More than $1.6 Million in Scholarships Offered for Florida High School Students in Annual Hospitality Competitions

ORLANDO – From March 4-7 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, 340 Florida high school students from 46 schools competed in the statewide annual Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation (FRLAEF) Hospitality & Tourism Management Program (HTMP) and ProStart Culinary Competition Events. This year marked the 22nd year for the ProStart competition and the 19th year for the HTMP event; Florida is the only state to host a statewide competition for the HTMP program. Executive and Board Leadership from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association attended the competition, as well as Secretary Melanie Griffin from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).

Throughout the weekend, ProStart students competed in categories including Culinary, Management, Edible Centerpiece, and Waiter’s Relay. At the Salute to Excellence Award ceremony, students were awarded for their respective competition categories. They also received scholarships from the FRLAEF and event sponsors, including Universal Orlando, Disney Culinary, National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, Keiser University Center for Culinary Arts, University of Central Florida Rosen College of Hospitality Management, American Culinary Federation, Ecolab, Florida Atlantic University, and At-Sunrice Global Chef Academy. Winners will advance to the national ProStart Invitational in Washington, D.C., which is hosted by the National Restaurant Association in May. HTMP students competed in categories including Hotel Operations, Hospitality Project, and the Knowledge Bowl and were also awarded scholarships from the FRLA Educational Foundation.

“This year’s ProStart and HTMP competition event featured the hard work and talent of our top hospitality students,” said Laura Rumer, Director of the FRLA Educational Foundation. “It was wonderful to see the lively competition, strong teamwork, and awesome school spirit of these kids and their instructors. We are grateful to all who participated from across the professional hospitality industry, including our judges and volunteers. We are hopeful for the bright futures of these students and the hospitality industry.”

“As a top destination for tourism and hospitality, it is fitting that Florida continues to lead the way in high school hospitality courses,” said Carol Dover, President & CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “We boast the largest ProStart program in the U.S. and are the only state to produce a statewide HTMP contest. These competitions are important as we invest in our students who are the future of this great industry, and it is truly a thrill to see them in action. Congratulations to these outstanding young men and women and to their instructors who devote so much time to their training.”



1st  Place         Martin County High School (Stuart): Instructor Shaun Southwick
2nd Place         Wekiva High School (Apopka): Instructor Christopher Bates
3rd Place          Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Instructor Paul Bonanno

4th Place          Coral Springs High School (Coral Springs): Instructor Aruna Lien

5th  Tie              Dixie Hollins High School (St. Petersburg): Instructors Christy Rabich/Tara Bishop

5th  Tie              Bethlehem High School (Bonifay): Instructor Chelsea Herndon


1st Place          Martin County High School (Stuart): Lily Tax, Paige Williams, Sophia Poirier, Georgia Poirier, Dominic Padovano, Instructor Shaun Southwick

2nd Place          Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Sydnie Gutierrez, Julian Alvarado, Emma Langston, Mayte Hernandez-Diaz, Instructor Paul Bonanno

3rd Place          Winter Park High School (Winter Park): Maria Santana, Madison Bryant, Murry Critcher, Audrey Alamina, Instructor Chris Whitlow

4th Place          Wekiva High School (Apopka): Greta Torres, Erick Hendrickson, Nicholas Eberle, Josephina Russo, Travis Grider, Instructor Christopher Bates

5th Place          Lake Minneola High School (Minneola): Anthony Miller, Kyndall Meacham, Elliot Lewis, Calvin Skolnik, Instructors Nick Sandora and Lance Bowles


1st Place            Wekiva High School (Apopka): Danny Ha, Ishia Vilus, Judah Myers, Keyshia Acevedo-Ares, Josean Vargas, Instructor Christopher Bates

2nd Place           Coral Springs High School (Coral Springs): Mariah Almodovar, Avinash Seepersad, Rylie Feller, Lanaya Nesmith, Instructor Aruna Lien

3rd Place           John A. Ferguson High School (Miami): Kayla Quintero, Teresa Kinnaird, Rebecca Wylie, Instructors Janett Toledo, Jorge Garcia, & Jebel Cordoba

4th Place           Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Lauren Trotto, Connor Butler, Katya King, Instructor Paul Bonanno

5th Place           Winter Springs High School (Winter Springs): Aaron Lambert, Shia Lorenzano, Ellyanna Rivera, Instructor Adam Efland


1st Place          Kadence Phillips, Bethlehem High School, Bonifay (Instructor Chelsea Herndon)

2nd Place         Mikayla Dailey, Bayside High School, Palm Bay (Instructor Stuart Gray)

3rd Place          Payton Miller, Steinbrenner High School, Lutz (Instructor Cheryl White)

4th Place          Kamiel Miller, St. Lucie West Centennial High School, Port St. Lucie (Instructor Christina Gedke-Balaschak)

5th  Tie              Melissa Rivera, Martin County High School, Stuart (Instructor Shaun Southwick)

