Our March Member of the Month is a Gem

The statement “home is where the heart is” was taken quite literally by our March Member of the Month, Barb Bowden, with Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida. After completing a summer internship with Disney, she knew in her heart Orlando was where she was meant to be.

Barb is a take-charge woman and an exemplary member of FRLA. She has been involved on the FRLA Central Florida Chapter Board, served on panels for our Marketing + Operations Summit and more.

Barb has a passion for the hospitality industry, and with that drums her passion for mentoring students and young adults entering the industry. Because of this, FRLA has helped further her enthusiasm by providing her with the opportunity to do just that. She states one of her favorite hospitality memories is seeing the “amazing people” she’s mentored over the years grow and take on senior-level positions in the hospitality industry.

Thank you, Barb, for being an outstanding FRLA member, and a wonderful mentor to those looking to enter the hospitality industry. If you didn’t have the chance to see her Member of the Month video, check it out below.

Know someone you think should be our FRLA Member of the Month? Nominate them here.

A Tourism Day for the Books

We had a very successful Florida Tourism Day. For FRLA members, we began the festivities on Tuesday night, celebrating our Hometown Heroes at a reception hosted by FRLA and AAHOA. These Hometown Heroes were recognized for their extraordinary efforts during the Hurricane Michael response.


On Wednesday, close to 600 tourism industry professionals gathered at the Civic Center to hear from Tourism industry leaders, including Executive Director of VISIT FLORIDA Dana Young, and policy makers such as Senator Joe Gruters and Rep. Mel Ponder. Rep. Mel Ponder gave a particularly rousing speech on the importance of tourism and its ability to positively impact people. Watch this impactful speech here.

Then it was on to the Capitol, where our tourism industry professionals met with legislators to discuss the issues impacting our industry, such as renewing the statutory authorization and funding for VISIT FLORIDA. Following Capitol visits, it was time for a street party on Adams Street. Delicious food, good music, and great displays by Florida attractions and museums made for a wonderful celebration.

Industry professionals turned out to demonstrate the impact and importance of Florida’s tourism industry. Not only was important work done during this very busy day, but a good time was had by all.

For more information about Florida Tourism Day and the importance of tourism on our industry, visit tourismworksforflorida.org.

Be Smart with SafeStaff

Florida’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) requires that food service employees be trained on safe food handling techniques and hygiene practices.
Aside from this being mandated by state law, restauranteurs and hoteliers with food service that actively manage food safety can reduce their risk exposure.
To stay in compliance, use DBPR’s contracted provider for foodhandler training – FRLA’s SafeStaff.

What is SafeStaff?

SafeStaff is FRLA’s proprietary Foodhandler Training program and has been DBPR’s only contracted provider for nearly 20 years. During that period, Florida foodborne illness outbreaks have dramatically decreased. The SafeStaff Foodhandler Guide contains everything needed to create a safe food service environment – from instructions, to food safety best practices, to quizzes and assessments.

Why SafeStaff Over Other Training Products?

FRLA’s SafeStaff program provides the industry a unique benefit no other provider can claim.
Unlike for-profit sources, the purchase of SafeStaff benefits the purchaser in the long run as the proceeds from SafeStaff sales help fund the FRLA mission and advocacy efforts to protect, educate, and promote the hospitality industry.

What does this mean for you?

SafeStaff is convenient and cost competitive. But most importantly, when you buy SafeStaff you are investing in protecting your business and the jobs you create from harmful taxes, laws, and regulation. The FRLA Government Relations team advocates for you at the local, state and national levels, tirelessly fighting for business-friendly public policies.
Learn more about our Government Relations team, view our current legislative priorities, and more by visiting our site here.

Interested in SafeStaff or other FRLA related training and certification programs available to you?

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Serving Up Our February Member of the Month

We are excited to introduce Dennis Chan, owner of the delicious Blue Bamboo restaurant in Jacksonville. Dennis comes from a long line of chefs, and knew it was his legacy to continue serving food and carry on his family’s traditions.

One of his favorite things about working in the restaurant business and hospitality industry is the ability to use his food and excellent service to brighten someone’s day.

“You never know if you’re going to have a guest come in who is having a bad day and you need to turn them around, or they’re just having a great day and coming out to celebrate.”

Dennis is a long-standing, second-generation member of FRLA and is committed to helping aspiring restaurateurs. He teaches culinary classes at local schools and volunteers with ProStart on a regular basis. Thank you, Dennis, for your continuous support of FRLA and all you do for your community.

Next time you stop by Blue Bamboo, we suggest you try the Sunshine State Orange Crunch Cake Cake!

