Six Miami Restaurants Awarded Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Top COVID Safety Seal
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At a time when hygiene practices are paramount like never before, hospitality businesses across South Florida have worked to earn the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s (FRLA) top award for the health and safety of their guests.
FRLA is a not-for-profit hospitality trade association dedicated to protecting and educating Florida’s $ 111.7 billion hotel industry, which represents more than one million employees. Although the Association has consistently subjected restaurants and hotels to strict guidelines on hygiene, food safety and training, the introduction of COVID-19 has made excellence in these areas more visible to the public.
Last year the FRLA launched its SOC (Seal of Commitment) program, which offers an updated checklist for companies that offer more safety and hygiene. As the FRLA’s highest award for safety and hygiene in the hospitality industry, the SOC indicates that a company has implemented strict safety and hygiene measures that go beyond the basic requirements, Carol Dover, President and CEO of the FRLA, told the New Times.
“Florida’s hospitality industry has long had needs for prioritizing the safety of employees and guests,” says Dover. “The COVID-19 pandemic has provided us with an opportunity to better demonstrate and implement sanitary practices. These excellent facilities have made a bold statement to their guests and staff that instills the confidence essential to the recovery and success of our industry.”
SOC qualifications require that all managers have a current Food Protection Manager certification, that all employees have a current certificate for food safety and that all employees complete the FRLA COVID-19 hygiene and safety course. In addition, establishments must meet certain facility hygiene standards, including following a written cleaning and disinfection checklist submitted and approved with the establishment’s SOC application.
This checklist must include: front and back of the house, toilet and cleaning and disinfecting processes; Identification of high contact surfaces and a schedule for their frequent cleaning and disinfection; Use cleaning chemicals and supplies that meet COVID disinfection guidelines from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC); frequent and effective hand washing by staff; and a health policy for employees to self-report illness.
A SOC sticker on the door means guests can be assured that the company has met all of the qualifications, Dover says. This training is more detailed than the standard food safety training and contains COVID-specific guidelines based on procedures established by the CDC and other public health and safety experts.
Since the start of the program in July 2020, 165 of the currently 10,000 members of the FRLA have applied for the association’s SOC designation, another 30 are currently being processed. If all qualifications are met, a company plans to have an on-site review of the FRLA before the SOC is awarded. If an applicant does not meet the seal’s guidelines, the association will continue to work with the facility until all requirements are met.
To date, the following Miami-Dade County companies have received the SOC:
Bakan, 2801 NW Second Ave., Miami
GLOW, 97 NW 25th St., Miami
Latin Cafe 2000 (locations in Brickell, Le Jeune Road and Hialeah)
Rusty Pelican, 3201 Rickenbacker Cswy., Key Biscayne
Talavera Cocina Mexicana, 2299 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables,
Whiskey Joes Bar & Grill, 3301 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne
At Bakan, a Wynwood company that received the SOC this month, manager Victor Lopez told New Timest that the decision to improve safety standards has been a top priority since indoor dining began in August. Today, employees continue to implement the company’s own COVID checklist to keep the restaurant at the level of the expanded standards of the FRLA.
“We decided to have our own COVID-19 security officer because we wanted to offer our customers and employees the safest environment,” explains Lopez. “We’re proud to stand out from other restaurants that don’t have a COVID-19 officer on board.”
Bakan’s SOC designation also shows that the restaurant has invested significant resources in making safety and health a priority, he adds.
“This has resulted in a change in the daily routine in the restaurant by following the required guidelines,” added Lopez. “This requires a significant amount of man-hours and a significant financial outlay, as well as additional protective equipment and cleaning agents.”
According to Geoff Luebkemann, senior vice president of the FRLA, the SOC is designed to complement the expanded security guidelines created by larger national agencies like the American Hotel Lodging Association and the National Restaurant Association, which offer similar programs.
“The ultimate goal is that we all take our joint efforts to make safety and hygiene the top priority. We offer very useful and executable advice and guidance on operating in this new environment,” said Lübkemann, referring to detailed information on operating restrictions and on Implementation ordinances organized at state, regional and local level on comprehensive vaccine resources and PPP guidelines.
Despite the pandemic, Lübkemann is proud that members are working with the association to maintain the SOC. He also attributes the association’s steady enrollment figures – which usually increased by 4 to 6 percent annually before the pandemic – to resources such as the SOC program.
“Our proven ability to support the industry and work with policy makers at all levels not only helps the industry in times of need, but also helps us prepare for the next,” adds Leubkemann. “When we have another public health crisis of this magnitude in the future, we will be better prepared to make sure our members have a group to stand up for them. And next time we can have a game plan set up that provides for this. ” does not require locking. “
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who has been reporting on the South Florida food scene for the New Times since 2011. She also enjoys drinking beer and writing about the growing craft beer community in the region.