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 heartland.us.

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! 

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.

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.

Short-Term Vacation Rentals and FRLA

Vacation rentals have long been a part of the fabric of enjoying the Sunshine State, and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association believes that all forms of lodging play an important role in providing Florida’s visitors a place to stay. Each year, Florida’s tourism numbers rise as more and more people choose to visit our incredible state, and we are proud to provide them with a wide array of lodging options.

So what’s the problem with short-term vacation rentals?

Traditional vacation rentals have provided countless families the opportunity to enjoy Florida with the comforts and conveniences of home. However, the advent of online hosting platforms has dramatically changed the landscape of vacation rentals. Hosting platforms have significantly expanded the searchability and availability of vacation rentals. These hosting platforms have also caused an increase in the use of traditionally residential homes as vacation rentals. Intended to connect renters and owners, the platforms may in fact facilitate large commercial operations that look and function exactly like hotels but evade important safety and sanitation requirements. The hospitality industry owes it to our guests to ensure that all are safe and protected, regardless of their chosen type of lodging.  To do that, we must address the issues with the current vacation rental landscape.

Municipalities across the nation are grappling with these issues, working to regulate hosting platforms for a variety of reasons including collecting proper taxes, ensuring the safety and privacy of guests and, and protecting homeowners who find themselves living next door to a vacation rental in a neighborhood whose zoning regulations are strictly residential. This issue is complex, and it can be difficult to strike a good balance between respecting the individual rights of property owners and protecting visitors and neighboring residents.

How do we move forward?

I believe the solutions are simple and fair, and FRLA and our Government Affairs team are working towards achieving the needed change by sitting down with regulatory agencies, our lodging members, and representatives from hosting platforms. We’re asking that all vacation rentals be licensed with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and that hosting platforms require that license number for an owner to post a listing.  We also feel that the required taxes should be collected from all lodging establishments, and that transparency and audit requirements apply equally to all.

There is a place at the table for all of types of lodging.  Having many different types of lodging available to visitors makes Florida more open and accessible to all visitors. But we need to update our regulations to ensure that we not provide special treatment to any one type of lodging.  Most importantly, we want to continue to make sure that we are providing a quality visitation experience to all of Florida’s guests, no matter where they choose to stay.

 


 

This op-ed was originally published in Today’s Hotelier in March 2019.