More than $1.9 Million in Scholarships Offered for Florida High School Students in Annual Hospitality Competitions

ORLANDO – From February 28 – March 2 at the Rosen Plaza Hotel, 400 Florida high school students from more than 50 schools competed in the statewide annual Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Educational Foundation (FRLAEF) Hospitality & Tourism Management Program (HTM) Competition and ProStart Culinary Team Competitions. This year marked the 23rd year for the ProStart competition and the 20th year for the HTM event; Florida is the only state to host a statewide competition for the HTM program. Executive and Board Leadership from the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) attended the competition.

Throughout the weekend, ProStart students competed in categories including Culinary, Management, Edible Centerpiece, and Waiters Relay. At the Salute to Excellence Award ceremony, students were awarded for their respective competition categories. Students received scholarships from the FRLAEF, as well as Culinary Institute of America, Culinary Institute of Virginia, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Johnson & Wales University, Keiser University, Nichollas State University, and UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality. Winners will advance to the national ProStart Invitational which is hosted by the National Restaurant Association. HTM students competed in categories including Hotel Operations, Hospitality Project, and the Knowledge Bowl and were also awarded scholarships from the FRLA Educational Foundation.

These events would not be possible without the support of our Global Sponsors which are Keiser University, National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality and Universal Orlando. Event sponsors include Disney Culinary, Ecolab, Florida Atlantic University, and Florida International University.

“This year’s ProStart and HTM competitions showcased the dedication and skill of our exceptional hospitality students,” said Laura Rumer, Director of the FRLA Educational Foundation. “It was inspiring to witness the spirited competition, collaborative teamwork, and enthusiastic school pride demonstrated by these students and their instructors. We are incredibly grateful to everyone involved from across the hospitality industry, including our esteemed judges and devoted volunteers. We are excited for the promising futures of these outstanding students and look forward to our winners representing Florida at the national competition this spring in Washington, D.C.”

“As the top state for tourism and hospitality, Florida proudly maintains its forefront position in high school hospitality education,” said Carol Dover, President & CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “With the largest ProStart program nationwide and the unique distinction of being the only state to host a statewide HTM contest, we remain committed to nurturing the next generation of industry leaders. These competitions serve as vital investments in our students, who embody the future of this dynamic field. Witnessing their dedication and talent in action is truly exhilarating. Congratulations to these exceptional young individuals and to their devoted instructors, whose unwavering dedication shapes the path to success.”

23rd ANNUAL FLORIDA PROSTART COMPETITION WINNERS:

OVERALL WINNERS

1st  Place        Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Instructor Paul Bonanno

2nd Place         Martin County High School (Stuart): Instructor Shaun Southwick
3rd
TIE             Wekiva High School (Apopka): Instructor Christopher Bates
3rd
TIE              St. Lucie West Centennial High School (Port St. Lucie): Instructor Christina Gedke-Balaschak

4th TIE             Lyman High School (Longwood): Instructor Dane Brevoort

4th  TIE             Steinbrenner High School (Lutz): Instructor Cheryl White

5th  Place         South Lake High School (Groveland): Instructor John Thunberg

KEISER UNIVERSITY CULINARY COMPETITION

1st Place          Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Andrew Raab, Raegan Monroe, Rubicel Lopez, Jadira Ipanaque, Taylor Carlisle, Instructor Paul Bonanno

2nd Place         St. Lucie West Centennial High School (Port St. Lucie): Isaac Vasconcelos, Nathan Korb, Kaitlyn Owens, Instructor Christina Gedke-Balaschak

3rd Place          Martin County High School (Stuart): Michael De Cesare, Kalla Caves, Zachary Walker, Sarah Duda, Belle Quevedo, Instructor Shaun Southwick

4th Place          JP Taravella High School (Coral Springs): K’xada Herbert, Lauren Sandell, Yojeved Navarro, Savanna Hurlbert, Austin Thompson, Instructor Scott Goodman

5th Place          Olympia High School (Orlando): Luke Digiammarino, Sofia Galbis, Emma Pohlhammer, Katherine Garcia, Instructor Michael Lit

UCF ROSEN COLLEGE OF HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT COMPETITION

1st Place          Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Katya King, Caleigh Ross, Sienna Smith, Faye Lee, Juliana Kelly, Instructor Paul Bonanno

