Dannette Lynch, FRLA Regional Director and Director of Membership
“Appreciation is Key”
Dannette Lynch, FRLA Regional Director and Director of Membership, likes to say that she was born into the hospitality industry. Her grandparents had a restaurant in Illinois that served breakfast and lunch daily, and Dannette, all of four years old, appointed herself the greeter. If you know her at all, that shouldn’t surprise you. Dannette is one of the most welcoming people you will ever meet, and she always rolls up her sleeves to get to work.
Dannette’s path to hospitality is as extensive as it is diverse. She actually planned to go to medical school but got involved in a big community event as a volunteer. Through that engagement, she received a call to join Nike and the world of professional sports – specifically the North American Soccer League (NASL), the first professional soccer league in many U.S. cities. Through this job, she got to travel the country and the world, deepening her love of travel. And it wasn’t her only sports gig – she worked with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and remains a very active sports fan!
Another passion of hers is performing arts. In Pinellas County, she opened a performing arts center, Ruth Eckerd Hall, as Marketing Director and was able to get involved with bringing more culture to the region. She coordinated partnership marketing for Busch Gardens and then moved to work at the local Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she worked in hospitality education. She conducted all the trainings and hospitality certifications and served on the Pinellas Hotel Association and the Pinellas Restaurant Association, which led her to FRLA. One of many notable accomplishments was creating one of the first Super Bowl Trainings in Tampa to help educate local businesses and the NFL on how to greet visitors and excel at customer service for the influx of visitors the big game brings to town. The NFL replicated her training the next year in New Orleans because of its success – one Dannette calls a team effort.
Throughout more than 40 years working professionally in Florida’s hospitality industry, she has accomplished a great deal. In addition to her NFL training, she is incredibly proud of her work to start three Hospitality/Culinary Programs at local colleges, technical schools, and high schools. To attract students into the programs, they had to be innovative and also created scholarships to help get youth into the programs and onto the hospitality career path. Along the way for all of her efforts, Dannette has received numerous honors, including the Key to the City of Clearwater and Tourism Person of the Year from both the City of Clearwater and Tampa Bay Beaches.
Dannette credits her dad for her achievements across male-dominated industries. “My dad always put me on equal level and insisted I did things outside of my comfort zone, whether it was learning a new skill or sport or speaking to others…I feel very fortunate that he did that,’ she says. Because of that perspective of equality and inclusiveness, she never thought about work and her professional path as women versus men. She feels incredibly lucky that it was never an obstacle for her. She says she had a tremendous amount of opportunity, proved herself, and had wonderful supervisors who helped encourage her. She adds, “When you have someone who has that kind of confidence in you, you want to perform and succeed even more for them. Through my work ethic and work quality, I definitely earned it, but having that support makes all the difference.”
And she truly believes that women make a positive impact on Florida’s hospitality industry each and every day. Hospitality comes naturally for women, she says. Being welcoming and showing sincere consideration for others are traits that make a great female leader. “Do the work,” she says. “Be strong, be flexible, and be compassionate. Appreciation is key.”
Dannette says that the trailblazing women who came before her are directly responsible for her having the opportunities she has had and she believes in paying that forward. She loves to share her knowledge and wisdom with women coming up in hospitality and gives them this advice: “Enjoy your time! There are plenty of amazing opportunities. Take advantage of them and learn as much as you can. Be kind to the wonderful people you meet along the way. The friends and colleagues you will enjoy are like no other in the hospitality industry.”
With so much to be proud of at work, she is even more proud of her family. She married her high school sweetheart and has two sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren.
Closing question: Is there a woman from history or your life that you admire and why?
“My grandmother. She had the most inspirational work ethic. She came to America ALONE at 9 years old from Sweden. Her mother had passed away and her father had six sons and did not feel he could care well enough for her alone. She came to the U.S. to an aunt she had never met. She spoke no English and left the only world she ever knew. Despite facing those challenges, she worked hard and achieved so much. She taught herself English and became one of the first women telegraph operators. She also worked alongside my grandfather. She was one of the most independent, compassionate, and loving woman I have ever known and she inspires me every day.”