Engage Orlando Helps Mentor Opportunity Jobs Academy Students

On Monday, April 4, City Commissioner Tony Ortiz visited an Opportunity Jobs Academy class at Edgewater High School to speak with students about his career path.


Commisioner Ortiz

Opportunity Jobs Academy is run through the City of Orlando, and is a partner program of After School All Stars. OJA matches high school students with mentors in the hospitality industry that teach students real world, life skills for entering the job market. This past year, OJA held two classes and matched 27 students with 27 mentors from around the community. OJA held two graduation ceremonies and any student that was seeking a job found placement through the program. The summer class was also featured on Channel 9 News. The spring 2016 class started in February and many of FRLa’s Engage Orlando members have been mentors to students.

Additionally, Red Lobster Director of Communications & External Relations, and Engage Orlando member Erica Ettori came and spoke about the importance of solving workplace issues, resumes, and the importance of good communication skills.

Erica Ettori


Great Florida Events Update

FRLA’s Great Florida Events program, is sponsoring several events this spring designed to draw Florida residents to unique events happening across the state.

Stay and play!

Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo, Lakeland

Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo will be held April 5-10, 2016 in Lakeland.  This event celebrates all things aviation.  Click here for details.

Sun N Fun

FSU Spring Game, Orlando

Next is the FSU Spring Game in Orlando at the Citrus Bowl.   This is a big weekend in Orlando on April 8-9, 2016.  There are several events surrounding the Spring Game including the Friday Night Block Party on “I” Drive featuring a free concert with the Velcro Pygmies.  The Marching Chiefs and FSU Cheerleaders will be there, too, to heat up the Nole spirit!  Saturday morning, before the game, enjoy the FSU Spring Game FanFest at the Citrus Bowl’s Tinker Field.  This event is free and offers games, inflatables, face painting and a lot more!  The game starts at 3pm and is sure to be a great time!  Find out more here.

FSU Spring Game

Vilano Beach Dish N Fish, Vilano Beach, St. Augustine

Head to St. Augustine on April 16, 2016 to enjoy the fun at the Vilano Beach Dish N Fish.  Touted as a “culinary tourism” event, this food and music festival also includes a culinary competition for high school students.  Don’t miss it!  For more information visit Vilano Beach.  Vilano Beach is a Florida Main Street community.

Vilano Beach

Downtown Brew, Orlando

Visit the historic Church Street District, a Main Street program, to enjoy the 4th Annual Downtown Brew on April 16, 2016.  Known as the Best Beer Festival in Orlando, head on over to take part in the festivities!  There will be more than 40 different types of beer, food and fun.  Stay and play at local hotel partners to have a big time!  Find out more here.


Savor the EDGE, St. Petersburg

Enjoy all that the EDGE District, a Florida Main Street program, has to offer on April 21, 2016.  Hit the Green Bench Brewing Company and enjoy music, a fashion show, craft beer, food specialties from the EDGE District restaurants and an After-Party.  Play and then stay in this unique area of St. Petersburg.  Need more information?  Visit the EDGE.

Savor the Edge


SunFest, West Palm Beach

SunFest is the largest waterfront concert in the Southeast.  Held from April 27-May 1, 2016, you are sure to find one of your favorite bands in concert.  Musicians from the 80’s through today will be playing:  Duran Duran, Alabama Shakes, Meghan Trainor, Train, Death Cab For Cutie, Jason Derulo, Steve Aoki, G-Eazy, The Roots, Fitz & The Tantrums, Rick Springfield, and more will be playing.  Visit SunFest for more information.


South Walton Wine & Food Festival, South Walton Beaches

SOWAL Wine & Food Festival is a favorite of Floridians and for good reason.  With more than 800 wines, bunches of celebrity wine makers and special guests, a culinary village, wine and food seminars, a charity wine auction, songwriters and so much more, you won’t want to miss this destination event.  The Festival is held April 28-May 1, 2016. Click on sowalwine.com for more information.

SoWalWine Pour

Key West Songwriters’ Festival, Key West

KWSF is the largest songwriters’ festival of its kind in the world.  The schedule includes 200 performers, 50 shows and 5 days and nights of great music and the story behind the songs.  Held May 4-8, 2016 in the southernmost spot in the US, you won’t want to miss this one!  Need more info?  Visit the Festival here.

Guthrie Trapp and Jack Ingram perform at the Ocean Key Sunset Pier Kick Off Party presented by SunTrust Bank during the Key West Songwriter's Festival on May 6, 2015, in Key West, FL. (Erika Goldring Photo)


Spring Concert Series, Tallahassee

“Do you feel like I do?”  Peter Frampton will be playing at the Capital City Amphitheater at Cascades Park in Tallahassee on May 28, 2016.  This new outdoor venue has hosted some great shows since opening, and Peter Frampton is certain to be fun.  Spend the weekend in Tallahassee.  Watch one of the greatest guitarists in rock and roll history in a new outdoor venue!  Need more information?  Go to Visit Tallahassee


Stay tuned to frla.org/great-florida-events for more information about our upcoming events!