5th  Tie              Lucia Bedoya, Coral Springs High School, Coral Springs (Instructor Aruna Lien)


1st Place            Dixie Hollins High School (St. Petersburg): Ty Cranston, Philip Smith, Justice Calle, Instructors Christy Rabich & Tara Bishop)

2nd Place           JP Taravella High School (Coral Springs): Myah Joseph, Pharrell Williams, Natalie Pisani, Instructor Scott Goodman

3rd Place           Martin County High School (Stuart): Gage Meskauskas, Jake Chase, Alex Garces-Kaline, Instructor Shaun Southwick

4th Place           Chipley High School (Chipley): Gretchen Green, Kaitlin Thompson, Carolynn Vanderbrink, Instructor Sandra Solger

5th Place          Steinbrenner High School (Lutz): Sophie Lopez, Amaya Pollack, Julissa Teran, Instructor Cheryl White

ProStart is a nationwide high school career program educating nearly150,000 students in culinary arts and restaurant management skills. Florida’s ProStart program is the largest in the nation with approximately 30,000 students enrolled annually. ProStart’s industry-driven curriculum provides real-world educational opportunities and sets a high standard of excellence for the industry’s next generation of leaders. Yearly, students compete on state and nation-wide levels to showcase skills learnt in their classroom kitchens.



1st  Place         Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Miami Sunset High School (Miami): Instructor Milagros Perez

3rd  Place         Olympia High School (Orlando): Instructor Kristina Bryant


1st Place          Windermere High School (Windermere): Keegan McBride, Charles Johnson, Alexandra Conley, Madeleine Empric; Instructor Heather Kelly

2nd Place         Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Morgan Fink, Alexis Presno, Madison Schapiro; Instructor Mitchell Albert

3rd Place          Miami Sunset High School (Miami): Raquel Guerrero, Jekcy Guerrero, Irianny Petit Soto, Jade Pagoda; Instructor Milagros Perez


1st Place          Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Morgan Fink, Alexis Presno, Madison Schapiro, Blake Blackman; Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Miami Sunset High School (Miami): Raquel Guerrero, Jekcy Guerrero, Irianny Petit Soto, Jade Pagoda; Instructor Milagros Perez

3rd Place          Olympia High School (Orlando): Annalise Blomberg, Molly Bryan, Aylin Sandboyva; Instructor Kristina Bryant


1st Place          Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Morgan Fink, Alexis Presno, Madison Schapiro, Blake Blackman; Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Horizon High School (Winter Garden): Renata Chaves, Adrianna Mason, Gracelynn Dull; Instructor Kate Restifo

3rd Place          Robert Morgan Education Center (Miami): Destinee Rodgers, Peyton McQueen, Julie Felipe-Careaga, Allanie Sahatoo; Instructor Alina Hughes

The Hospitality & Tourism Management Program (HTMP) is a high school curriculum that introduces 2,000 Florida students to the hospitality and tourism industry each year. HTMP presents the industry on a global scale with a large focus on diversity. Most importantly, this curriculum is industry driven as evidenced by the fact that more than 60 industry leaders served as subject matter experts, ensuring that today’s program matches the needs of hospitality employers across the world. Each year, Florida’s HTMP students compete at the state level to showcase their skills they have learned in the classroom.

For more information about ProStart, HTMP, or FRLA’s Educational Foundation, visit our webpage or contact Director Laura Rumer at


Governor Ron DeSantis Announces $50 Million Available for Local Governments Impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole 

For Immediate Release: March 3, 2023

Contact: Governor’s Press Office, (850) 717-9282,

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces $50 Million Available for Local Governments Impacted by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole 


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that $50 million is available for communities impacted by hurricanes Ian and Nicole through the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), this loan program helps local governments support government operations that may have been impacted by hurricanes Ian or Nicole, bridging the gap while they await federal relief or for their revenues recover.

“Helping communities fully rebuild after disaster and become more resilient in the face of future storms is a top priority for my administration,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud to announce this $50 million loan program to help local governments bridge the gap between the time they were impacted by hurricanes Ian and Nicole and when they can access federal relief or recover their revenues.”

“This Bridge Loan Program is particularly important to Leader Albritton, Senator Martin, and to me personally given the financial challenges facing several of our local communities following Hurricane Ian,” said Senate President Kathleen Passidomo. “This great program is modeled after the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Loans are provided interest-free and will help our communities continue their operations. Several communities, including Ft. Myers Beach, brought their concerns to our attention, and under the steadfast leadership of Governor DeSantis, we took quick action to help our communities make it through this challenging time.”

“Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ bold leadership, communities in Southwest Florida will be able to quickly receive much needed relief as they await long-term funds,” said Department of Economic Opportunity Acting Secretary Meredith Ivey. “I am proud that Governor DeSantis has entrusted DEO with administering this program, and we encourage eligible local governments to apply for this loan to aid in their recovery efforts. We also invite eligible applicants to participate in our technical assistance webinar on Thursday, March 9, 2023, where they will have the ability to learn additional information and ask questions of our subject matter experts.”

