(Orlando, Fla.) – The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) joined together to celebrate hospitality’s finest and to highlight the exceptional service delivered by the stars of the industry. FRLA announced its 2018 Executive Committee and unveiled its 2017 Hall of Fame along with other industry award winners.

During the event, which took place at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, FRLA included a special tribute to the industry’s Hurricane Irma response, recovery and relief efforts. The silent auction beneficiary for this evening was the Florida Disaster Fund, the State of Florida’s official private fund established to provide support to Florida’s communities in times of disaster.

Kevin Speidel, Vice President of Resort Operations for Hilton Grand Vacations (HGV) was named FRLA’s 2018 Chairman of the Board. Speidel will preside over the FRLA, one of the state’s largest trade associations, representing more than 10,000 members in the hospitality industry.

FRLA congratulates its newly elected executive board and Hall of Fame award winners.

2018 FRLA Executive Committee:
Kevin Speidel Chairman Hilton Grand Vacations, Orlando
Alan Palmieri Vice Chair Marlow’s Tavern, Orlando
Sheldon Suga Secretary-Treasurer Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key
Jim Shirley Director 2018-19 Great Southern Café, Santa Rosa Beach
Olivia Hoblit Director 2018-19 Seaside Inn (Innisfree Hotels), Amelia Island
Cathie Koch Director 2018 Bloomin’ Brands Inc., Tampa
Don Fox Immediate Past Chair Firehouse of America, LLC, Jacksonville


In addition, Hall of Fame Awards were given to individuals who have attained career distinctions of the highest level and were recognized for distinguished service to their industry, community, charitable organizations and family. The 2017 Hall of Fame is as follows:

2017 Restaurateur of the Year: Andrew Reiss, Tallahassee: To call Andy Reiss anything but a Tallahassee legend would be an understatement. Elected officials, students and Tallahassee residents alike recognize Andy not only as a creator of delicious food, but also as an engaged and considerate employer. At a time when most restaurants were moving away from the Capitol in downtown Tallahassee, Reiss seized an opportunity. Believing the time was right for Tallahassee’s first New York-style delicatessen, he opened The Deli in November 1972. Through the subsequent 45 years, Reiss’ restaurant concepts included Andrew’s 2nd Act, Maxin’s, Tutto Bene, Andrew’s Upstairs, Andrew’s Catering, Trio, Andrew’s Capital Grill & Bar, and Andrew’s 228. Reiss has advocated for the restaurant industry and Downtown Tallahassee throughout his career. He was FRLA’s first Chairman of the Board from Tallahassee in 2013 and 2015. Appointed by 4 different governors, he served 24 years on the DBPR Hotel and Restaurant Advisory Council. Andrew helped found and chaired the Tallahassee Convention and Visitors Bureau, currently known as Visit Tallahassee.

2017 Hotelier of the Year: Don Seaton, Clearwater Beach: The late Don Seaton was a hotelier by profession. He and his wife Nan owned, developed, built and operated four hotels in Clearwater Beach, one in Crystal River, and two in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Mr. Seaton was not only a successful businessman, but was also involved in his community and was devoted to Florida’s tourism industry. His Florida contributions included two terms as President of the Greater Clearwater Innkeepers Association, three terms as Vice Chairman of the Pinellas County Tourist Development Council, terms as Secretary, Treasurer, Board of Directors and Chairman of the Florida Hotel & Motel Association, and as Director and Chairman of the Board of Best Western International. He was honored as the Florida Hotel & Motel Association’s Hotelier of the Year, received the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and was a two-time Paul Harris Fellow of the Clearwater Beach Rotary Club.

2017 Supplier of the Year: UnitedHealthcare: UnitedHealthcare, represented by Kimberlee Vandervoorn, is a strong supporter of the hospitality industry. It offers exclusive health care pricing and solutions for every size FRLA member business, including a soon-to-be available NRA Association Plan option for fully insured small business groups. Since 2009, UnitedHealthcare has worked with the National Restaurant Association and the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association in a strategic alliance to help provide easier access to cost-effective health care coverage and related products and services for the hospitality industry. UnitedHealthcare features an expansive network of more than 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide; various online tools and resources; and a range of wellness programs designed to help improve employee health, productivity and retention.

2017 Special Honoree Randy Spicer:  Randy Spicer was truly a friend to the industry. Randy worked 23 years for Prudential Insurance Company then was hired by Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield in Little Rock where he spent the next ten years as President and CEO of their subsidiary, First Pyramid Life. Randy and his wife Diane then resided in Southlake, Texas with him working for UnitedHealthcare. When he passed away on March 20 of this year, he was working for the National Restaurant Association as Vice President of Health Insurance Services. After multiple years of hard work, Randy had very recently completed a significant project developing with UnitedHealthcare, an NRA Association Trust Plan for small hospitality business. Randy was driven by the desire to create access to affordable health insurance for restaurant employees. His legacy will carry forward for years to come.

At the event, FRLA also announced annual award categories to recognize exceptional service throughout the state: Restaurant General Manager of the Year, Hotel General Manager of the Year, Restaurant Employee of the Year, Hotel Employee of the Year and Chef of the Year. Nominees and winners were chosen by a panel of independent industry judges.

Restaurant General Manager of the Year

Jonathan Miller, Restaurant Manager, Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando *WINNER

Edson Canua, Director of Outdoor Dining, Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes

Gregg Podraza, Managing Partner, Tijuana Flats

Hotel General Manager of the Year

Jim McManemon, General Manager, Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island *WINNER

Heidi Dennis, General Manager, The Pelican Grande Beach Resort

Oliver Key, Area General Manager, The St. Regis Bal Harbour

Restaurant Employee of the Year

Kelita Williams, Line Cook, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront *WINNER

Heather Ann Smith, Service Director & Training Coordinator, The Edison Restaurant / Cascade Holdings

Tuong (Hirano) Ly, District Head Chef, Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

Hotel Employee of the Year

Evelyn Wilson, Guest Services Agent, Sonesta Fort Lauderdale Beach *WINNER

Carmencita Tsuchigane, Public Space Attendant, The Sandpearl Resort

Cassie Williams, Laundry Supervisor, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Cocoa Beach Oceanfront

Chef of the Year

Dan Dunn, Executive Chef, Hilton Pensacola Beach, Innisfree Hotels *WINNER

Gregory McGowan, Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six

Matthew Slattery, Executive Chef, The Southernmost Beach Resort

FRLA Educational Foundation Garrett M. Hughes Student of the Year

Juana Pascual, Martin County High School, Stuart *WINNER

Michael Adams, Lecanto High School, Lecanto

Samuel Torres, Dunnellon High School, Dunnellon

Find event photos here.