Congratulations to Florida’s New Michelin-Recognized Restaurants

TALLAHASSEE — Last night was a great victory for Florida restaurants, including dozens of FRLA Members across the state, who were recognized by the revered Michelin Guide. Restaurants in Tampa, Orlando, and Miami were recognized in categories for one star, two stars, Bib Gourmand awards, and recommended restaurants. Sommelier of the Year and Best Cocktail were also awarded.

“Guests come from across the state, country, and globe to experience Florida’s world-class dining options, said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “Not only is the Michelin recognition well deserved, but it will bring more people to our state, to our hotels, and to our restaurants, strengthening our communities and the overall health of our hospitality industry. Congratulations to our many FRLA member winners and to all recognized!”



2 Stars 

L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Miami

1-Star Awards 


Boia De

Cote Miami

The Den at Sushi Azabu Miami

Elcielo Miami: Juan Manuel Barrientos

Hiden:  Chef Shingo Akikuni

Le Jardinier

Los Félix

Stubborn Seed: Jeremy Ford

The Surf Club Restaurant: Thomas Keller

Bib Gourmand (Value for Money) 


Chug’s Diner


El Turco

Ghee Indian Kitchen

Hometown Barbecue Miami


Krüs Kitchen

La Natural


Lung Yai Thai Tapas

Mandolin Aegean Bistro

Michael’s Genuine

Phuc Yea

Red Rooster Overtown

Sanguich de Miami

Tinta y Café

Zak the Baker

Zitz Sum

Sommelier of the Year

Victoria James, Cote Miami

Exceptional Cocktail Award

Ruben Rolon, L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Miami and Le Jardinier Miami

Michelin-Recommended Miami

 Mister 01 Extraordinary Pizza

Nossa Omakase



Estiatorio Milos

Joe’s Stone Crab


Le Zoo


Josh’s Deli

Latin Café


Sushi Yasu Tanaka



Buya Izakaya + Yakitori




Hakkasan Miami

Niu Kitchen


Luca Osteria

La Camronera


Hiyakawa Miami

Doca Provisions

Café La Trova

Los Fuegos by Francis Mallman

Pao by Paul Qui

Hoja Taqueria

La Mar by Gaston Aurio

27 Restaurant & Bar


Havanna Harry’s


1-Star Awards in Orlando

Knife & Spoon




Bib Gourmand 

Bombay Street Kitchen

Ravenous Pig

Papa Llama



Swine & Sons

Z Asian

Michelin-Recommended Orlando


California Grill

Orlando Meats


Se7en Bites


The Pinery


Kabooki Sushi


Pizza Bruno


Kai Asian Street Fare

Black Rooster Taqueria


Tori Tori

Shin Jung

Maxine’s on Shine

Sticky Rice

The Polite Pig

Four Flamingos, A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen

Moriomoto Asia

Sear + Sea


Bib Gourmand

Ichicoro Ramen


Rooster and the Till

Michelin-Recommended Tampa

Bern’s Steakhouse



Restaurant BT

Oak & Ola





Mise en Place



Yummy House


Bistro BT

On Swann


To visit the Michelin Guide site for all Florida-recognized restaurants, click here.





Congratulations to FRLA Members For Winning Forbes Five-Star Awards

Congratulations to the following FRLA members in Miami for being awarded the 2022 Forbes Five-Star Awards!
Read the full list in the Miami Herald article here:
The Spa at Carillon Miami Beach

How to grow your Instagram followers for your small business

Thursday, October 21, 2021

As a small business owner, you know how powerful word of mouth is for attracting new customers. You also likely know how important it is to use social media platforms to help you spread the word–digitally. But did you know that brand engagement rates are highest on Instagram, beating both Facebook and Twitter? According to Instagram, 90% of its users follow at least one business.

How can you grow your Instagram followers and potential customer base — and keep your target audience coming back for more? In this article, you’ll learn why Instagram engagement matters, how to use the different features of the platform and tips and tricks for maximizing your reach and impact. We can help you set goals, set your Instagram account up for success and help you make the most out of your Instagram posts. Let’s dive in.

Set social media marketing strategy goals

Setting social media marketing strategy goals for your Instagram page can help you monitor the time, effort, and potential money you’re investing in marketing on platforms like Instagram.

Having clear Instagram engagement goals can help you plan and create content as well as monitor improvement. Marketing strategy goals can also help your team create quality content that aligns with what you aim to accomplish.