This one-time $50 million appropriation will fund governmental operations within eligible Florida counties and municipalities and bridge the gap between the time of the hurricane and the time additional funding sources or revenues are secured. “Governmental Operations” includes costs associated with continuing, expanding, or modifying local governmental operations to meet disaster-related needs and includes costs such as, but not limited to, staff salaries and payroll.

Counties and municipalities located in an area designated in the Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster declarations for Hurricane Ian or Hurricane Nicole are eligible to apply. An applicant must demonstrate that it may suffer or has suffered substantial loss of its tax or other revenues as a result of the hurricane and establish a need for financial assistance to enable it to continue to perform its governmental operations to be eligible. DEO is accepting applications on a rolling basis until available funds are exhausted.

On Thursday, March 9, 2023, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Eastern Time, DEO will be hosting a technical assistance webinar to provide guidance to eligible applicants and interested communities’ leaders and stakeholders as they review the application process. RSVP for that webinar HERE.

Eligible applicants are encouraged to use this checklist to submit the required documentation and information via email to For more information about the Local Government Emergency Bridge Loan Program, please visit



Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Recognizes Northeast Florida Hospitality Stars  

JACKSONVILLE – Last night, nearly 500 people from across the regional hospitality industry gathered at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village in St. Augustine for the 14th Annual ROSE Awards ceremony to award those making a difference in Northeast Florida’s hospitality community.

A premier event of the Northeast Chapter of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA), the ROSE (Recognition of Service Excellence) Awards honor frontline hospitality champions across Northeast Florida. This year’s event boasted more than 130 nominees from 48 different businesses, and 27 outstanding team members were honored with the coveted ROSE Award. From administrative assistants to chefs, housekeeping to transportation, and front desk staff to valet and bellmen, every single position in hospitality is critical to the success of the business in achieving outstanding guest experiences. Last night’s winners each received a trophy, the coveted ROSE Award pin, gift cards from local businesses, and recognition from industry peers and leadership. Middle managers were also recognized for their commitment and hard work throughout the ceremony. This year’s winners include individuals who saved a guest’s life, an amazing cook who celebrates his deafness and spreads positivity, and more behind the scenes stars.

“It’s such a privilege to recognize Northeast Florida’s best of the best in hospitality for the 14th year of ROSE Awards,” said Nicole Chapman, Regional Director for FRLA and the event’s organizer. “Day in and day out these individuals truly go above and beyond as ambassadors for our region and our industry. Our winners are shining stars in our hotels and restaurants that keep our visitors coming back, and we are so proud to honor them.”

“As Florida’s hospitality and tourism industry rebuilds post-COVID and we set new visitation and revenue records, we are still struggling to meet our pre-pandemic workforce numbers,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “For these nominees and winners to serve with such excellence – even during these challenging times – is a testament to their grit, grace, and professionalism and shows that they truly love what they do. Ours is the best industry in the state, and the Northeast Florida ROSE Awards is a wonderful opportunity to shine the light on these outstanding individuals who provide the ultimate guest experiences. Congratulations to these industry leaders and to Nicole Chapman, our amazing Regional Director, for all she has done to make this event such a success.”

The 2023 ROSE Award winners are:

President’s Award: Clive Ramsey, Brett McLaughlin, and Austin Patton: One Ocean Resort & Spa

Administrative Assistant: Saige Horowitz, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Banquets: Christine Steffens, One Ocean Resort & Spa

Bartender / Mixologist: Aaron Price, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Behind the Scenes: Isabella Zarka, One Ocean Resort & Spa

Beyond the Call of Duty: Ben Burke & Thomas Robertson, The Lodge & Club

Culinary Service – Chef / Cook Hotel: Jimmy McGuire, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville

Culinary Service – Chef/Cook Restaurant: Kathleen Hampton, Prospect Five Points

Customer Service – Concierge, Recreation, Spa: Jody Sutton, Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village

Customer Service – Event Services: Captain William Mayhem, St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

Food & Beverage – Support: Roderick Carlise, Prospect Five Points

Guest Service – Bed & Breakfast: David Corey, St. Francis Inn B&B and Casa De Suenos

Guest Service – Front Desk, Full-Service Hotel: Deidra Facey, Omni Amelia Island Resort

Guest Service – Front Desk, Select Service Hotel: Kaitlyn “Katie” Murphy, Best Western Oceanfront

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Full-Service Hotel: Odalis Rodriguez, One Ocean Resort & Spa

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Select Service Hotel: Debora Lowe, Fairfield Inn & Suites, St. Augustine

Guest Service – Laundry: Milena Gusalic, Aloft Jacksonville Tapestry Park

Guest Service – Maintenance / Engineer: Luis Villacis, Courtyard Orange Park

Guest Service – Valet / Bell Attendant: Angel Rodriguez, Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village

