Build a gift card program. Boost your revenue. 

Social distancing is reframing the way customers think about the dining experience. Instead of eating at their favorite steakhouse on Friday night, families are hunkering down and abiding by the CDC’s warning. Likewise, as restaurateurs, it’s our job to rethink the way we do business. And it starts with establishing a strong gift card program. Why a gift card program? Not only can it attract new customers but strengthen relationships with existing ones.

Here are three tips to help you build a dynamic gift card program:

Spread the word

Use social media to kick start your plan. Remind followers that gift cards are available for purchase and create a paid social media campaign to drive awareness. Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and advertising credits for qualified small business owners.

Sell gift cards on your website

With social distancing comes amplified screen time. Make it easy for diners to buy gift cards on your website. Create a homepage banner or image carousel to advertise your gift cards. Maybe rework your web copy to promote them, too. Whatever you decide, make sure the message is noticeable. The more in-your-face, the better.

Deals on take-out orders

Run specials on gift cards for take-out orders. For example, every order over $50 receives a $10 gift card, or offer a 10 percent discount on purchases made with a gift card. Yes, these are aggressive offers, but remember, we’re changing the way customers think about the dining experience. The goal is to excite every customer and keep them coming back.

These are unprecedented times, but you’re not alone on the journey. We’re in this together.

Disney Springs Begins Phased Reopening on May 20

by , Vice President, Disney Springs

A phased reopening of Disney Springs will begin on May 20. Following the guidance of government and health officials, a limited number of shopping and dining experiences that are owned by third-party operating participants will begin to open during this initial phase. The rest of Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed, including theme parks and resort hotels.

As we continue to monitor conditions, and with the health of guests and Disney cast members at the forefront of our planning, we are making several operational changes. Disney Springs will begin to reopen in a way that incorporates enhanced safety measures, including increased cleaning procedures, the use of appropriate face coverings by both cast members and guests, limited-contact guest services and additional safety training for cast members.

We will apply learnings and ideas from leaders in the health and travel industries, and we’re also talking to our unions as we prepare for some cast members to return to work.

During the initial opening phase, Disney Springs will have limitations on capacity, parking and operating hours. Given this unprecedented situation, we appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we navigate through this process as responsibly as we can. Additional protocols and procedures may be announced closer to the opening date. Please check DisneySprings.com as we get closer to May 20 for the most current information on operating hours, locations and safety procedures.

Restaurants Stay Open During COVID-19: A Great Win For The Industry

On March 20, Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-71, where he announced that restaurants will move to take-out and delivery only in response to the evolving COVID-19 impact across the state. In his Executive Order, the Governor also lifted the ban on alcohol delivery for restaurants under certain conditions.

Allowing restaurants to remain open is a great win for the industry among the COVID-19 pandemic. It is vital for restaurants and hotels to remain safe and practice sanitation and social distancing during this time. Governor DeSantis has expressed his support to retailers, restaurants, and employees as they pursue creative business practices that safely serve consumers during this temporary period of social distancing.

In addition to allowing restaurants to offer to-go and delivery service, the ban on alcohol delivery has also been lifted. Restaurants are now allowed to sell alcohol in sealed containers to be consumed off of the premises of the restaurant, so long as it is accompanied by the sale of food and complies with Section 561.57 of Florida Statues.

For more information and industry-related COVID-19 updates, please visit https://frla.org/covid-19.

Meet our January Member of the Month

Meet Laurie Farlow, our January 2020 Member of the Month! Laurie is the proud owner and operator of Farlow’s on the Water, located in Englewood, Florida, which she runs with her husband Keith.

Her career in the restaurant industry began in 2003, when she and Keith opened Farlow’s. The 285-seat restaurant serves food with a Caribbean taste and Southern twist. Before opening Farlow’s, Laurie had zero restaurant experience but plenty of supervisory and management service. It was actually Keith who had the experience and passion for food service. With their combined experiences, Laurie and Keith make the perfect team for operating Farlow’s.

Laurie’s favorite part about working in the restaurant industry is meeting people (customers, employees and other trade professionals). To her, customer service is about connecting with people.

