September 14, 2007
In 2006, 83.9 million people visited Florida. On average, visitors from within the United States stayed 5 nights. And they ate out. At Florida’s restaurants.
Florida’s restaurants are an essential part of Florida’s hospitality industry, and last week we traveled with the Florida Channel for a behind-the-scenes look at some of Florida’s chain restaurants: Outback, Sonny’s, Ruth’s Chris, and Beef O’Brady’s.
In the October edition of our quarterly news magazine, BusinessWorks, we’ll give you an in-depth look at the secrets of success for these restaurants, but there were several impressions I thought were worth sharing now.
First, leaders from each of these restaurant chains believe that quality begins with quality employees. They hire people who are warm and engaging and who genuinely care about people, and they take good care of their employees so that their employees take good care of their customers.
Second, they are passionate about the hospitality industry. For them, the joy of seeing people enjoy their meal and enjoy each other is an incomparable reward and justifies the often long hours and slim margins. They love the art of grilling a steak to perfection and serving it in the ideal setting.
Third, they hold themselves to incredibly high standards. Florida law requires our Hotel and Restaurant inspectors to conduct two inspections of each facility annually, but in order to ensure the safety of their customers, these restaurants conduct regular and rigorous training.
Finally, as we visited these restaurants and met with industry leaders at the annual Florida Restaurant and Lodging show, it became clear that they have an incredible network. Most of Florida’s restaurateurs have crossed paths in their professional lives, and they take seriously the responsibility of cultivating talent in the next generation. They have all had mentors who made the difference in their careers, and they are passionate about mentoring the next generation.
Last year alone the restaurant industry was responsible for $3.9 billion in sales tax revenue and employed 964,700 Floridians. We are fortunate to have them on the frontlines serving Florida’s visitors and growing our economy.
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