Server – Restaurant, Casual Dining: Danny Stimpson, Biscottis

Server – Restaurant, Fine Dining: James “Slim” Allen, The River Club

Server – Restaurant, Hotel: Glensner Layugan, One Ocean Resort & Spa

Restaurant – Quick Service: Faith Brunner, Starbucks at Casa Monica Resort & Spa

Transportation – Airport, Ground, & Water: Jenny Cremer, East Coast Transportation


About FRLA: The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Founded in 1946 as the Florida Restaurant Association, FRLA merged with the Florida Hotel and Motel Association in 2006. FRLA’s more than 10,000 members include independent hoteliers and restaurateurs, household name franchises, theme parks and suppliers. The association’s mission is to protect, educate and promote Florida’s nearly $112 billion hospitality industry which represents 1.5 million employees. Dedicated to safeguarding the needs of the membership, FRLA provides legislative advocacy to ensure the voices of its members are heard and their interests are protected. The association offers regulatory compliance and food safety training through Safe Staff® and FRLA’s subsidiary, RCS Training. The FRLA Educational Foundation provides industry-developed, career-building high school programs throughout the state.


Florida Breaks Record for Highest Visitation in State History

Press Release from the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida had record visitation in 2022. VISIT FLORIDA estimates that Florida welcomed 137.6 million visitors in 2022, an increase of five percent over 2019 and 12.9 percent over 2021. Florida welcomed 33.2 million travelers between October and December 2022, marking a six percent increase from Q4 2021, and the sixth consecutive quarter of overall visitation surpassing pre-pandemic levels. According to VISIT FLORIDA, 30.1 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in Q4 2022, representing 21 months of domestic visitation growth from 2019.

“People continue to make Florida their vacation destination because they know that in the Free State of Florida, they can enjoy all that we have to offer without mandates or restrictions,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Despite the federal government’s attempts to keep our economy stagnant, Florida’s freedom first approach has created an environment that attracts new visitors, fosters new businesses and drives our economy forward.”

“We could not be more excited with the incredibly impressive record-breaking visitation seen in 2022,” said Dana Young, VISIT FLORIDA President and CEO. “Quarter after quarter, Florida continues to dominate the travel market and our competition, which could not be achieved without the hard work of our local tourism partners. Florida is breaking records despite overseas visitation remaining 28 percent lower than 2019 due to heinous visa wait times and irrational mandates imposed by the federal government. At VISIT FLORIDA, we are committed to building on this growth to ensure Florida continues to be the No. 1 vacation destination in the world.”

Additional highlights from VISIT FLORIDA’s latest visitation estimates include:

  • Florida welcomed 2.0 million overseas travelers in Q4 2022, an increase of 35.5 percent from Q4 2021.
  • Canadian visitation to Florida during Q4 2022 accounted for 1 million visitors, an increase of 278 percent from Q4 2021.
  • Air travelers accounted for 38 percent of Florida visitors, compared to 41 percent in 2019.
  • Hotel room nights sold at Florida hotels increased by nearly 13 percent in 2022 compared to 2021. Occupancy rose by 9.4 percent to 70.5 percent, as demand growth significantly exceeded the expansion of supply.

Florida welcomed a total of 7.0 million overseas travelers in 2022, an increase of 73 percent over 2021, but still lower than 2019 visitation levels. The lack of overseas travelers is directly correlated to the unscientific vaccine mandate still instituted by the Biden administration in addition to staggering visa wait times. The wait time to receive an interview for visa issuance across the world includes:

  • Lima, Peru – 831 days
  • Rio De Janiero, Brazil – 455 days
  • Tel Aviv, Israel – 191 days
  • Mexico City – 633 days


New Additions in Miami to MICHELIN Guide Florida: February 2023

8 new spots heating up the Miami dining scene.

MICHELIN Guide Inspectors spend all year on the road uncovering the best restaurants to recommend—and what they’ve found is too good to keep a secret. Whet your appetite with a sneak peek of the 2023 MICHELIN Guide Florida—eight new additions spread across Miami. Bon appétit!

Brasserie Laurel
Cuisine: French

It’s early days for this clean-cut brasserie, located in the construction-clogged Miami Worldcenter. An expansive patio, high ceilings and plenty of seating all around set the stage for a tight menu of French classics that most kitchens have long since forgotten. On sparkling Bernardaud porcelain, chef Michael Beltran delivers a hefty dose of nostalgia with escargot drenched in garlic butter, foie gras with berry gastrique and lobster with veal sweetbreads. Though rich, the cooking – and the environment, for that matter – manage to feel decidedly of the times. Know that these luxuries come with a price and are meant to be enjoyed, so anyone hoping to grab an easy omelet or burger with fries in between shopping will be disappointed.