2nd Place         Wekiva High School (Apopka): America Castillo, Mia Del Valle, Isaac Aristrud, Emma Gonzelez-Miguel, Ema Thomas, Instructor Christopher Bates

3rd Place           Martin County High School (Stuart) Victoria Garcia, Rosemary Hernandez, Guadalupe Torres-Escobar, Sienna Hartley, Jennifer Lopez, Instructor Shaun Southwick

4th Place           Coral Springs High School (Coral Springs): Kayla Connell, Brady Porter, Cole Clapp, David Puello, Eric Wilson, Instructor Aruna Lien

5th Place           Osceola Fundamental High School (Seminole): Mackenzie Dunn, Kayla Dudinsky, Jessica Jamieson, Lily Schneidewind, Instructor Chris Long

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO EDIBLE CENTERPIECE COMPETITION

1st Place          Ava Caldwell, Lyman High School, Longwood (Instructor Dane Brevoort)

2nd Place         Bryar Stoney, Martin County High School, Stuart (Instructor Shaun Southwick)

3rd Place          Nicholas Leonardi, Fort Pierce Central High School, Fort Pierce (Instructor Jesse Strell)

4th Place          Daisy Silva-Bautista, Strawberry Crest High School, Dover (Instructor Paul Bonanno)

5th Place         Abigail Roth, St. Lucie West Centennial High School, Port St. Lucie (Instructor Christina Gedke-Balaschak

WAITERS RELAY COMPETITION

1st Place            Steinbrenner High School (Lutz): Evan Cannon, Cameron DeLeon, Fiona Wang, Instructors Cheryl White

2nd Place           South Lake High School (Groveland): Ryder Eckert, Isabel Acensio, Evan Greblick, Instructor John Thunberg

3rd Place           Strawberry Crest High School (Dover): Marie Townsel, Katie Lynn Ben Said, Lizbeth Lopez-Bautista, Instructor Paul Bonanno

4th Place           Winter Springs High School (Winter Springs): Davon Jacobsen, Xionel Bembry, Sydney Hanson, Instructor Adam Efland

5th Place            Wekiva High School (Apopka): Bertuni Cleonard, Armaan Welch, Jubal Castillo, Instructor Christopher Bates

ProStart is a nationwide high school career program educating nearly 150,000 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.

20th ANNUAL HTM COMPETITION WINNERS:

OVERALL WINNERS

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

2nd Place         Olympia High School (Orlando): Instructor Kristina Bryant

3rd  Place         Robert Morgan Educational Center (Miami): Instructor Alina Hughes

HOTEL OPERATIONS COMPETITION

1st Place          Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Blake Backman, Macy Meis, Saya Greiner, Maddison Schapiro, Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Seminole Virtual High School (Lake Mary): Lindsey Weber, Emiaj Jaime, Zachary Griffin, Alexavier Sanders, Instructor Kimberly Pintok

3rd Place          Gainesville High School (Gainesville): Emily Yanik, Sam Myers, Brittney Davis, Instructor Dawn Bekaert

HOSPITALITY PROJECT COMPETITION

1st Place          Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Blake Backman, Macy Meis, Saya Greiner, Maddison Schapiro; Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Olympia High School (Orlando): Isabel Miller, Aubrey Heaton, Mitley Seide, Ella Tran, Instructor Kristina Bryant

3rd Place          Seminole Virtual High School (Lake Mary): Lindsey Weber, Emiaj Jaime, Zachary Griffin, Alexavier Sanders, Instructor Kimberly Pintok

KNOWLEDGE BOWL COMPETITION

1st Place          Stoneman Douglas High School (Parkland): Blake Backman, Macy Meis, Saya Greiner, Maddison Schapiro, Instructor Mitchell Albert

2nd Place         Gainesville High School (Gainesville): Emily Yanik, Sam Myers, Brittney Davis, Instructor Dawn Bekaert

3rd Place          Robert Morgan Educational Center (Miami): Destinee Rodger, Julia Felipe-Careaga, Peyton McQueen, Samyra White; Instructor Alina Hughes

 

The Hospitality & Tourism Management program (HTM) is a high school curriculum that introduces 2,000 Florida students to the hospitality and tourism industry each year. HTM 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 HTM students compete at the state level to showcase their skills they have learned in the classroom.

For more information about ProStart, HTM, or FRLA’s Educational Foundation, visit our webpage or contact Director Laura Rumer at LRumer@frla.org.

