For this month’s Expert Interview I spoke with Dan Murphy, Vice President of Membership and Corporate Relations for the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Dan is a 25-year veteran of the hospitality industry.
LC: What is your role with the FRLA and how long have you been part of the organization?
DM: I have been with the FRLA for over 20 years. It is my responsibility to oversee the membership department. We have a team of 13 individuals who handle the marketing, sales, retention, sponsors, partners and events for the association. Part of my role is to assist independent and chain operators, both restaurateurs and hoteliers, to ensure that the industry stays protected.
LC: Tell me about how the FRLA supports the hospitality industry?
DM: FRLA is Florida’s premier non-profit hospitality industry trade association representing more than 10,000 members. Our mission is to ‘Protect, Educate and Promote’ Florida’s $82 billion hospitality industry which represents 23% of Florida’s economy. With more than 1.1 million employees it is the state’s number one industry.
We offer regulatory compliance and food safety training needs such as RCS and SafeStaff®. We provide industry developed career-building high school programs through the FRLA Education Foundation. The FRLA safeguards the needs of the hospitality industry by providing legislative advocacy. And, we sponsor the only event in Florida exclusively serving the restaurant and foodservice industry, the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show held each fall.
LC: Wow! That is a lot of support! As a supplier to this industry, we sure appreciate what you do.
What are 2 big industry changes you have seen within last few years?
DM: Technological innovation. It’s no surprise that technology continues to be an on-going subject in the hospitality industry. Hotels now have mobile check-in, valet communication, and meetings and events request service. Robotics has started to make its mark as well. Tablet kiosks have either replaced or supplemented servers in restaurants and geo-location has significantly helped restaurant’s royalty and discount programs with their marketing plan.
Everything is moving, even more so than before, into a digital platform and millennials, in the particular, as looking for free Wi-Fi, social media platforms to provide quick feedback, immediate responses to on-site requests.
Then there are emerging platforms such as AirBnB, Uber, and food delivery services. These cost-saving, quick response and on-line opportunities are appealing to travelers, but they are affecting the hospitality industry.
LC: What is the biggest challenge that restaurants and hotels are having today?
DM: I know that one of the biggest challenges that everyone in the industry is having is hiring staff. Connecting with suitable candidates, choosing the right candidate, and keeping those superior employees.
LC: How can they approach that?
DM: Now that much of the workforce is the millennial generation and younger, managers and owners may need to focus some of their efforts in hiring and retaining practices based on their needs, reactions, thoughts or wants. I am not saying that we need to cater to this generation, but a few tweaks in the employee handbook or the orientation may make a difference.
LC: I agree with you. We’re educating our managers on Millennials and how they differ from the Boomers and Gen-Xers. In a few years, that age group will make up 50% of the US workforce. It’s critical to attract and retain those younger adults.
What is an emerging opportunity or trend that restaurants and/or hotels should be aware of?
DM: Disruption! The idea that the “old” rules don’t apply. Time to shake things up and make some changes. For example, guests are much more mobile. They want grab ‘n’ go options as well as health and wellness options. Guests no longer want to work in the hotel rooms, but have a space in the lobby to connect to WI-FI in an open and inviting environment.
LC: What other advice can you offer?
DM: We have had several members that have mentioned that community relations and charitable connections have made a huge difference in their business models and brands. Tijuana Flats and Firehouse of America both have charities that they incorporate into their marketing brand. They have ties to their communities that their patrons appreciate and it shows!
LC: What is the best way for people to contact the FRLA?
DM: FRLA is open 5 days a week from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM. Any of our staff can we reached by calling 850-224-2250. For additional information, visit www.FRLA.org. Stay in touch through our various social media channels on Twitter or Instagram @FRLANews, Facebook or YouTube.