Fiola Miami
Cuisine: Italian

Everything seems to sparkle inside chef Fabio Trabocchi’s Italian looker in Coral Gables. White tablecloths, dark hardwood floors, glass at every turn and a gleaming open kitchen set the stage in a restaurant that is busy any day and time of the week. Seafood, naturally, is the calling card here, and raw bar items like shrimp cocktail with tomato compote highlight quality sourcing. Caviar and truffles can find their way to any dish, if you ask, and housemade pastas like spaghetti alla vongole are portioned to share. From there, the grill does most of the heavy lifting for any whole fish and high-end steaks offered. Even though this is a prime destination for business meetings, the setting is far from stuffy, in part thanks to a suave service team.

Cuisine: Italian

Lido brings breezy, Italian coastal cooking to the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club. There is nothing better than a seat than on the terrace, which overlooks the pool and off to the ocean through a line of palm trees. Against this dazzling backdrop, the team delivers politely seasoned, well-sourced seafood. Crudo is an easy start, like bluefin tuna tartare with pickled seaweed and puffed wild rice. Plenty will be content with just a king crab salad, but don’t ignore housemade pastas like seafood risotto or spaghetti with clams. Larger plates include branzino with rainbow chard or tagliata with beef jus. An oasis that radiates tranquility, the restaurant is a pricey, albeit luxurious, retreat from the rest of the city.

Lion & the Rambler
Cuisine: American

It would be very easy to drive right by Chef Michael Bolen’s new restaurant, which looks rather unassuming on this equally quiet corner of Coral Gables. But on a small menu, his ambitions are clearly noted, and Bolen goes to great lengths to make as much as he can. Excellent, house-made bread is everywhere here, but the best is his rosemary focaccia, at once crispy and airy and served with a thrilling house-cultured butter that ages for 10 days. Steak tartare gets an elegant upgrade thanks to roasted capers and jalapeño oil. Tender pelmeni stuffed with squash arrive crowned in a delicious garlic foam. With ideas and talent in spades, this charming restaurant is just getting started but already is yet another win for the neighborhood.

Cuisine: American

Kudos to husband-and-wife team chef Akino and Jamila West. What started out as a wildly popular brunch pop-up in Overtown has evolved into this permanent brick-and-mortar in Little River. The outdoor-only space is as breezy as they come with dangling garden lights and ample shade covering an expansive patio. The notably Southern menu covers a generous amount of ground. Deviled eggs with chicharrones, biscuits in guanciale gravy and fluffy banana pancakes with vanilla custard are primo brunch favorites. Heartier hits, like fried hot chicken and waffles or a generous fried fish and grits with collard greens, satiate larger appetites. Tickets to an occasional dinner prix fixe sell out quickly and signal more good things to come from this successful duo.

Tambourine Room by Tristan Brandt
Cuisine: Contemporary

Inside the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort on a rather calm stretch of Collins Avenue, find this ambitious dining bijou helmed by chef Tristan Brandt and his trusted lieutenant Timo Steubing. The duo delivers a colorful, multicourse tasting grounded in French cuisine with notable Asian inspiration. The results are anything but timid: Expect rich, bold sauces and foams made with the likes of parmesan, lobster and saffron, and ginger turbocharging everything from tomatoes to scallops to wagyu. By contrast, the space itself is fairly Spartan, sequestered off to the side of the main hotel bar and defined mostly by oversized oak tables, blue leather chairs and modern light fixtures. Swing for the second seating of the evening for a longer menu.

The Gibson Room
Cuisine: American

A stage for live music and a long, backlit bar do not usually signal serious cooking, but this moody and groovy Coral Way restaurant is the rare exception. Candlelight bounces off the tables in a room painted entirely black, as chef Michael Beltran again expands his already-significant footprint across the city. His penchant for creative, bold flavors and his refusal to cut corners serve him well. For that matter, the menu does not fit into a tidy box: Croutons in the Caesar are filled with a mousse of anchovies. Agnolotti are handmade, packed with a clever venison bolognese. Wide as a dinner plate, the chicken schnitzel gets dolled up with salsa verde, a fried egg, and boquerones. There are no limits to what you’ll find or how long you’ll stay.

Walrus Rodeo
Cuisine: American

With no proper stove or gas oven on site, the team behind Boia De in Buena Vista brings wood-fire cooking to this rambunctious corner spot just a few doors down. And in an unexpected turn, it’s vegetables, not meat, that seem to get top billing on this finely honed menu. Carrot tartare with carrot top salsa or schmaltz-roasted maitake mushrooms with heirloom beans exemplify delicious sophistication. Even the lamb ragù lasagna is a light-hearted, garden marvel: The pasta sheets are made from mustard greens. There is, of course, some meat, as well as pizza, but it’s the charred quail which recalls the best of backyard barbecues. All of it is very easy to take in and enjoy in a casual space that welcomes families and couples alike.