Thank you, Laurie, for being a wonderful FRLA member. We are proud to honor you as our January Member of the Month.

If you haven’t already, watch Laurie’s highlight video below:

Feeling Jolly About our December Member of the Month

Get to know our December Member of the Month, Damien O’Riordan, General Manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota.

Damien attended the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology pursuing a degree in hospitality management nearly 25 years ago and immediately found his passion for the industry.

To Damien, Sarasota has so much to offer visitors and locals alike, and considers it the “best kept secret”. Boasting 35 miles of white-sand beaches, fabulous restaurants, and countless things to do, Sarasota is a tourist haven. Sarasota’s Ritz-Carlton boasts over 250 rooms, and offers wonderful amenities to help visitors explore this beach destination. However, Damien doesn’t take credit for the exemplary service offered here. He couldn’t do it without his hard-working staff.

Damien is a gift to FRLA, and a gift to The Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota. Be sure to check out his highlight to learn more about this awesome member!

Thankful for our November Member of the Month

“We’re in the food and beverage industry. We love to make people happy. When you see a smile on the face of a guest, that’s what makes it all.” – Leigh Doyle

At FRLA, we are thankful to have such supportive and involved members like our November Member of the Month, Leigh Doyle. Leigh is the Vice President for Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ in Ocoee, Florida, and serves on the board for our Central Florida chapter, as well as a chair on the legislative committee.

His career in the hospitality and tourism industry began at Disney World, where he served countless Dole Whips to smiling faces. It was working at Disney that Leigh found his passion for the industry. Now, as Vice President, he oversees 98 employees. Leigh and the Ellie Lou’s team partner with local schools to support programs they need assistance with at the time.

Thank you, Leigh, for your involvement and love for the industry. Be sure to watch his highlight if you haven’t already!

 

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

Are you guilty of committing these 5 payroll mistakes?

Not knowing or failing to comply with payroll laws can put your business under a magnifying glass, and lead to fines and penalties. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) penalizes nearly 1 in 3 businesses for payroll mistakes.  To avoid being one, don’t get tripped up by these common payroll mistakes:

1. Poor Record Keeping and Inaccurate Data

Poor record keeping and data entry mistakes can result in overpaying or underpaying payroll taxes. When it comes to record keeping, 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.

2. Falling behind on payroll tax and filing deadlines

The government collects payroll taxes on a pay-as-you-go basis. Almost half of all small businesses get fined an average of $850 every year for late or missed payments.

There are two 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. 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. And, there are quarterly and annual returns that you must file with your W-2s.

3. Withholding errors

There’s lots of potential slip-ups in the withholding process. Misclassifying employees is one way businesses screw up withholding. Other common mistakes 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 hourly workers) is entitled to overtime pay while an exempt employee is not. When your non-exempt employees work more than 40 hours in a week, you owe them time and a half. You can’t sidestep this overtime obligation by instead giving them comp time (take off for the overtime hours worked). Doing so violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and can leave your business vulnerable to a lawsuit.

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

  • Earn more than $455/week or $23,600/annual
  • Is either salaried or on a consistent hourly schedule with a relatively unchanging paycheck
  • Position is managerial, administrative (staff employees and not “on the line”), or professional (degreed like an engineer, doctor, or lawyer)

It’s wrong to assume that if an employee works overtime without advance approval, you do not have to pay for that overtime. It’s also never a good idea to ask an employee to work off-the-clock or reduce hours worked.

5. Contractor or part-time employee?

Confusing an employee with a contractor can come back to bite you. Businesses are generally not required to withhold or pay any 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. You can’t avoid payroll taxes on wages and taxable benefits by labeling workers as independent contractors if they truly are employees.

If you are unsure about a worker’s status, request an IRS determination by filling out Form SS-8. If you’ve already made the mistake of misclassifying employees, the IRS offers you relief through the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program.

As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate. Finding a trusted and experienced payroll provider will eliminate the confusion and stress that often accompanies paying employees, filing forms, and meeting all your tax requirements.


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.

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!