Engage Orlando Highlights Women Leaders in Hospitality

As a National Reputation Initiative for the month of March,  Engage Orlando is highlighting Women’s Empowerment Month and collecting stories of  women leaders in the hospitality industry located in the central Florida area.  The women showcased below are great examples of leaders in our industry.


Jeanne Headshot

Jeanne Harbin, Director, Hill of Beans Coffee Company, Inc./Ellie Lou’s Brews & BBQ

Path to current position

“I worked weekends throughout high school and tenure at the University of Florida. I was promoted to management, during my collegiate years, completed my internship with the company and was promoted to General Manager upon graduation. Two years later, I was promoted to Director.”

The best advice you ever received or lesson you learned 

“Lead by example and surround yourself with great leaders.”


Tracey Murling RL

Tracey Murling, General Manager, Red Lobster

What others have to say about Tracey:

“I always tell people that Tracey is an example of the ‘total General Manager Package,’” said Ingrid Hebel, Vice President of Operations for Red Lobster’s Southeast Division. “Anyone spending time around her can learn from her personable instruction, no matter the level. Her employees and Managers have always rated Tracey as the top General Manager in the region to work for. She is not only caring and passionate about her work, but she is also an incredible leader that invests time in others and is always there when needed.”

Best advice:

“It’s so important to keep an eye on service and quality, frequently measuring and adjusting when necessary to adapt to any situation.”


Vui - Kobe Update Photo

Vui Nguyen, District Manager, Kobe Steakhouse

The restaurant industry in one word:

“HOSPITALITY: Hospitality is the extra human touch on top of the excellent services given to our guests. Especially here at Kobe’s, where guests are seated at a communal table and are entertained by a skill chef cooking their meal on a hibachi the table.”

What you value the most about working in a restaurant that you couldn’t find elsewhere:

“It is the people business from managing employees, co-workers and guests. It’s the fast-paced nature of restaurants combined with service aspect and something as enjoyable and passionate as food that sets restaurants apart from other service industry jobs. Things get heated, you need to think on your feet, and you need to smile the entire time – it can be a draining job, but the things you learn and the people you meet are worth your time.”



Alison Sanchez, Executive Assistant Manager for the Rooms Division, The Ritz-Carlton, Orlando Grande Lakes

Best advice learned: 

“Trust the process and your mentors, re-invent yourself with every job change, act the role you want to be, have your own board of directors and invest in them as they invest in you.”

The restaurant industry in one word:


Favorite thing about the restaurant industry/your job: 

“No day is ever the same and I get to create excellence with amazing talent all around me!”


Jen Lugo - FL

Jennifer Lugo, Executive Assistant, 4R Restaurant Group LLC.

Favorite thing about the restaurant industry/your job:

“Networking with people who share your passion and enthusiam for food service.”

The restaurant industry in one word:


What you value most about working in a restaurant that you couldn’t find elsewhere:

“The constant learning and new opportunities.”



Karen Englund, Director of Sales and Marketing, Grande Lakes Orlando – The Ritz-Carlton and the JW Marriott

The best advice you ever received or lesson you learned:

“Be flexible, and keep all options open. This applies in so many ways: how you work with others, how to manage your career, how you grow your business, etc.”

Favorite thing about the restaurant industry/your job:

“Working with a team of world class professionals to help to create memories and exceptional experiences for our guests.”

The restaurant/Hotel industry in one word:



Heather LeFebvre, General Manager, Tijuana Flats

Path to current position:

“I started with Tijuana Flats three years ago as a Third Manager. I came in eager and ready to make a difference, not only for myself but the environment I was entering.  I got to know the people I was working with, focused on the guests and got out into the community to set up spirit nights with local schools and organizations to grow sales.

A year after being with the company, I was promoted to Assistant General Manager.  I took my energy and passion for the restaurant industry and focused on the necessary steps needed to achieve personal growth.  I shadowed my General Manager for the next two years and put my effort into learning every detail of how to properly run our restaurant.  In the past month, I was ecstatic to hear that I had been promoted to General Manager of the Metrowest Tijuana Flats.”

The restaurant industry in one word:



BrandyHeadshot2 (1)

Brandy Blackwell, Senior Marketing Manager, Tijuana Flats

The best advice you ever received or lesson you learned:

“Never say no, you never grow by staying in your comfort soon.  Always learn as much as possible and never become complacent. Work harder than anyone else.”

Favorite thing about the restaurant industry/your job:

“Every day is different and is a challenge.  It’s always evolving which keeps things interesting.”

What you value most about working in a restaurant that you couldn’t find elsewhere:

“The interaction with people- from employees to our customers, they are the bread and butter of Tijuana Flats.  I also love knowing that my contributions make a direct impact on our company.”

New Millennium Insurance Claims

Do you have the proper coverage to protect you from “new millennium” claims?

The new year is a perfect time to think about protecting one of your major assets – your business. In today’s world, claims other than the traditional fire, theft, and slip and falls are becoming commonplace.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance provides coverage for sexual harassment and discrimination claims, defense costs for wage and hour claims, and more. Cyber Liability Insurance protects against credit card fraud, identity theft, and many penalties/fines from credit card companies.