 

About the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

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 $111.7 billion hospitality industry which represents 1.3 million employees. Dedicated to safeguarding the needs of its 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 SafeStaff® and FRLA’s subsidiary, RCS Training. The FRLA Educational Foundation provides industry-developed, career-building high school programs throughout the state.

 

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Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Recognizes Northeast Florida Hospitality Employees for Service Excellence at 15th Annual ROSE Awards Ceremony

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL – Last night, more than 400 people from across the regional hospitality industry gathered at the Renaissance Resort at World Golf Village in St. Augustine for the 15th Annual ROSE Awards ceremony to recognize outstanding employees from across Northeast Florida’s hospitality community

The 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 118 nominees from 36 different businesses, and 30 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 their award, 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 also included “Beyond the Call of Duty” awardees who saved the lives of guests in various life-threatening emergencies. A new end-of-the-program surprise in honor of the 15th year of the ROSE Awards included VISIT Jacksonville President & CEO Michael Corrigan presenting a $1,500 check to a ROSE Award nominee.

“It’s an honor to celebrate the fifteenth year of this amazing event and spend an evening recognizing the best of the best in Northeast Florida hospitality,” said Nicole Chapman, Regional Director for FRLA and the event’s creator and 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.”

“Celebrating the heart and soul of hospitality in Northeast Florida, the ROSE Awards shine a light on excellence, dedication, and service above self,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of FRLA. “It is with immense pride that we honor the nominees and winners who embody the spirit of hospitality, enriching experiences, and creating lasting memories for our guests. Their unwavering commitment sets the standard for our industry, inspiring us all to elevate our service and embrace the true essence of hospitality.”

The 2024 ROSE Award winners are:

President’s Award: Milos Sukunda, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

Administrative Assistant: Stephanie DiGregorio, World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine

Allied Member Spotlight: Jamie Williams, St Johns Food Service

Banquets: Evelyn Vennes, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Bartender / Mixologist: Tiffany Luna, Courtyard by Marriott Orange Park

Behind the Scenes: Jessica Colon, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Beyond the Call of Duty: Chris Blockberger, Epping Forest Yacht & Country Club

Beyond the Call of Duty: Douglas “Trey” Bennett, Omni Amelia Island Resort

Beyond the Call of Duty: Racheal Cox, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

Beyond the Call of Duty: Brian Doyle & Ben Pierce, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Culinary Service – Chef / Cook Hotel: Najah Alhasan, World Golf Village Renaissance St. Augustine

Culinary Service – Chef/Cook Restaurant: Jose Camacho, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa

Customer Service – Concierge, Recreation, Spa: Linda Fretwell, Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa

Customer Service – Event Services: Rodney Funk, Crown Linen, LLC

Food & Beverage – Support: Ezzahia Ezzine, Doubletree by Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront

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

Guest Service – Front Desk, Select Service Hotel: Josh Avery, Element by Westin Jacksonville Beach

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Full-Service Hotel: Julie Morrison, Ponte Vedra Inn & Club

Guest Service – Housekeeping, Select Service Hotel: Ashley Marshall, Courtyard by St. Augustine I-95

Guest Service – Laundry: Sheila Lawson, Courtyard by St. Augustine I-95

Guest Service – Maintenance / Engineer: Bo Suddueth, Doubletree by Hilton Jacksonville Riverfront

Guest Service – Security: Marketta Thomas, Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront

Guest Service – Valet / Bell Attendant: Alberto Vanegas, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Server – Hotel Breakfast Attendant: Raylene Martinez, Fairfield Inn by Marriott Jacksonville Beach

Server – Restaurant, Casual Dining: Roberta Hampton, Sunset Grille

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

Server – Restaurant, Hotel: Christina Johnson, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island

Restaurant – Quick Service: Darloni Fleming, Jeremiah’s of Fleming Island

Transportation – Airport, Ground, & Water: Edward Madden, Jax Black Car

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 1.3 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.

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Florida Tourism Industry Promotes the Impacts and Benefits of Tourism During “Florida Tourism Days”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 31, 2024

CONTACTS:

For Destinations Florida: Jennifer Fennell, (850) 597-0057, jennifer@coremessage.com

For Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association: Ashley Chambers, (254) 715-9040, achambers@frla.org

 

Tallahassee, Fla. – Over the next week, representatives of Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry will promote the value of tourism and tourism promotion during “Florida Tourism Days: Seven Days of Sunshine,” which includes events, a social media campaign, and visits with lawmakers in Tallahassee to discuss legislative priorities. Tourism and hospitality are the state’s number one industry, the economic engine of our state, a top employer, and a source of revenue that benefits communities across Florida.

Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry have a significant impact on state and local economies, as well as Florida’s job market. According to a recent study commissioned by VISIT FLORIDA:

  • In 2022, travelers spent a record $124.9 billion, outpacing 2021 by nearly $20 billion.
  • For every dollar spent by the 137.4 million visitors in 2022, 97 cents were retained in the Florida economy.
  • On average, visitors contribute $333 million per day to Florida’s economy.
  • Florida tourism raised a total of $35.2 billion in taxes, $18.9 billion in federal tax revenue, $8.1 billion in Florida state tax revenue, and $8.2 billion in local tax receipts.
  • Tourism-supported employment surpassed its pre-pandemic peak by 422,000 jobs, growing to 2 million jobs, with direct employment making up 66 percent of the total at 1.3 million jobs.
  • Travel and tourism generated $73 billion in wages for Florida workers in 2022.

Welcoming visitors to our state also provides benefits to residents. Thanks to tourism and the revenue tourism generates:

  • Florida residents do not pay a state income tax, making Florida one of only eight states without a state income tax.
  • Every Florida household saves $1,840 a year on state and local taxes.
  • Communities can provide critical services residents rely on, such as education, public safety, infrastructure, and environmental programs.

 

Here’s what Florida tourism and hospitality leaders are saying regarding legislation impacting the tourism and hospitality industry:

Bill Lupfer, President & CEO, Florida Attractions Association

“VISIT FLORIDA does an excellent job promoting our state as a whole to potential visitors, but local tourism promotion is essential to bringing visitors to the various destinations throughout the state. We need local tourism promotion, funded through Tourist Development Taxes, to bring visitors to our members’ gates and to keep industry professionals employed. We strongly oppose any expansion of the uses of Tourist Development Taxes.”

Malinda Horton, Executive Director, Florida Association of Museums

“Tourist Development Taxes were established to ensure counties had a dedicated funding source for the tourism promotion efforts necessary to create jobs and generate local revenue. They not only help our members attract out-of-town visitors to our museums and other arts and cultural experiences, but they also ensure those institutions are available for residents to enjoy. To keep these travel offerings available to residents and visitors alike, we need to not make any changes to the current permissible uses of Tourist Development Taxes.”

Carol Dover, President/CEO, Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association

“The strength of Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry ensures that Florida remains a premier destination for visitors and that our state expands its economic vitality. We will continue to work with legislators to champion the needs of our members and the broader hospitality community to promote job creation, retain and attract a diverse workforce, improve and simplify business processes, and support tourism promotion. Together, we can build a resilient and vibrant industry that not only meets the expectations of travelers but also contributes significantly to Florida’s economic prosperity.”

Bobby Cornwell, President and CEO, Florida RV Park and Campground Association

“Tourism is the lifeblood of Florida’s economy. It is a major source of revenue for the state and for local communities. Maintaining a strong tourism industry will ensure these revenue streams will continue to support our state and local counties’ budgets. The only way to do that is to continue to fund state tourism promotion through VISIT FLORIDA and local tourism promotion through Tourist Development Taxes.”

Robert Skrob, Executive Director, Destinations Florida

“Tourism is one of the reasons Florida is such a great place to live, work, and play because it helps keep the tax base low for residents. We don’t pay a state income tax and we save more than $1,800 in state and local taxes each year. Local tourism promotion, which is funded through Tourist Development Taxes, is instrumental in bringing these visitors to our destinations. It is imperative that we maintain the current permissible uses of Tourist Development Taxes.”

Dana Young, President and CEO, VISIT FLORIDA

“VISIT FLORIDA is proud to work with our valued partners and industry associations across the state to promote Florida’s Sunshine throughout the world. Florida’s Tourism Industry is the heartbeat of our state’s economy, with visitors having an economic impact of $121.5 Billion throughout the state, and by working together we can ensure that Florida remains the #1 destination for visitors.”

