemption is not a dirty word, and home rule should not be considered profane either. These concepts appear to be mutually exclusive and opposite, but there is space for both. Without diving headlong in Ecclesiastes or The Byrds’ most hummable tune, I posit to you that there is a time for both of these approaches. Businesses will flourish when there is a good balance between preemption and home rule.

The Case for Preemption

You will often find statewide business advocates appealing to our state legislators to enact a statewide preemption on a particular topic. Is it because we hate local government? No. It’s because we are an increasingly interconnected economy. Local businesses serve as the economic backbone of our communities. When it comes to doing business, the factors and variables impacting local businesses do not heed to the jurisdictional boundaries of 400+ cities and 67 counties. If the impact is felt across jurisdictional boundaries, then the policies we adopt need to cross those boundaries as well.

When the topic of preemption comes up, you will often hear concerns about the “patchwork of regulation.” This refers to several different localities adopting regulations to address the same issue but not in the same way. It’s not just a talking point. When companies operate across jurisdictional lines and those many jurisdictions regulate things like sustainability or human resources differently, I assure you the struggle is real. Consistent and predictable regulation makes a big difference as local businesses try to operate efficiently, effectively and responsibly.  And yes, profitably.

Breaking the law and flouting regulations is no business owner’s roadmap to meaningful and sustained success. Our members want to comply and be good corporate citizens. The patchwork can get in the way and excessive regulatory burdens can hinder a business from flourishing, growing, hiring more people, and living its best life. And “best life” doesn’t just mean profit for the owner: It means greater economic prosperity for a community and its citizens. In some circumstances, preemption lays the groundwork for consistent regulation and prosperity for all.

Why Home Rule Matters

But there is absolutely a time for home rule. Nothing so clearly demands and requires local direction as the issue of zoning. Local government should not tell us how to do business, but it certainly has the authority and responsibility to tell us where to do business. Whether designating commercial zones versus residential zones or deciding where manufacturing or agricultural activity should take place, these decisions shape communities. While a local government should not abuse its zoning authority as a front for regulatory overreach, the decisions about where particular activities take place within a community create the structure for communities. Citizens rely on these designations as they make important decisions about their homes and livelihood.

So here’s to preemption and home rule. May we work together to find ways to responsibly and effectively apply both of these necessary concepts.

 


Samantha Padgett is General Counsel of FRLA.

Human Trafficking Awareness: A Year Long Fight

The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA) is proud to be a part of fighting human trafficking. Although popular belief is that human trafficking occurs in seedy hotels in crime-ridden neighborhoods of border towns, the reality is that human trafficking can and does occur in many kinds of businesses at every price point. Efforts to spread awareness and much of the media coverage about this horrific crime tend to focus on sex trafficking, which is undeniably important. However, an equally problematic aspect of trafficking is labor trafficking. Essentially modern-day slavery, labor trafficking typically involves crews of workers like those frequently found in maintenance, agriculture, landscaping, construction and cleaning. A better understanding of the ways humans are trafficked and the ability to recognize the signs will help businesses and individuals alike work to fight this atrocity and make a difference, and FRLA hopes to raise awareness for this crime.

How Can We Help?

Florida is the third-highest state for human trafficking in the nation, and it is imperative that we all work together to ensure that our state is a safe and welcoming place for all who visit. That’s why FRLA worked with subject matter experts to develop an online training course designed specifically for hotels and restaurants to educate hospitality workers about the signs of human trafficking and help them know the steps to take should they suspect trafficking is occurring. Because we are so committed to helping spread awareness, we are offering the course completely free to anyone. The response to our course has been overwhelmingly positive, and I am proud of members who have taken the lead in the area by taking this course. Additionally, I commend those who are taking and implementing other human trafficking awareness training. Their dedication to understanding human trafficking will undoubtedly make a difference in the community and help keep residents and visitors alike safe.

While January is a month dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking, we must continue to discuss this issue year-round. Awareness and education are critical components of fighting human trafficking, and FRLA is committed to continuing the conversation in a variety of ways. We work with organizations across the state to hold and participate in panel discussions and to advocate for training. I am proud of Florida’s hospitality industry for recognizing the threat that human trafficking poses and for taking a stand to say the Sunshine State is no place for traffickers.

Join FRLA and the rest of Florida’s hospitality industry as we work to raise awareness and fight human trafficking in our state.

To learn more about this free human trafficking training, visit https://frla.org/human-trafficking/


This opinion was written by Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

 

Get to know our July Members of the Month

Congratulations to our July Members of the Month, Chris and Michelle Ponte!

Chris and Michelle are the proud owners of two fabulous restaurants in Tampa, Florida, and are preparing to open their third concept in the near future. In fact, this third concept, OLIVIA, is a true family affair. This couple has an unwavering love for the hospitality industry, and we had the opportunity to highlight this wonderful couple at their restaurant, Cafe Ponte, in St. Pete.

Chris has been working in the industry since he was a kid. Through his growing passion, he was provided with the opportunity to study at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, and propel his career even further. Hear more about this story in their highlight below.

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

The Importance of AgeID®

Picture this: A young woman takes a seat at your bar and orders a Cosmopolitan. The bartender looks at her ID. The picture looks like her, but the ID is from out of state. The bartender is reluctant but does not want to risk losing a sale, so he serves her the Cosmo. A few minutes later, law enforcement officers enter the bar and ask to see IDs. The young woman presents her real ID to the officer, and it shows she is 18. Your establishment now faces the consequences.

How can you prevent this scene from happening and risking suspension of your valuable alcohol license? There’s one helpful solution: AgeID®.

AgeID® is a patented ID verification technology that authenticates more than 250 unique Department of Motor Vehicles ID barcode formats. This tool notifies the seller if the barcode is not authentic, meaning the customer is using a fake form of identification. It also alerts the seller if the same ID is scanned multiple times within a time period, thus eliminating the “sharing” of IDs among underage customers. Of course, the individual checking IDs must do their due diligence to ensure the photo matches the customer.

This piece of technology works for more than just alcohol and tobacco sales. With Florida being one of the most notorious states for human trafficking, it is important that hotels work to keep guests safe from this heinous crime. AgeID® can help lodging establishments spot visitors checking in under a fake name and with a fake ID.

If your restaurant or lodging establishment is interested in learning more about this technology, visit http://rcstraining.com/age-id/.


Did you know RCS Training is celebrating it’s 35th anniversary? Join us in October to celebrate this momentous occasion! 

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.

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.