Set up a profile using Instagram for Business
Once you’ve set your goals, it’s time to start making your Instagram profile work for you. If your account is not set up as a business profile, consider switching to an Instagram for Business account. Using an Instagram for Business account provides benefits such as:

  • Instagram analytics and tools that show how well your content is performing so you can track your goals more easily and understand your audience demographics and more.
  • Features to expand your profile and sell products, including the ability to create and publish Instagram ads without having to use advertising tools through Facebook.

Creating a unique and on-brand Instagram page, in addition to high-quality content, can help you hook new followers by showing them why your business is worth following.

Create an Instagram bio that tells your story
While not directly tied to follower growth, your Instagram bio is your first opportunity to connect with potential followers and get them to click the follow button. The bio is a place to showcase your brand’s personality, tell visitors about your products or services and what makes it unique. An Instagram bio should include your company’s category/industry, your location(s), contact info and a link to your website. You also can include associated social media account handles.

There’s limited real estate to tell your brand’s story. With only 150 characters available, you need to keep it brief. You can use formatting to organize info in your Instagram bio, such as line breaks to create vertical spacing. If it makes sense for your brand’s voice, consider using emojis to show off your brand’s personality and potentially save character space. You could also use a call to action (CTA) in your bio to set up your profile’s link.

A profile photo can help potential followers instantly recognize that it’s your company. Most businesses use a logo, logomark (the logo without any words) or mascot as a profile photo. You could also use a photo of your sign or storefront–even an image of your signature products. Don’t feel like you have to limit your creativity, but make sure the image can easily identify your brand.

Use one clickable link to get followers to explore pages, content
Instagram offers one clickable link field in the bio for accounts with less than 10,000 followers. Your clickable link is prime real estate to send a potential customer where you’d like them to go. You can use the link to send people to your main website homepage or frequently change out the link to reflect an event you’re promoting or other current content you may produce.

Additionally, tools are available to create a “link in bio” link tree/landing page to offer multiple clickable links for Instagram posts, product pages and other links without leaving the Instagram app. This approach is best for businesses that have numerous offerings and want to drive customer traffic to multiple links or different types of content. No matter which strategy you use, you should use your clickable link to send Instagram users to visit other relevant content.


Create a visual identity and brand voice true to your business
Instagram is all about visuals, no matter the format. Maintaining a consistent visual identity that represents your brand can give your content a cohesive feel. This identity can include your brand colors, tones, and much more. Editing style, filters, and photo composition can all affect your visual identity.

A consistent and unique visual identity can help new followers get to know your brand by just seeing it. If you stay consistent, your Instagram audience will begin to associate the style with your brand unconsciously. No matter what content format you use on Instagram, your content should look like you and tell your brand’s story while adding value to your audience.

Your Instagram captions and text are just as crucial for brand storytelling and helping users find you.

You don’t want to focus solely on visuals, though. Having a brand voice for Instagram can allow you to experiment with all of the Instagram content formats and still consistently sound like your brand voice.

Does your brand use emojis? Will you make memes or repost memes? Does your brand voice use humor? As with visual identity, your brand voice can help your Instagram audience know it’s your business.

Use Instagram content formats to your advantage
Instagram began as an app to share photos. It is now a social media platform that continually releases new features and content formats for users to engage. The platform offers a variety of ways your business could interact with an engaged audience, including:

  • Instagram Carousels: This feature allows for publishing up to 10 photos in a single post.
  • Instagram Reels: This format, reminiscent of TikTok, hosts 15- to 30-second videos that can include audio, visual effects or other creative tools. Reels can be shared in your Instagram feed and discovered on the Instagram Reels tab on the platform.
  • IGTV: Instagram TV, or IGTV, is for videos longer than 30 seconds. IGTV would be used best for a recurring video series.
  • Instagram Stories: Stories are photos or videos that are full-screen, vertical and disappear after 24 hours. They appear at the very top of the app rather than in the news feed. The Stories feature is a good tool for visual storytelling, where you can produce things with a beginning, middle and end. Instagram Stories also can include fun, interactive elements such as stickers, polls and filters, which can increase engagement and get your audience in the habit of viewing your Stories consistently.
  • Instagram Live: Instagram users can live stream video through Instagram Stories in this format. This format allows brands and content creators to connect directly with their followers and target audience through Q and A sessions, demonstrations and so much more.
  • Instagram Guides: This content type is a cross between Instagram Carousels and blog posts. Each guide includes a cover image, title, introduction and optional descriptions for entries that users can build from previously posted content, places, or product listings from your account.