 

RELEASE: Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis Award $550,000 in Florida Disaster Fund Grants for Hurricane Idalia Long-Term Recovery Efforts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis and First Lady Casey DeSantis announced $550,000 in Florida Disaster Fund recovery grants to support long-term recovery efforts following Hurricane Idalia. Expedited grants in the amount of $50,000 have been awarded to 11 organizations that are designated as Long-Term Recovery Groups (LTRGs). LTRGs help to coordinate long-term recovery services within the communities and connect Floridians with available programs. 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 after a disaster.

“We will continue to provide support for Floridians as they recover following Hurricane Idalia,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Hurricane recovery does not happen in just the days and weeks following a storm, and we will support impacted communities every step of the way.”

“I am proud of what we have done for Floridians as they recover from Hurricane Idalia. With dedicated dollars from the Florida Disaster Fund, we are supporting long-term recovery efforts and ensuring that there are no unmet needs,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis. “Recovery can be a long process and I am appreciative of the work that our Governor continues to do to support Floridians impacted by Hurricane Idalia.”

“The Volunteer Florida Foundation is pleased to announce the award of Florida Disaster Fund grants that will support long-term efforts in areas still recovering from Hurricane Idalia,” said Volunteer Florida CEO Josie Tamayo. “We are committed to ensuring our communities receive the support necessary to rebuild. Thank you to those who donated to the Florida Disaster Fund and made this support possible.”

The following counties were awarded Florida Disaster Fund long-term recovery grants to support existing projects that help individuals recover from Hurricane Idalia:

  • Charlotte ($50,000)
  • Citrus ($50,000)
  • Hernando ($50,000)
  • Jefferson ($50,000)
  • Madison ($50,000)
  • Pasco ($50,000)
  • Pinellas ($50,000)
  • Sarasota ($50,000)
  • Suwannee Valley (Hamilton, Suwannee, Lafayette, Columbia) ($50,000)
  • Taylor ($50,000)
  • Tri-County (Gilchrist, Dixie, Levy) ($50,000)

These awards follow more than $1.6 million awarded to education foundations, charitable organizations and local community churches in addition to a $700,000 award to support the shellfish and aquaculture industry and a $100,000 award to support Taylor County workforce and economic development activities following the storm.

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Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) Announces 2024 Board of Directors Executive Committee

 

TALLAHASSEE – Today, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) announced the installation of its 2024 Board of Directors Executive Committee, which includes veteran industry leaders with nearly 250 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 over 75 years. The mission of FRLA is to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s hospitality industry – a $112 billion industry with more than 1.3 million employees.

FRLA’s 2024 Board of Directors Executive Committee is comprised of the following:

  • Chairman: John Horne, Owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bars, Bradenton, and Café L’Europe, Sarasota
  • Vice Chairman: Nick Sarra, Partner & Chief Executive Officer, Saltwater Restaurants, Inc., Florida Panhandle
  • Secretary/Treasurer and Lodging Director: Greg Cook, Luxury General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island
  • Lodging Director: Barbara Bowden, Area Managing Director for Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando
  • Restaurant Director: Henry Delgado, Managing Partner, Smith and Wollensky Restaurant Group, Miami Beach
  • Restaurant Director: Chuck Prather, President, Birchwood Development (The Birchwood, Birchwood Canopy, Birch & Vine), St. Petersburg
  • Immediate Past Chairwoman:Olivia Hoblit, Director of Lodging, World Equestrian Center, Ocala

“Despite the ever-evolving challenges we encounter each year, the enduring resilience and significance of our industry in strengthening our communities and driving Florida’s economic prosperity remains unwavering,” said Carol Dover, President & CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA). “We remain committed to advancing our mission to protect, educate, and promote Florida’s vibrant hospitality industry and to keep the economic engine of our state running well. Our distinguished 2024 Executive Committee brings a wealth of knowledge, talent, passion, and skills to help propel FRLA and the industry forward, and together we look forward to supporting our members and actively contributing to the thriving landscape of the industry.”

“Having the honor to serve a second term in this esteemed role is a thrilling opportunity to further support the hospitality professionals of the great state of Florida,” said FRLA Board Chairman John Horne. As we continue to prioritize statewide and federal advocacy on behalf of our industry, I draw inspiration from the millions of Floridians that FRLA members employ, whether they are culinarians, front desk workers, bartenders, or engaged in any role imaginable. Their dedicated and enthusiastic efforts are instrumental in ensuring that Florida retains its status as the world’s favorite destination. We have a tremendous Executive Board who will work extra hard knowing they depend on us in 2024.”