First Lady Casey DeSantis Announces Private-Sector Support for Floridians Impacted by Hurricane Ian and Awards $2.1 Million to Accelerate Recovery Efforts 

Press Release from the Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

For Immediate Release: February 3, 2023

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Today, First Lady Casey DeSantis met with individuals impacted by Hurricane Ian and awarded funding through the Florida Disaster Fund to non-profits and faith-based organizations that have supported Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian. While in Fort Myers, the First Lady announced the donations of hundreds of commodities that will be used to help Floridians get back on their feet. These donations are from numerous private-sector partners, including Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart, and include a donation of 1,216 doors from the Masonite Company, which will be used to replace doors in homes damaged by the storm. First Lady Casey DeSantis also announced an increased award amount for verified non-profit organizations to conduct critical repairs on homes damaged by Hurricane Ian by including an additional $1 million. This will allow the state-facilitated home repair program to raise its per-household award cap from $10,000 to $25,000, enabling impacted Floridians to make more significant home repairs. To request a door, home repairs or resources to fulfill another need, Floridians impacted by Hurricane Ian can visit the Unite Florida Portal, input their current needs, and will be connected with available resources.

In addition, First Lady DeSantis announced awards of more than $2.1 million through the Florida Disaster Fund to support the efforts of non-profit and faith-based organizations as they help impacted Floridians recover from Hurricane Ian. These awards include:

  • $1.7 million to support 17 Long-Term Recovery Groups that have formed to support the long-term recovery of Southwest Florida. These groups will help Floridians navigate available recovery resources and meet unmet needs.
  • $427,500 to Adventist Community Services. This funding supports the efforts of the organization to connect available commodities and building supplies with Floridians in need and other non-profit organizations engaged in construction efforts.

“As a mama, I know how important it is to know your children have a bed to sleep in every night, which is why I was honored to award funding that will support long-term recovery in Southwest Florida. I am also appreciative of our private-sector partners who donated hundreds of mattresses, sheets, building supply items and doors that will help make so many families feel like they have a home again. The people of Southwest Florida are so resilient, and we will continue to seek out meaningful ways to make their recovery easier,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “We are so appreciative of the outpouring of support that our private-sector and non-profit partners have shown Floridians following Hurricane Ian.”

Today’s announcements build on efforts spearheaded by the First Lady to harness private-sector philanthropy and generosity from people across the country to support the recovery of Southwest Florida after the devastating impacts of Hurricane Ian. Through the First Lady’s efforts, the Florida Disaster Fund has raised more than $64 million to support recovery efforts. Funding has gone to support a wide variety of recovery endeavors, including supporting home-building organizations, teachers, first responders and non-profits working in the area.

At the event, several Floridians who have benefited from the Florida Disaster Fund shared their stories. Click here to view their testimonials, which can be used courtesy of Governor DeSantis’ Press Office.

The Florida Disaster Fund is the state of Florida’s official private fund established to assist Florida’s communities as they respond to and recover during times of emergency or disaster. To donate, visit or text DISASTER to 20222. Donations to the Florida Disaster Fund are made to the Volunteer Florida Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, and are tax deductible.



Hotels Continue to Recover in 2023 as Industry Begins New Era of Operations

REPORT: Hotels Continue to Recover in 2023 as Industry Begins New Era of Operations

2023 AHLA State of the Industry forecasts opportunities, challenges

Download the report here

WASHINGTON (Jan. 30, 2023)The hotel industry in 2023 is projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels of demand, nominal room revenue and state and local tax revenue, while inching closer to other key 2019 performance metrics, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s 2023 State of the Hotel Industry Report.

The report, which forecasts that operational challenges such as staffing shortages and economic factors will replace COVID as hoteliers’ top concerns, is based on data and analysis from Oxford Economics and was created in collaboration with AHLA Platinum Partners STR, Avendra, Ecolab, Encore, and Oracle.

The top findings of the report include:

  • 2023 nominal room revenue is projected to reach new heights ($197.48 billion vs. $170.35 billion in 2019). While these numbers are not adjusted for inflation, and real revenue recovery will likely take several more years, the trendlines are positive.
  • 2023 room-night demand is projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels (1.3 billion occupied room nights vs. 1.29 billion in 2019).
  • Hotels are expected to generate $46.71 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2023, up from $41.11 billion in 2019.
  • Average hotel occupancy is expected to reach 63.8% in 2023 – just shy of 2019’s 65.9%.
  • Staffing is expected to remain a significant challenge for U.S. hotels in 2023, with hotels projected to employ 2.09 million people in 2023, down from 2.35 million in 2019.
  • Inflation for a number of hospitality-related products will continue to run 5% to upwards of 10% for the next few quarters, according to AHLA Platinum Partner Avendra.
  • Group business has a bright future: AHLA Platinum Partner Encore reports that 70% of planners surveyed for the company’s Fall 2022 Planner Pulse Report were either booking or actively sourcing new events, and 61% expected to have larger budgets in 2023.

“Three years after the unprecedented hardships our industry faced due to the pandemic, hotels continue to make significant strides toward recovery,” said AHLA President & CEO Chip Rogers. “2022 saw one of the strongest summer travel seasons ever, and this year we expect hotels to reach new heights in terms of room revenue, room-night demand and state and local tax revenue. But when inflation is taken into account, our industry likely won’t see full recovery for several more years. Nevertheless, hotel performance is trending in the right direction – great news for our industry and our employees, who are enjoying better pay, more career opportunities, upward mobility and flexibility than ever before.”