Check out Dennis’ Member of the Month video below:

Know someone you think should be our FRLA Member of the Month? Nominate them here.

There’s Room for Everyone Under the MO+S Umbrella

We’ve attended the FRLA Marketing + Operations Summit since its inception. In fact, we’ve found this event to be so valuable and important that we’ve been a sponsor for the past three years.

M+OS is more than an opportunity to hear about the latest and greatest trends in the hospitality industry with regard to marketing and operations issues. The Summit helps us stay current with the challenges our customers face and gives us specific topics to discuss with them throughout the year.

We’ve learned countless tips and tricks in our years of attending the Summit, but I will never forget participating in a Breakout Session focusing on how to market to various generations when we had a lightbulb moment. Each year, we gain real-life lessons, and this one convinced us to hire a social media staffer. Thanks to this realization, we’ve seen a significant uptick in our online interactions with existing and, most excitingly, new customers. Incorporating such a simple tactic into our marketing strategy allowed us to reach more people.

The Summit provides us with an opportunity to network with members who could one day be potential customers. Through our networking over the years, we’ve found it crucial to learn what customers are trying to accomplish so we can work with them to support their efforts. For example, we can assist in combining a restaurant’s marketing and operational goals by offering custom logos imprinted on their umbrella canopies. Operationally, their guests receive the comfort of shade and may stay at the table longer, ordering coffee and dessert, thereby increasing the bottom line.

It’s been our experience that the Summit is a great place to learn from industry veterans, find out what innovative, best practices are out there, and how different successful brands have overcome challenges. The quality of the speakers is fantastic – from famous chefs like Robert Irvine, to entrepreneurs and restaurant executives from Firehouse Subs and Tijuana Flats. Both the networking opportunities and the chance to meet with decision makers across the industry are terrific. We are looking forward to what this year has in store!

This week’s blog comes from Jordan Beckner, President of Sales at FiberBuilt Umbrellas & Cushions.

Have Your Say on Tourism Day

On March 13th, movers and shakers of the tourism industry are heading to Tallahassee from all over Florida for Tourism Day.

Why it’s important

This yearly event allows industry professionals to let lawmakers know the importance of tourism in our state and in their businesses. Tourism day is dedicated to bringing those in the tourism industry and government officials together. This event is organized by Visit Florida and FRLA, and allows attendees to meet face-to-face with their legislative representative and voice their opinions and concerns.

What to expect

At Tourism Day, attendees can expect to receive lots of information from policy makers and state leaders. This day allows for direct interaction with legislators in a fruitful environment. Outside of connecting with legislators, attendees can network with industry professionals from across the state to share ideas, industry issues, and more with one another. This is an exciting and fun day for those in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Added benefits

This event displays the enormous scope and breadth of the industry. It is alive and well in all corners of the state, from the smallest restauarant to the largest hotel. It can feel as though people often take this industry for granted and discount its importance. We employ millions of people, and we are responsible for billions in sales. This event brings all aspects of the industry together, and there is power in that.

Ready to have your say on Tourism Day? Register here.


Meet our January Member of the Month



Meet Chip and Amanda Evans.

They are the proud owners of Willie Jewell’s Bar-B-Q in Tallahassee, Florida, and FRLA’s first ever Member of the Month.

These members have been actively engaged in FRLA since they joined in June 2018. With a passion for giving back, Chip and Amanda have taken advantage of FRLA’s involvement in the community. Chip says, “We try and give whenever we can. FRLA has been good about plugging us in. This is where the opportunities to give are.”

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle. Victims of this disaster were left homeless, without food, water, power, or clean clothes. Along with other FRLA members, Chip and Amanda headed to Marianna to provide hot, fresh food and necessities to the community members in need.

From help with the hurricane to volunteering time and food with Vet Events Tally and other organizations, Chip and Amanda always go the extra mile to give. Regional Director Nick Lowe noted that they are “members who understand what it really means to serve others.”

Thank you, Chip and Amanda, for all you do for FRLA and the community.

To see what they had to say about FRLA, check out their Member of the Month video below.


2018 Cabinet Elections Could Change Florida’s Political Landscape

Your mailbox is overflowing with mailers, your inbox is exploding with exposés, and the political commercials are never-ending. From local commission seats to Florida’s Cabinet, candidates are working overtime to define themselves and their opponents in an effort to win your vote. It’s enough to make you want to hide your head under a pillow until the election is over. Resist the urge! Your vote is crucial, and it will play a pivotal role in the next chapter of Florida’s policy and politics.