Post and interact with your audience consistently
Building an Instagram following requires posting regularly and interacting with your audience. That said, business owners need to sleep and take vacations. Consider using a tool that lets you schedule and publish Instagram posts, especially if you’re a team of one. There are a variety of tools available at different price points, such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Salesforce’s Social Studio and many more that can provide the functionality that meets your goals.

Instagram users expect a steady stream of interesting, engaging or educational content from the users and brands they follow. Having a consistent posting schedule shows your audience that you’re a serious brand worth following.

Responding to comments, mentions and direct messages (DMs) is also crucial for users to feel confident following your business. Your followers are real people with opinions, issues or questions, and responding and engaging shows respect. Additionally, make time to respond when someone mentions or tags your brand in their post –– they’re helping to spread the word about you! It’s easy for users to hit the unfollow button if they feel ignored; don’t let it come to that.

Additionally, you may want to consider developing social media guidelines to help the person managing the Instagram (if it’s not you) to help them navigate interactions with your Instagram followers.

Use hashtags to feed the Instagram algorithm
Hashtags help Instagram users find the content they want to see. Instagram hashtags are keywords or phrases with a hashtag symbol before them, such as “#photography.” Instagram captions are not searchable, but hashtags are. Clicking on a hashtag or searching for a specific hashtag will show users all content associated with that tag.

Hashtags can help improve the chances of potential followers finding and engaging with your content. Posts that contain a hashtag get more engagement than those without hashtags. Consider hashtags related to your business that are easy to use, catchy and popular for your posts. You can create a branded hashtag for followers to use when posting about your business.

Using broad hashtags related to your business increases the chance people see your posts from all corners of the world. You may also want to use branded hashtags that are unique to your business to capture more local/relevant attention. If a hashtag is irrelevant to your post, it will not make sense to potential followers or aid your goals.

Help users find you with geotags
Geotags, or Instagram location tags, use a precise location that users can add to a post or Story. The tags can be identified by the GPS in a mobile device and can be geographical (like a city) or a particular business (think like a restaurant). Businesses can create a geotag for their business and start reaping the benefits of using it on posts.

Using geotags helps Instagram compile posts tagged at the location. A geotag can be added at the time of posting or retroactively. Instagram categorizes posts as “top” and “recent” posts by location, and your brand photos will live among the posts from your customers or visitors when they use a geotag while posting about or from within your business.

The “View Information” button within the geotag can link to information about the business. The geotag functions can help with brand awareness and allow potential customers to research your business and see what others have posted about you.

Promote your Instagram on other social media channels
If you have an engaged following on other social networks, let them know you’re on Instagram. Let them know what kind of content you’ll be posting – that way, they can decide if it’s worth their time to follow you in multiple locations. Additionally, use Instagram stories and crosspost them to your Facebook page to help you reach new audiences and increase the likelihood you’ll get the follow on Instagram.

Grow your reach with Instagram ads and campaigns
Instagram ads can get your content in front of a broad, targeted audience and help you reach your goals faster. You can “boost” your social posts to a wider audience or create specific advertisements for products or services. Instagram ads increase the reach of your content as well as include call-to-action buttons. These features help reduce the steps to get viewers to your website or store from the app.

You can buy Instagram ads through their platform. You set a maximum budget of what you’d like to spend for the entire time the ad runs. Costs for Instagram ads can average around $.50 to $1 per click, or cost per click (CPC). You can try out Instagram ads with a small budget and track the insights to see if it’s the right strategy for your business. It can be an effective and targeted way to reach prospective customers in the right stage of their buyer journey.


Consider working with influencers
Influencer marketing is a great way to build a loyal Instagram following. Instagram influencers are basically people who post a lot of content and have a lot of engaged followers. Influencers often work with brands and businesses to help generate interest in their products and services.

The thought of influencer marketing can seem intimidating to smaller businesses but consider working with micro-influencers: content creators with a smaller but dedicated following, often in local markets or within specific categories like food, crafts, etc. Look for popular content creators within your industry with small or large followings that might be interested in your brand.