To help hotels fill open jobs and raise awareness of the hotel industry’s 200+ career pathways, the AHLA Foundation’s “A Place to Stay” multi-channel advertising campaign is now active in 14 cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Phoenix, San Diego, and Tampa. For more info on the campaign, visit

Additionally, AHLA affiliate “Hospitality is Working” recently launched the Workforce & Immigration Initiative. The effort is aimed at urging Congress to address workforce shortages with bipartisan solutions to incorporate more immigrants into the American economy. You can learn more about the effort here.

Download the full State of the Industry report here.


About AHLA

The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is the largest hotel association in America, representing more than 30,000 members from all segments of the industry nationwide – including iconic global brands, 80% of all franchised hotels and the 16 largest hotel companies in the U.S. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support, and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. Learn more at



Florida DEO launches $142M program for small businesses. Here’s everything you need to know.

South Florida Business Journal
By   –  Digital Producer, South Florida Business Journal
Jan 25, 2023

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity announced today that $142 million in new capital is available for small businesses and startups through Florida’s State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI).

Eligible companies must be Florida-based and have 750 employees or less, according to the DEO news release.

The initiative is administered by the DEO in partnership with Enterprise Florida. It has five programs to serve small businesses that may not otherwise have access to the capital needed to grow their businesses, including very small businesses and sole proprietors.

Funding through Florida’s SSBCI programs may be used to fund startup costs, business procurement, franchise fees, equipment, inventory and the purchase, construction, renovation, or tenant improvements of an eligible place of business.

“[The] program connects Florida’s small businesses with opportunities for new capital that they may not otherwise be able to access,” said DEO Acting Secretary Meredith Ivey. “DEO is proud to support the Governor’s mission by enabling local lenders to put funds into the hands of deserving small business owners in underserved communities and stimulate their local economies.”

In September, the DEO announced the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s approval of the state’s SSBCI application for $488 million. Funding is available from the U.S. Treasury in three payments, and the first funds totalling $142 million is ready for deployment, the DEO said.

“Enterprise Florida is proud to partner with DEO to provide Florida’s small businesses with the resources they need to succeed,” said Florida Deputy Secretary of Commerce Laura DiBella. “Florida’s small businesses are the heartbeat of our communities and are crucial to our state’s success, and we are honored to continue supporting them through Florida’s SSBCI program.”

Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s lead commerce agency, helps foster economic development by promoting Florida as a premier business destination and aiding with the state’s private-sector job creation efforts:

The five programs for funding through the SSBCI are:

  • Collateral Support Program – Enables financing that might otherwise be unavailable due to a collateral shortfall. This credit enhancement uses public resources to encourage private lenders to lend money to businesses by providing a cash deposit as collateral for a business loan or credit facility.
  • Venture Capital Program – Targeted investment strategy to attract capable investment managers to support Florida small businesses and create value. DEO will work with Enterprise Florida to secure partnerships with public entities and investment managers.
  • Loan Participation Program – SSBCI funds are used alongside private funds to support a loan to a borrower. The SSBCI funds may be used as a companion loan, or to purchase a portion of the loan made by the private lender.
  • Loan Guarantee Program – Provides a private lender with a short-term, partial guarantee to support a loan or line-of-credit for eligible small businesses.
  • Capital Access Program – A pooled loan insurance program where a private lender originates a loan, and the borrower and lender contribute a percentage of the loan per eligible small business, which is then matched by SSBCI funding.

Visit Lauderdale in partnership with FRLA Broward to Celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week at Together We Shine Tourism Luncheon on May 11

~Nominations accepted until January 30 for newly renamed The Laudables Awards recognizing exceptional hospitality workers in Greater Fort Lauderdale!


GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (January 19, 2023) –  Visit Lauderdale is calling for nomination submissions by Monday, January 30 to recognize the most “laudable” Greater Fort Lauderdale hospitality industry team members who provide exceptional service and experiences for visitors.

“Our hospitality industry team members are truly exceptional and make Greater Fort Lauderdale the most welcoming destination in the world,” says Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of Visit Lauderdale. “We appreciate their daily efforts in helping us greet everyone under the sun with warm and gracious hospitality and look forward to celebrating their contributions. We want everyone in the industry and beyond to know how incredibly proud we are of these dedicated individuals who go above and beyond to create memorable experiences for our all.

From hoteliers and tour guides to food servers, event managers, housekeepers and everyone else who plays a vital role in creating spectacular visitor experiences, Greater Fort Lauderdale will celebrate the contributions of exemplary individuals at the Together We Shine Tourism Luncheon scheduled for Thursday, May 11 at the newly expanded Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center during National Travel and Tourism Week.