We’ve told you about the many constitutional amendments and given you the information you need to cast your vote on those issues. While the amendments are each important, they are certainly not the only items on what’s positioned to be a very long ballot in November. All of the seats in the Florida House and half the seats in our Senate are up for grabs. And, for the first time in a very long time, every single seat on Florida’s Cabinet is open and competitive. It is no exaggeration to say that this election could significantly change the political trajectory of our state.

What is the Cabinet?

Florida’s Cabinet is comprised of the Governor, Attorney General, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Chief Financial Officer.  Together, they make decisions on key issues such as the environment, land use, taxation, investment, and clemency.

Who’s running in these races?

While some of these races have several candidates, we’ve focused on the front-runners. For a complete list of candidates in all elections, check out this search page from the Florida Department of State.


While there are several candidates in the race for Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis (R) and Andrew Gillum (D) are presently leading the pack and running in a very tight race. DeSantis served as a Congressional representative for Florida’s sixth district, and Gillum currently serves as the mayor of Tallahassee.

Attorney General

For the position of Attorney General, Ashley Moody (R) and Shawn Shaw (D) have received their respective parties’ nomination. Moody is a former prosecutor and judge in Florida’s Thirteenth Judicial Circuit, which is in Hillsborough County. She holds degrees from the University of Florida and Stetson University. Shaw is the former Insurance Consumer Advocate for Florida and represents portions of Hillsborough County as the District 61 Representative in the Florida House.

Commissioner of Agriculture

In the Commissioner of Agriculture race, Matt Caldwell (R) is facing off against Nikki Fried (D). Caldwell and Fried are both life-long Floridians. Caldwell has worked as a real estate appraiser and has served in the Florida House of Representatives since 2018, representing the 73rd District from 2010 – 2012 and the 79th District since 2012. Fried is an attorney who served as the head of the Felony Division in the Alachua County Public Defender’s Office. In private practice, she defended homeowners against foreclosure in 2007-2008.

Chief Financial Officer

Florida’s current Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis (R), is running against Jeremy Ring (D). Patronis is a partner in Capt. Anderson’s, an historic seafood restaurant owned and operated by his family, and he served in the Florida House of Representatives until he was appointed CFO following the resignation of Jeff Atwater. Ring is a former tech start-up executive, having opened the first East Coast office of Yahoo! from his New York apartment. He has served in the Florida Senate from 2006 till 2016, first representing District 31 and then District 29.

What does this all mean for me?

It is likely (but certainly not guaranteed) that legislative control will remain in the hands of the Republicans, who have enjoyed control of the Cabinet for quite some time. However, the potential for Democratic presence in or even control of the Cabinet creates the possibility of a changing political landscape. Your vote helps decide Florida’s direction.

If you need to register to vote, look up your polling place, figure out who’s running for what, or track election results, the Florida Division of Elections can help you with that. Visit and take advantage of this one-stop-shop for all the information you need to participate in the democratic process during these mid-term elections.

Get out from under that pillow and vote. You can even vote early! Make sure you get to the very end of that very long ballot and ensure your voice is heard.

Lucky Number 13?

A breakdown of the 13 proposed Constitutional amendments

on your November ballot

With 13 proposed amendments on the ballot for Floridians this November, there is a lot of change for voters to consider. To help you understand what your options are, FRLA’s Governmental Relations team researched the proposed amendments and broken them down into simpler terms. This guide is intended to help our members cast informed votes and thereby wield one of the most powerful tools in democracy. If you’d like to read the full text of any amendment, simply click on the title.

It is important to note that FRLA does not take a position on all amendments. However, for proposals that will have a significant impact on our industry, we did let you know what our recommendations are. As always, if you have questions about any legislation, please feel free to reach out to Governmental Relations team at 888-372-9119 ext. 228.



Amendment One

Title: Increased Homestead Property Tax Exemption

Summary: Homestead property is the property on which your permanent residence is located. If passed, Amendment One would increase the homestead exemption by exempting the assessed valuation of homestead property greater than $100,000 and up to $125,000 for all levies other than school district levies.

A YES vote supports the increase in homestead exemption.

A NO vote maintains the homestead exemption at its current level.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment One.

Amendment Two

Title: Limitations on Property Tax Assessment

Summary: Currently, property tax assessments on non-homestead real property are limited to no more than a 10% increase every year. ‘Non-homestead real property’ is any property that does not have a homestead exemption, including commercial property. This limitation of annual increases to property tax assessments on non-homestead real property is set to expire in 2019. The proposed amendment would make the limitation permanent.

A YES vote supports a permanent cap on the property tax assessments of non-homestead real property, limiting the assessments on non-homestead real property to an increase of no more than 10% every year.