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 1.3 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.

 

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Travelers to Florida Continue to Outpace the Nation

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Today, Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted a recent study commissioned by VISIT FLORIDA which shows that with the record-breaking number of visitors in 2022, travelers spent a record $124.9 billion, outpacing 2021 by nearly $20 billion. For every dollar spent by the 137.4 million visitors in 2022, 97 cents were retained in the Florida economy. On average, visitors contribute $333 million per day to Florida’s economy.

“Whether for business or vacation, people continue to visit Florida and support Florida businesses because of our commitment to keeping the economy open and allowing businesses to thrive without arbitrary government restrictions,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Florida is the best state in the nation to bring your business and vacation with your families.”

“Whether for work or play, Governor DeSantis’ freedom-first policies have allowed Florida’s tourism industries and all industries to flourish to record levels,” said Dana Young, President and CEO of VISIT FLORIDA. “The impact of commerce and tourism on Florida’s economy cannot be overstated, and again Florida has proven that its charging faster than the national economic trends which have otherwise set back many other states.”

Highlights from the 2022 Economic Impact Report include:

  • Tourism-supported employment surpassed its pre-pandemic peak by 422,000 jobs, growing to 2 million jobs, with direct employment making up 66% of the total at 1.3 million jobs.
  • Domestic visitors to Florida spent $112.7 billion in 2022 and international visitors spent $12.2 billion, providing a $124.9 billion out-of-state spending stimulus to Florida’s economy.
  • In comparison, in 2021 domestic visitors to Florida spent $99.4 billion and international visitors spent $5.7 billion, which resulted in a $105.1 billion out-of-state visitor spend.
  • Tourism was responsible for 9.5% of all Florida jobs in 2022, making tourism Florida’s 2nd largest employer. Employment grew by 16.8%, compared to the state’s 7.6% growth.
  • Travel and tourism generated $73 billion in wages for Florida workers in 2022.
  • One out of every six private sector jobs were supported by tourism in 2022.
  • Florida tourism raised a total of $35.2 billion in taxes, $18.9 billion in federal tax revenue, $8.1 billion in Florida state tax revenue, and $8.2 billion in local tax receipts.
  • Without tourism, Florida’s 8.8 million households would each have to pay more than $1,840 in state and local taxes to maintain current levels of receipts.

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Florida Commerce Activates Business Damage Assessment Survey for Severe Weather Event

FloridaCommerce Activates Business Damage Assessment Survey to Measure Impact of Damage Caused by January Severe Weather

Jan 09, 2024

Tallahassee, FL – Today, FloridaCommerce and the State Emergency Response Team (SERT) activated the Business Damage Assessment Survey in response to the January Severe Weather event. Survey responses will allow the state to expedite January Severe Weather recovery efforts by gathering data and assessing the needs of affected businesses.

Businesses can complete the survey online by visiting www.FloridaDisaster.biz and selecting “January Severe Weather” from the dropdown menu.

If you need additional assistance with your business, please call the private sector hotline at 850-815-4925. The hotline was activated on Tuesday, January 9, 2024, and the hotline will be operational between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Eastern Time or you can email ESF18@EM.MyFlorida.com.

Related:
Governor Ron DeSantis Issued Executive Order 24-03 on January 9, 2024, in advance of the severe weather event. The Order includes 49 counties under a state of emergency from severe weather impacting the state of Florida:  Alachua, Baker, Bay, Bradford, Brevard, Calhoun, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Escambia, Flagler, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Hamilton, Hernando, Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Okaloosa, Orange, Osceola, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Santa Rosa, Seminole, Sumter, St. Johns, Suwannee, Taylor, Union, Volusia, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington counties.

National Restaurant Association and Educational Foundation Name 2024 Boards, Including FRLA Board Chairman John Horne

Contact: Vanessa Sink, National Restaurant Association, vsink@restaurant.org

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 4, 2024) – The National Restaurant Association and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) today announced their 2024 board officers, directors, and trustees.

Jeff Lobdell, president and founder of Restaurant Partners Management, LLC., will serve as chair of the National Restaurant Association Board of Directors, and Shaun Beard, senior vice president of SAVOR Hospitality, will serve as chair of the NRAEF Board of Trustees.