Think about your own Instagram follower customer base. You could already have an influential (or budding) brand ambassador following you – consider making a collaboration official. The more genuine the relationship between a brand and influencer, the better.


They found you on Instagram – now deliver the great experience you showed them
Instagram growth for your business doesn’t need to be scary or a herculean effort.

With the right resources and planning, you can achieve your marketing goals with new followers and more. After all, it’s about your brand’s ability to connect with real people and showing them great content about what you do best: provide great products or services.

At Heartland, we love helping businesses succeed –– online and offline. That’s why we offer training and resources like our free Unstuck Playbook. This training walks you through easy and effective strategies to get your business from surviving to thriving. We also offer solutionsranging from payments and point of sale to customer engagement and employee management to help entrepreneurs focus on the big picture of their business.

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:

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!


It’s a treat to honor our October Member of the Month

We are excited to honor our October Member of the Month, Matt Moore with Fish out of Water (FOOW). FOOW is located on Scenic 30A in a small town called WaterColor, and with a prime spot right along the beach, locals and visitors alike love to admire the views and catch the sunset at night. This awesome restaurant combines two of Florida’s popular cuisines, seafood and southern cooking, in a fun, welcoming setting.

Outside of serving food for their visitors, the Fish out of Water and WaterColor team coordinated with FRLA to serve hot meals to those in need in response to Hurricane Michael in 2018, and we are so appreciative of their help.

Check out this “Instagram Worthy” restaurant on your next trip to the Gulf Coast!

The Significant Role Plastic Straws Play in Health and Safety

Straws are often thought of as a modern-day convenience, but straws have been used by almost every culture throughout history. The oldest evidence of straw usage dates to Ancient Sumeria. Long, thin tubes of precious metals which were placed into jars of beer to reach the liquid beneath the fermentation were found in Sumerian royal tombs. Evidence of straw use by people across Mesopotamia, China, and the Americas, has been found. During the Industrial Revolution, people used straws to avoid flu and polio epidemics from communal cups used at popular soda fountains. However, no one has benefited more from the advances in straw design than the disability community.

One of the first straw patents ever filed was for the “improvement in drinking-tubes for invalids” by Eugene Chapin in 1870. When Joseph Friedman founded his Flex-straw Company in 1947, hospitals were the first to buy his patented bendy straw. When factories began churning out consumer plastics after World War II, not only were plastic straws convenient for fast-food consumers because they didn’t tear on the crosshairs of plastic lids like paper straws, but they provided a way for people with disabilities to drink both cold and hot beverages independently without worrying about choking,  breaking their teeth, bacterial infections, and allergic reactions.

Most people no longer use straws to avoid fermentation at the top of beverages, or to avoid disease from the use of communal cups. Straws have become a modern-day convenience for most. For people with disabilities, however, single-use plastic straws are still a vital piece of assistive technology that have no current viable replacement. This simple, plastic tube is just as essential to our day-to-day lives as a bowl, fork, curb cut, elevator, or any other accommodation we have come to expect in order to be a fully inclusive, integrated society.

As straw bans continue to pass across the country, the disability community continues to be left out of the discussion even though this is the community most impacted by them. Many lawmakers have passed straw bans with the intention of still providing access to those who need plastic straws, but frequently exceptions only apply to institutions providing medical care. A lot has changed since 1870. Most people with disabilities no longer reside in institutional care. We now live integrated within our communities. We attend school, we have jobs, we go to grocery stores, we have active social lives, we go out to restaurants, and we need access to single-use plastic straws in those places.

While our lives might have changed dramatically, most of the alternatives to plastic straws haven’t. Metal, paper, glass, and even plant-based straws might be marketed as new ideas, but most of these materials have been used for straws for hundreds of years. Even in their new designed forms, they still pose the same significant health risks that contributed to single-use plastic straws being used in lieu of them.

In the 1930’s, the average lifespan of a person with a disability was 23. Today, we have a lifespan of 70, close to that of the general population. While far from the sole contributing factor, there is no doubt that single-use plastic straws have contributed to our increased lifespans. Attempts to completely ban single-use plastic straws jeopardizes those gains. Any meaningful action to reduce single use plastics must consider the needs of this often-forgotten community.

Olivia Babis is the Public Policy Analyst at Disability Rights Florida. She was born with a physical disability which necessitates the use of single-use plastic straws, and other assistive technologies, so she can live independently.

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

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

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