A NO vote removes the cap on assessments on non-homestead real property. Starting January 1, 2019, the yearly increase on assessments would not be limited.

FRLA recommends voting YES on Amendment Two.

Amendment Three

Title: Voter Control of Gaming

Summary: The proposed amendment would establish that additional casino gambling may only be authorized under Florida law through a vote by citizens’ initiative. The amendment does not interfere with federal law regarding gaming compacts.

A YES vote would establish that casino gambling may only be authorized by a vote of Florida’s citizens, through the mechanisms established in the Constitution.

A NO vote would give the legislature the authority regarding casino gambling in Florida.

FRLA recommends voting YES on Amendment Three.

Amendment Four

Title: Voting Restoration Amendment

Summary: This proposed amendment would automatically restore the voting rights of felons once they have completed all terms of their sentence. This does not include felons convicted of murder or sexual offenses.

A YES vote supports the automatic restoration of voting rights for felons.

A NO vote maintains the current requirement that a felon’s civil rights must be restored before he or she can be allowed to vote.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Four.

Amendment Five

Title: Supermajority Vote Requried to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

Summary: Currently, the legislature is authorized to raise taxes or fees by a majority vote. This amendment would require that any taxes or fees proposed by the state legislature must be adopted by a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate. This amendment does not allow the state legislature to adopt a tax or fee that is otherwise prohibited by the Constitution. It does not apply to taxes and fees levied by local government entities.

A YES vote requires the state legislature pass taxes and fees by a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate.

A NO vote allows for taxes and fees to be adopted by a majority vote of both the House and Senate.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Five.

Amendment Six

Title: Rights of Crime Victims; Judges

Summary: This proposed amendment creates certain rights for victims of crimes and establishes processes by which victims can enforce these rights. Further, it raises the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75 years of age.

A YES vote supports specific rights for crime victims and raises the mandatory age of retirement for judges.

A NO vote opposes the adoption of specific rights for crime victims and keeps the mandatory retirement age for judges at 70 years of age.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Six.

Amendment Seven

Title: First Responder and Military Members Survivor Benefits; Public Colleges and Universities

Summary: This proposed amendment has three parts. First, it would grant mandatory benefits and educational fee waivers to qualifying survivors of certain first responders and military personnel who die in the performance of their official duties. Next, it would require a supermajority vote of university trustees and state university board of governors to raise fees and tuition.  Finally, it establishes the state college system as a constitutional entity.

A YES vote grants mandatory benefits and educational fee waivers to qualifying survivors of first responders and military personnel, requires a supermajority vote to raise university and state college fees and tuition, and establishes the state college system as a constitutional entity.

A NO vote does not grant mandatory benefits and educational fee waivers to qualifying survivors of first responders and military personnel and maintains the current governance practices for universities and state colleges.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Seven.

Amendment Eight has been removed from Florida’s ballots.

Amendment Eight

Title: School Board Term Limits and Duties; Public Schools

Summary: This proposed amendment has three parts. First, it establishes a term limit of eight consecutive years for school board members. Next, it requires the legislature to adopt laws that will promote of civic literacy. Finally, it states the district school board will exercise control over only those free public schools established by the district school board.

A YES vote supports term limits for elected school board officials and requirements for civic literacy. A YES vote further supports permitting the state to control free public schools not established by the school board.

A NO vote opposes term limits for school board members and requirements for civic literacy. A NO vote reserves control of all free public schools to the school board of the district, regardless of who established the school.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Eight.

Amendment Nine

Title: Prohibits Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling; Prohibits Vaping in Enclosed Indoor Workplaces

Summary: This amendment proposes the prohibition of offshore drilling beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high water line and the edge of the state’s furthest territorial boundary. Further, this amendment proposes adding a prohibition on vaping devices to the existing provisions that prohibit smoking in indoor work spaces. It also allows local government entities to adopt more restrictive vaping regulations.

A YES vote prohibits offshore drilling and vaping in indoor workplaces.  Further, it allows for more restrictive local regulations on vaping.

A NO allows offshore drilling and vaping in indoor workplaces.

FRLA recommends voting YES on Amendment Nine.

Amendment Ten

Title: State and Local Government Structure and Operation

Summary: This amendment proposes the legislative session start in January during even-numbered years. It proposes the creation of the Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It requires the existence of Department of Veterans’ Affairs. It ensures the election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties, and removes the ability of charter counties to eliminate or make changes to these offices.

A YES vote supports: January legislative session start in even years, the creation of the Office of Domestic Security of Counterterrorism, the required existence of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the election of listed constitutional officers, and the elimination of the ability of charter counties to eliminate or change the constitutional officers.