“The restaurant industry is changing along with the expectations of the customers and communities we serve,” said Michelle Korsmo, president & CEO of the National Restaurant Association and CEO of the NRAEF. “As chairs of the Association and Foundation Boards, Jeff and Shaun bring a passion for exceptional dining experiences and community-based leadership. We’re also pleased to welcome our newly elected Board members who represent the breadth and depth of our industry. Their collective knowledge and insights will be critical as we work to advance a thriving restaurant and foodservice industry.”

Vice Chair Richard Schneider, chief development officer of Areas USA, and Treasurer Mike Axiotis, CEO and president of the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, complete the Association’s 2023 Board leadership.

“The restaurant industry has provided more than sixty percent of the adult workforce in this country with skills that have added to their value in the professional world. The NRAEF is dedicated to keeping those skills on the restaurant industry career ladder. I look forward to working with Shaun and the Trustees to develop the opportunity and support needed for today and tomorrow’s workforce,” said Rob Gifford, president of the NRAEF.

Other NRAEF officers include Vice Chair Bill Kohl, principal of Greenwood Hospitality Group, and Treasurer Carrie Leishman, president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association.

Each of the officers will serve a one-year term. The following is the list of 2024 board officers:

National Restaurant Association

Chair: Jeff Lobdell is the president and founder of Restaurant Partners Management, LLC. Lobdell has been passionate about the hospitality industry, his restaurant businesses, and the communities that they operate in for more than 35 years. He supports many local non-profits focused on supporting local kids and families. He also serves as a member of the Grand Rapids Police Foundation Board and is active within the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association. Lobdell is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality.

Vice Chair: Richard Schneider is chief development officer of Areas USA, where he is responsible for company growth, government affairs, community affairs, brand and concept development, and construction. Throughout his career, Schneider has developed many strong culinary relationships across the country in multiple verticals to help design award-winning concepts. He helped to create the Areas Cares program to support the communities they serve and has also led the company’s community education program supporting local high school culinary programs to help build opportunities for students.

Treasurer: Mike Axiotis is CEO and president of the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, a locally owned and operated franchisee of Red Robin. Through tireless hard work, love of the hospitality business and people, and his commitment to excellence, Axiotis worked his way up the ranks at LVRG, eventually being elected as CEO in 2018. His history in the industry extends back nearly 40 years, starting with his family’s restaurant. Axiotis believes his success is an opportunity to give back through impactful community involvement and support of the team members of LVRG.

The National Restaurant Association also added several new members to the board. The newly elected directors include:

  • Madelyn Alfano, Maria’s Italian Kitchen
  • Dagmar Boggs, The Coca-Cola Company
  • Greg Flynn, Flynn Restaurant Group
  • Michael Gonda, McDonald’s Corporation
  • Victoria Gutierrez, Sysco
  • GJ Hart, Red Robin International
  • John Horne, Oysters Rock Hospitality, Anna Maria Oyster Bars, and Café L’Europe
  • Bill Kitsilis, Axios Hospitality
  • Amber Moshakos, LM Restaurants
  • Sam Sanchez, Third Coast Hospitality

 

National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

Chair: Shaun Beard is the senior vice president of SAVOR Hospitality, where he is responsible for establishing and growing the SAVOR brand for parent company ASM Global Facility Management, while increasing operating income through operating restaurants, catering, concessions and large special events. He previously served as vice president at CENTERPLATE in Spartanburg, S.C., where he directed planning and executed strategies across the U.S. and Canada. Beard holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado, has completed the Executive Management Program at the University of Florida, and earned certificates at the Culinary Institute of America.

Vice Chair: Bill Kohl oversees the strategic and operational direction of Greenwood Hospitality Group’s portfolio of hotels. Additionally, he directs the company’s activities in restaurant development, concept design, and re-positioning. During his 35-year career, Kohl has received several honors including The Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association’s General Manager of the Year and the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s State Leadership Award. He is founder of Très Bonne Année, a series of wine and food events and international wine auction for charity, which raises more than $400,000 annually. A native of Springfield, Pa., Kohl is a graduate of Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management.

