PRESS RELEASE: Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association Names Hospitality Stars of the Industry at Annual Gala

~Hotelier, Supplier, and Restaurateur of the Year Icons Honored~


(L-R: Ed Cherry and Gary Nissen, US Foods; Laurilee Thompson, Dixie Crossroads; Eduardo Fernandez, Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort)

 DELRAY BEACH, FL – Last night, the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) announced its Hospitality Stars of the Industry Hall of Fame Winners at an evening gala at the Opal Grand Resort.

 “The Hall of Fame recognition is one of FRLA’s most prestigious tributes, celebrating industry icons for their enduring commitment and remarkable contributions to the world of hospitality spanning decades,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “These awards honor distinguished leaders whose legacies have left an enduring mark on Florida’s vibrant hospitality landscape, and we are incredibly proud of these inductees.”

 2023 FRLA Hall of Fame Winners

Hotelier of the Year: Eduardo Fernandez, Margaritaville Beach Resort, Hollywood, FL

Eduardo Fernandez is the General Manager of Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, a destination resort and entertainment complex located on the legendary Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. He has more than 25 years of proven leadership skills as general manager and in corporate roles across many brands and management companies, including Davidson Hospitality Group, Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Eduardo has held many board positions with prestigious organizations such as the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, FRLA, and the Greater Ft. Lauderdale Alliance. He currently serves as a board member for the Greater Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the Hollywood Beach Business Association.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in professional studies from Barry University and a degree in Hotel Management from the Institut de Tourisme et d’Hotellerie du Quebec in Canada. Eduardo has received many recognitions and accolades over the years, including the 2016 General Manager of the Year from FRLA, the 2001 Hotelier of the Year from the Delaware Hotel & Lodging Association, and ITT Sheraton’s President’s Award in 1991. Eduardo is fluent in English, Spanish, and French.

Restaurateur of the Year: Laurilee Thompson, Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant, Titusville, FL

Laurilee Thompson is the co-owner of Dixie Crossroads, a southern seafood restaurant with international name recognition and a menu that features locally caught seafood. Laurilee’s background includes decades of involvement in commercial fishing, Florida’s hospitality industry, and environmental advocacy. She started as a teenager running blue crab traps and gillnetting for mullet in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon and working on the back deck of a rock shrimp trawler. After receiving an AS in Oceanographic Technology from the Florida Institute of Technology in 1974, she captained a commercial long-line boat targeting swordfish and tuna in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In the early 1980s, she was a pioneer in the Gulf of Mexico longline grouper fishing industry before she left the sea to work in her family’s seafood restaurant where she remains connected today.

Along with her partners, Laurilee helps operate the family business at Dixie Crossroads, which was opened by her parents in 1983 as a 30-seat diner serving on paper plates and now seats 465. There are companion components, including Wild Ocean Seafood Market and Cape Canaveral Shrimp Company, which help ensure that Dixie Crossroads always has the best local wild-caught shrimp available to serve their guests.

Laurilee is a board member for FRLA and the Merritt Island Wildlife Association and a Trustee for Hubbs Sea World Research Institute. She is an appointed member of the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program Management Board, Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen Oversight Committee, and the City of Titusville FL Environmental Commission, where she is Chair. She served on the Brevard County FL Tourist Development Council from 2000-2020 where she represented eco-tourism. Laurilee is the founder of the highly successful Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, one of the nation’s top events of its type.

Supplier of the Year: US Foods, Area President Pat Monile, Tampa, FL

Pat Monile has been with US Foods for more than 30 years and currently serves as Area President for South Florida. Prior to his current role, he was the Division President for a decade. He held various management positions within the company, including Vice President of Sales, Regional Sales Manager, and District Manager. US Foods, a leading food distributor, is an important partner with Florida’s hospitality industry. With more than 300,000 operations across the country, US Foods helps chefs and operators make it with innovative food and provides the business tools, services, and industry expertise that makes them one of the most trusted food distributors.

For more information about the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association, please visit

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.