A NO vote allows but does not require the existence of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Further, a NO vote allow constitutional officers to be selected by means other than election, and it permits charter counties the continued ability to change or eliminate constitutional officers.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Ten.

Amendment Eleven

Title: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes

Summary: The amendment proposes the elimination of discriminatory language in regards to real property rights. It also specifies that if a criminal statute is repealed, the repeal does not affect prosecutions of that crime if those prosecutions took place prior to the repeal. It allows for the amendment (or change) of a criminal statute to affect prosecutions or penalties for crimes committed before the amendment. It eliminates the high speed rail requirement.

A YES vote supports: the removal of discriminatory language, clarifying the impact of amendment and repeal on criminal prosecution and punishment, and removing the high speed rail requirement.

A NO vote retains existing language regarding real property and retains the high speed rail requirement. It further retains the current language regarding the impact of repeal and amendment on criminal prosecution and punishment.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Eleven.

Amendment Twelve

Title: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

Summary: This amendment supports additional regulations and restrictions regarding lobbying following public service or judicial service. It also prohibits public officers and employees from using their positions to garner a disproportionate benefit for themselves or their families.

A YES vote prohibits public officers, agency heads, and judicial officers from lobbying for compensation before specified bodies during their term of service and for a period of six years following their term of service. It establishes a prohibition against using one’s public position for disproportionate benefit to oneself or one’s family.

A NO vote opposes the adoption of additional lobbying restrictions and ethical regulations.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Twelve.

Amendment Thirteen

Title: Ends Dog Racing

Summary: This amendment proposed an end to dog racing in Florida.

A YES supports phasing out dog racing in Florida.

A NO vote allows for the continuation of dog racing in Florida.

FRLA has not taken a position on Amendment Thirteen.

VISIT FLORIDA Grant Application Cycle Opens in December

Did you know that VISIT FLORIDA has a program in place which awards grants to help businesses market themselves and promote tourism in the State of Florida? If your hotel or restaurant hosts local events, or engages the community in a way that has significant economic impact in the tourism industry, you may consider applying for a VISIT FLORIDA Small Business Grant.

The Small Business Grant only has two easy-to-meet requirements to apply: Your business must be a Small Business Marketing Partner with VISIT FLORIDA and must not exceed $1.25 million in gross revenue annually. Your hotel or restaurant will also qualify if registered as a 501(c)(3) organization under IRS guidelines. This grant is a dollar for dollar matching grant, awarding up $5000 to a small business for the purpose of publicizing their tourism advantages in the State of Florida. This money can be used for marketing your business to promote tourism to Florida, from revamping your website to advertising an event your property hosts to draw in more visitors.VF Apply Now Button

In addition, VISIT FLORIDA administers the following grants:
• City-wide Meetings & Conventions Grant
• Advertising Matching Grant
• Cultural, Heritage, Rural and Nature Tourism Grant
• Minority Convention Grant

VISIT FLORIDA’s grant application cycle opens every December and closes in February. The application must be completed online; full details for the various grant programs can be found HERE including a list of prior year grant recipients.

VISIT FLORIDA also provides many marketing programs in addition to grants which can help businesses engage visitors and boost visitation. A Marketing Partnership with VISIT FLORIDA is a cost-effective and easy way to participate because it provides a host of benefits, including a robust listing on our website and in the Official Florida Vacation Guide. In addition to these features, you can also request posts to display on VISIT FLORIDA’s social media channels, furthering your reach to Florida visitors. Other benefits that indirectly help you target potential patrons include access to visitor research and free online hospitality training for front-line employees.

Visit the Online Marketing Planner to review opportunities to maximize your advertising budget and reach target audiences. Marketing Partners receive discounts on advertising and co-op programs ranging from 20% to 40% off, too! Some programs of interest include brochure distribution at the Official Florida Welcome Centers, a TripAdvisor Homepage Takeover, and World Travel Market. Opportunities in the planner are updated frequently, and include programs of all price ranges, so there is something for everyone’s budget.

VISIT FLORIDA’s goal is to maximize the economic impact of travel and tourism to Florida. By offering resources to businesses such as yours, we aim to empower you to continue bringing in more patrons to your hotels and guests to your restaurants. Join VISIT FLORIDA today!VF Apply Now Button
Article by Kate Chunka and Duncan Graham

Kate Chunka is the Partner Relations & Industry Communications Manager at VISIT FLORIDA®
Duncan Graham is the Partnership Services Coordinator at VISIT FLORIDA ®