Carol B. Dover: Restaurant Industry Picking Up Steam in Florida

(Published: South Florida Sun Sentinel)

By: Carol B. Dover, January 22, 2014

Florida restaurants are among the top in the nation, creating more employment opportunities for families and multiplying choices for consumers across the state. The industry is expected to post 4.5 percent sales growth in 2014 to reach more than $34.6 billion in sales according to the National Restaurant Association’s recently released 2014 Restaurant Industry Forecast.

These statistics are a clear indication that under Gov. Rick Scott’s leadership and pro-business initiatives, our food service industry is continuing to spur economic growth in our state. The governor’s commitment to Florida’s hospitality industry, coupled with his vision to bring 100 million visitors to the state, helps to ensure Floridians will benefit from the billions of dollars in sales tax revenue it generates. The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, and our more than 10,000 members throughout the Sunshine State, stand ready to meet this challenge while protecting, promoting and educating our residents, tourists, employees and employers.

In fact, Florida is one of the top five states in the country considered a leader in overall job growth within the restaurant industry. This year, Florida restaurants will employ 899,000 people, and create an additional 134,600 jobs in the next decade. Nationally, 2014 will also mark the 15th straight year that restaurant industry employment growth will outpace overall employment growth.

The forecast indicates the industry itself is adapting to consumer trends. Specifically, local sourcing and nutritious options continue to be popular. Here in Florida, we have a unique opportunity to take advantage of fresh flavors created from the high quality products and commodities grown and harvested by our state’s agricultural industry.

We also have the opportunity to cultivate Florida’s next generation of business leaders. In particular, and through Hospitality Education Program funding, we are better preparing Florida’s high school students planning to enter into the industry. The HEP program gives our young people school-to-career training that allows them the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to be a successful part of our workforce.

While the restaurant industry is expected to expand in 2014, operators will continue to face a range of challenges. The top challenges cited by restaurateurs include: food costs, labor costs and the national economy. This session, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association continues to work diligently with the governor’s office and the Florida Legislature to encourage a positive business environment in our state, ensuring Floridians and tourists alike can enjoy what the hospitality industry has to offer.

Carol B. Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.