Treasurer: Carrie Leishman is president and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association (DRA) and the Delaware Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. Leishman is a passionate and fearless advocate for the industry and is credited with strengthening the DRA into one of the most influential business organizations in the state. The DRA created the first industry training for substance abuse awareness and prevention, and for this work, received recognition from the White House in 2018. Leishman grew up in upstate New York and graduated from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

In addition to naming its new board officers, the NRAEF also introduced its new board trustees. They include:

  • Mateo Cidre, as Sobao Bakery & Restaurant
  • Damian Hanft, Inspire Brands

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About the National Restaurant Association

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises nearly 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 14.5 million employees. Together with 52 State Associations, we are a network of professional organizations dedicated to serving every restaurant through advocacy, education, and food safety. We sponsor the industry’s largest trade show (National Restaurant Association Show); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart). For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurantsFacebook and YouTube.

 

About the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation

As the philanthropic foundation of the National Restaurant Association, the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s (NRAEF) mission of service to the public is dedicated to enhancing the industry’s training and education, career development and community engagement efforts. The NRAEF and its programs work to Attract, Empower and Advance today’s and tomorrow’s restaurant and foodservice workforce. NRAEF programs include: ProStart® – a high-school career and technical education program; Restaurant Ready/HOPES – Partnering with community-based organizations to provide people with skills training and job opportunities; Military – helping military servicemen and women transition their skills to restaurant and foodservice careers; Scholarships – financial assistance for students pursuing restaurant, foodservice and hospitality degrees; and the Restaurant & Hospitality Leadership Center (RHLC) – accredited apprenticeship programs designed to build the careers of service professionals. For more information on the NRAEF, visit ChooseRestaurants.org

 

Florida Tourism Numbers Get Boost

TALLAHASSEE — With international travel clawing closer to pre-pandemic levels, Florida is on pace for a record-setting year for tourism.

The tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida on Thursday estimated 35.066 million people traveled to Florida during the third quarter of 2023, 1.4 percent more than during the same period of 2022 and 7.9 percent above the total in 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The new numbers showed a rebound from a slight second-quarter dip, which industry leaders attributed to increased competition from other states and countries that were closed longer than Florida because of the pandemic.

Visit Florida said Florida had 105.2 million visitors during the first nine months of the year, up from 104.478 million during the same period in 2022. Florida posted a full-year record of 137.4 million tourists in 2022.

In 2019, Florida attracted 131 million visitors, with 100.267 million coming to the state during the first nine months of the year.

Florida’s July-through-September totals this year were dominated by visitors from other states. But they were also helped by the federal government’s lifting of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for international air travelers on May 11, the same day a COVID-19 public health emergency ended.

International tourism, however, continues to face issues with non-migrant visa delays, which have been blamed, at least in part, on staffing shortages at embassies. The U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website Thursday showed London wait times at 110 days, up from 90 days on June 7. Paris was at 200 days, up from 180 days in June. Rio De Janeiro was at 162 days on Thursday, down from 477 days in June.

Florida’s tourism industry was hammered in 2020 because of pandemic-related shutdowns. But state officials have contended that early efforts to reopen the economy led to a quicker tourism rebound in Florida.

“Florida continues to set records for visitation because of our commitment to allowing visitors to enjoy their travels without arbitrary government restrictions,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a prepared statement Thursday.

Tourism from other parts of the U.S. accounted for 92 percent of the third-quarter totals, but it was slightly below the level from the same period in 2022.

Overseas and Canadian tourists, however, showed year-over-year increases — though they are still not at pre-pandemic levels.

Visit Florida estimated the state had nearly 2.23 million overseas visitors in the third quarter, up from 1.93 million in the third quarter of 2022. In the third quarter of 2019, the total was 2.5 million.

Also, Canadian travel — traditionally the top international country of origin for visitors to Florida — reached 666,000 in the third quarter, topping 561,000 in the third quarter of 2022. For the first nine months of 2023, Florida attracted about 2.8 million Canadians, up from 1.749 million in the same period of 2022.

In 2019, 4.088 million Canadians made their way to Florida, with 2.997 million during the first nine months of the year and 703,000 during the third quarter.

Pointing to the trends in global travel, Visit Florida President and CEO Dana Young called the third-quarter figures “a new normal with an elevated market share of tourism, especially international tourism.”

To combat increased competition from other parts of the U.S., Visit Florida made plans this year to market regions of the state outside of their peak seasons, highlight non-typical tourist destinations and move up the start of winter and “families” advertising campaigns.

The state budget for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, includes $80 million for Visit Florida, a $30 million increase from last year.