“FRLA Broward is thrilled to partner with Visit Lauderdale in recognition of our everyday hospitality heroes and to foster future tourism and hospitality leaders for our great destination,” says Rozeta Mahboubi, FRLA Broward Regional Director. “Creating a pipeline of next generation award-winning professionals is one our top priorities.”

Previously known as the SUNsational Service Courtesy Awards, The Laudables Awards will honor hospitality industry excellence in the following categories:

  1. The Laudables Hospitality Award for excellence in any facet of the hospitality industry
  2. The Laudables Rising Star Award for an up-and-coming star in the hospitality industry
  3. The Laudables Lifetime Achievement Award, as the ultimate thank you for a hospitality career distinguished by commitment and service


Here’s what to know about submitting a nomination:

  1. To nominate an outstanding individual in the hospitality industry, please visit
  2. Nominations must be submitted by January 30, 2023.
  3. To show appreciation of the honorees by donating experiences such a weekend stay, attraction tickets or dinner for two, please email


About Greater Fort Lauderdale

Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts an average year-round temperature of 77˚F and has 3,000+ hours of annual sunshine and is known as the Venice of America and Yachting Capital of the World. Explore 4,000+ eateries, 300+ miles of navigable waterways, eight distinct beaches, a thriving arts and culture scene, craft breweries, rooftop bars, diving, fishing and other outdoor adventures, world class shopping and boats, yachts and superyachts moored at the area’s many marinas – all conveniently located in the center of South Florida. Made up of 31 municipalities, the destination boasts more than 37,000 lodging accommodations at a variety of hotels, luxury spa resorts and boutique properties, reflecting a cosmopolitan vibe. Upon arrival at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), it is just five minutes to the beach, Port Everglades, the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center and downtown. Find trip planning inspiration at and follow @VisitLauderdale on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube.


About Visit Lauderdale
Visit Lauderdale is the official destination marketing organization for Greater Fort Lauderdale and serves as the tourism department for Broward County, Florida. Visit Lauderdale promotes the area’s 31 municipalities to a global audience of leisure and business travelers as the ideal place for Everyone Under the Sun in recognition of the area’s diverse and welcoming vibe, and books conventions into the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center and area hotels and resorts.



Media Contacts:

Ivonne MacMillan
Visit Lauderdale or 954-767-2408


Diana Hanford or 561-309-4136


Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) Announces 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee

TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) announced the installation of its 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee, which includes veteran industry leaders with nearly 230 years of combined experience in hospitality. As Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality trade association, FRLA has provided unmatched service to the industry and its members for more than 75 years. The mission of FRLA is to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s hospitality industry – a nearly $112 billion industry with more than one million employees.

FRLA’s 2023 Board of Directors Executive Committee is comprised of the following:

  • Vice Chair: Roger Amidon, General Manager for Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa
  • Secretary/Treasurer and Restaurant Director: Nick Sarra, Chief Operating Officer, Saltwater Restaurants, Inc., Destin
  • Lodging Director: Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando
  • Restaurant Director: Henry Delgado, Managing Partner, Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, Miami Beach
  • Lodging Director: Lisa Lombardo, Chief Culture and Strategy Officer, HDG Hotels, Ocala
  • Immediate Past Chair: Olivia Hoblit, Regional Manager for Innisfree Hotels, Amelia Island

“The 2023 FRLA Board of Directors Executive Committee is one of our strongest ever,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “With more than two centuries’ worth of combined experience, we value the wisdom and guidance of these industry icons as we work to build on our industry’s incredible growth this year. In the face of uncertain economic times, historic food prices, and labor challenges, we need dedicated and passionate industry leaders who are innovative thinkers to get engaged. John Horne is a true visionary with such a warm and big personality who thrives in this wonderful ‘people business’ we all love, and we are thrilled to have him as our new Chair.”

“It’s an incredible honor to lead the FRLA Board of Directors, and I am looking forward to an outstanding year,” said John Horne, Board Chair for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “Hospitality is the greatest industry in Florida, and it is our collective priority to keep it that way through our statewide and federal advocacy, as well as our commitment to make a difference in our local communities. We’re in the business of helping our guests have memorable experiences and ensuring that Florida remains the greatest place to live, work, and have FUN!”

For full biographies for the FRLA Board of Directors, please click here.


About FRLA: The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Founded in 1946 as the Florida Restaurant Association, FRLA merged with the Florida Hotel and Motel Association in 2006. FRLA’s more than 10,000 members include independent hoteliers and restaurateurs, household name franchises, theme parks and suppliers. The association’s mission is to protect, educate and promote Florida’s nearly $112 billion hospitality industry which represents 1.5 million employees. Dedicated to safeguarding the needs of the membership, FRLA provides legislative advocacy to ensure the voices of its members are heard and their interests are protected. The association offers regulatory compliance and food safety training through Safe Staff® and FRLA’s subsidiary, RCS Training. The FRLA Educational Foundation provides industry-developed, career-building high school programs throughout the state.