If you have an E. Coli outbreak, is your loss of income protected? What about a media campaign to help minimize negative press? Many owners do not realize that there is coverage available for situations like this that can happen to any size restaurant.

Prevention is always the best medicine, so verify that your food safety training and employee handbooks are up-to-date. Verify that you have a certified alcohol compliance training program in place as liquor liability claims are becoming more prevalent in today’s litigious world.

Don’t fall victim to automatically renewing your insurance policies without a thorough review. Policies are not all created equal and it is important to know both coverages and exclusions. Just because a policy is titled “Employment Practices Liability,” for example, doesn’t mean that it covers all risks mentioned above as many exclude defense costs for wage and hour claims.

Reach out to an experienced insurance professional who specializes in the restaurant industry to review your coverages. Your business may depend on it!

– Tony Davenport, Vice President /SE Region
Restaurant Programs of America

Have a Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

The holidays are quickly approaching, and restaurants and bars need to exercise extra caution during this time of year. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s, business increases, bartenders and servers are rushed, and customers tend to relax and participate in more celebrations that include alcohol. Servers and sellers of alcoholic beverages must be diligent in following protocol to ensure its safe and legal sale and service. Below are some basic reminders to ensure a safe, happy, healthy, and profitable holiday season.

  1. Be sure your alcohol compliance training is current. If it’s not or if you’re unsure, call Christy Crump at RCS at 850-224-2250 x252.
  1. Ask for ID from everyone who appears under the age of 30. Remember that acceptable forms of ID for the sale and service of alcohol are a state issued ID, a state issued or foreign driver’s license, a passport, and a U.S. military ID. Check the ID carefully for expiration date, birth year, and any sign that it could be fake or altered in any way. If you have any concerns about the validity of an ID, be sure a manager is involved.
  1. Be sure servers count drinks served to customers within a specific timeframe. Know what a drink is (1.5 oz. liquor, 5 oz. wine, 12 oz. beer), and be familiar with how quickly men and women usually become intoxicated. Avoid overserving, and you reduce liability for the server and the business.
  1. Watch for signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, stumbling, irrational behavior, loud voice, overly friendly and/or flirtatious. Slow or stop service before the customer loses control or is overserved. Offer food and nonalcoholic beverages as an alternative.
  1. Be sure managers are alerted and/or involved when cutting off a customer’s alcohol service, preventing a customer from driving drunk, and controlling behavior that may affect other customers.
  1. Plan ahead for taxis. Have taxi company numbers readily available to give to customers who should not be driving, and know if free taxi service is available in your area.

Follow these tips, and your customers, staff, and business will have a safer and happier holiday season.

If you have questions or concerns as you move into the busy holiday season, don’t hesitate to contact your RCS regional manager or RCS director of operations, Christy Crump at ccrump@frla.org or 850.224.2250 x252.

Join Us In Supporting Small Business Saturday!

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is proud to support Small Business Saturday®, the day dedicated to celebrating small, local businesses like yours. Make Nov 28 a day to remember for your business by being a part of it. So stand out and get involved. Here’s how:

small bizz party logo
PLAN FOR THE DAY: Learn how to take advantage of the free downloadable marketing materials on ShopSmall.com to help you make the most of Small Business Saturday.

MAKE YOUR SHOP IRRESISTIBLE: Plan an in-store event to help attract more customers on the day.

BUILD BUZZ BEFORE THE DAY: Show your love and post about Small Business Saturday in your social channels to help drive awareness for your event and bring customers through your door using #ShopSmall.

Be a part of Small Business Saturday 2015 and help our communities grow and prosper. Go HERE to learn more.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Have you ever watched a late night show host or a comedian conduct a “man on the street” interview?  It’s always great for laughs as the interviewer asks the person questions about current events or politics.  Sure, it can be hilarious but it can also be troubling.

With as much information we are exposed to on a daily basis, you would think society would be better informed.  The truth is, unless you are a political junkie, if the issue doesn’t directly impact you or harm you economically, it’s just part of the incredible loud “breaking news” background noise we are all exposed to, and we tend to ignore it.  That spells trouble for all of us.

The reason it spells trouble for us is that we begin to “tune out” a lot of information that can eventually impact us in a negative way.  Take our nation’s capital.  We all get wrapped up in what happens in Washington, D.C.  There are endless reports, exposés and articles about this bill or another.  The bill at issue always causes great anxiety between the major political parties.

Here’s an ugly truth about politics…it’s rarely the bill itself (regardless of its content) that is the real danger.  It’s the agencies that promulgate the rules that implement the bill that are the real danger.  Each year, the agencies of government churn out thousands of pages of rules and administrative regulations that all have the force of law.

The real danger is not the actual law, but is more often the unelected agencies and bureaucracies that enforce the ever increasing rules and regulations they churn out at astonishing rates.   But that’s not the really scary part.  It’s happening at all levels of government.  If Washington doesn’t get you, the state might.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at what our counties and municipalities are doing in areas like wages, labor and paid leave.

The biggest threat to you and your business is tuning out the “political stuff” because it’s what you don’t know that can hurt you and that’s why being involved in FRLA is worth the price of admission.

– Richard E. Turner

General Counsel and Vice President of Government Relations