FRLA Supports Hurricane Relief Efforts and Celebrates Florida's Hospitality Stars


ORLANDO, FL. October 16, 2017 – The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) joined together to celebrate hospitality’s finest and to highlight the exceptional service delivered by star employees 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

About the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association

FRLA is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association. Our mission is to ‘Protect, Educate and Promote’ Florida’s $108.8 billion hospitality industry which represents 1.4 million employees - making it the state’s number one industry. We offer regulatory compliance and food safety training needs (RCS Training and SafeStaff®); industry developed career-building high school programs (FRLAEF); sponsor the only event in Florida exclusively serving the restaurant and foodservice industry (FR&L Show, October 11-13, 2017 in Orlando); and we safeguard the needs of the hospitality industry by providing legislative advocacy. We represent and serve more than 10,000 independent and household name members, suppliers, and theme parks. For more information, go to and find us on Twitter @FRLAnews, Facebook, and YouTube.

Related News

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.