Sunset on a dude ranch.

Word in hospitality, meetings & events industries is that business is returning. Slower than any of us would prefer, but it’s like Spring emerging from Winter: tender green shoots begin popping out from tended soil, buds unfold into colorful flowers, and love (personal or business—your choice) is in the air. I hear from many of my business relationships that inquiries are increasing. Bookings occurring more for fall than immediate. Some friends expecting to be travelling again soon for conferences, and yet, there are still huge question marks about safety protocols at meetings and events. Would love to have your input on what you think has made any events you’ve hosted be successful.

Speaking of hearing from you: hope you’ve had a chance to read/scan my new series Event Insider ( Each edition will focus on memorable moments from meetings & events or how you are adapting the skills learned from the hospitality, meetings & events (etc) industries that you are applying to new industries, new jobs, or to establishing your own business. I am not the only one who would love to hear from you. Everything you say may encourage or calm someone else facing those same options or necessities.

Oxbow Bar & Grill opens March in Ft. Myers, FL


Luminary Hotel & Co. (Ft. Myers, FL) opens its fifth food and beverage outlet, Oxbow Bar & Grill. Located in what was once known as the City Pier Building (1300 Hendry Street), Oxbow Bar & Grill will overlook the Caloosahatchee in Downtown Fort Myers’ River District. Sailing along with the nautical theme, the U-shaped bar is covered in naturally aged wood distressed in grey, brown and silver tones, accented with black pipe footrails and convenient purse hooks. Modern brass lamps bear Edison-style light bulbs, stained oak with copper metal finishes, and antique oars adorning the ceilings. Creamy white walls, subway tiles and floors of large format porcelain tile keep the feel fresh and modern. The casual 150-seat Oxbow Bar & Grill has indoor and outdoor seating. Menu selections range from fresh seafood to craft sandwiches and steaks. The restaurant’s second floor has 2,400 sf of event space, with a patio with private access and a catering kitchen. It can host up to 150. An onsite retail stores will have clothes, gear, accessories and destination souvenirs supplied by St. Petersburg-based Boaters Republic.



One of the final table dishes at the World Food Championships2020. photo courtesy of WFC.

The Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) Academy’s new Hospitality Benchmarking Certificate, which demonstrates expertise in financial analysis and benchmarking, is in collaboration with the hotel benchmarking firm HotStats and will be supported by Ascend, a hospitality talent development company. No prior experience needed for this comprehensive course. Through May 31, the HFTP Academy is offering a discountred price for all certificates. HFTP Deputy CEO Thomas Atzenhofer, CPA said the “Course emphasis will be to connect how benchmarking is essential for any profitability tool chest. The program is organized to explain the concepts and provide practical application to incorporate them into daily, weekly or monthly analysis. A special feature is that HotStats, a well-known hospitality data provider, is collaborating with HFTP and Ascend to add some real-world examples of applications. Using fictional hotels, but actual data, reporting examples will be incorporated to allow for immediate application of new skills within your organization.” “Ascend’s focus is to provide quality professional development with an immediate ROI to the learner and their organizations,” said Ascend co-principals Arlene Ramirez, CHAE, CHE, CHIA, CAHTA and Agnes DeFranco Ed.D. CHAE, CHE, CHIA, CAHTA. “Operational benchmarking plays a prominent role within a hotel’s overall financial analysis toolkit, particularly amid these precarious times,” said Pablo Alonso, CEO of HotStats. “It allows hoteliers to measure asset performance across an array of key performance indicators covering revenue, expense and profit, allowing them to identify areas of underperformance and outperformance.” Participants receive 24/7 access and have three months to complete the course. Once all modules are completed, the participant will be required to take a 30-question assessment that needs to be passed with 100 percent accuracy. Participants will have unlimited attempts to achieve this perfect score. Upon successful completion of the entire certificate course, registrants will receive a digital badge and certificate recognizing their achievement and new knowledge base. In addition to the Benchmarking certificate, the HFTP Academy also offers two USALI-11 certificates. First is the USALI-11 Theory certificate, which covers the layout and content of the financial statements for each operating department and undistributed departments. In addition, the course reviews the Non-Operating Income and Expense section, Net vs Gross Revenue reporting, and the ratios provided in the 11th edition. The other is the USALI-11 Practice — Analysis and Compliance Certificate, which takes the knowledge base from the theory course and applies numbers to how best to analyze and interpret the information in the financial statements. Emphasis is placed on vertical, horizontal and ratio analyses. The HFTP Academy’s price for one course for $375 USD; two courses for $700 USD; and three courses for $1,000 USD (best value). On June 1, 2021, the certificates will return to the regular cost of $1,000 USD per course.; Certifification Manager Robin Bogdon,;


If you’ve read my blogs longer more than once or twice, you already know I am a foodie. Some people eat to live. I live to eat. From the time I was 5 and my aunts helped me prepare my own apple pie tart from scratch, my kitchen hums with cooking and baking. I’ve even judged culinary contests for high schoolers and pros. So, when this information came across my desk, I became instantly glued. Would I have what it takes to win? Do you? The organizers at the World Food Championships (WFC) know people have spent more time in their home kitchens than they might otherwise do. So, for this year’s competition, scheduled for November 5 – 9 in Dallas, TX, begins by having local cooks submit their recipes for a virtual taste test. Prizes include more than $350,000 in cash and prizes. The qualifier is called the Taste of America Challenge (TOA), and it can be done in the comfort of your own home or restaurant. You just submit a great image of your “signature dish” along with its recipe through the official contest link, The top 30 performing recipes will be qualified and invited to compete at WFC, known as the “Ultimate Food Fight”.  “With Covid canceling many events throughout the past year, we’re truly excited to be marching toward our BIG competition in Dallas,” said Mike McCloud, CEO and President of WFC. “Hosting TOA as a nationwide recipe contest gives both experienced and new cooks the opportunity to showcase their cooking skills while allowing them a chance to win a 2021 Golden Ticket from the comfort of their homes.” Recipes will need to use a minimum of items from two of the contest’s primary sponsors: Beeler’s Pure Pork; Crystal Hot Sauce; Bolner’s Fiesta Products, Inc.; Hassell Cattle Company; Hershey’s; Impossible™ Foods; Johnsonville; Minor’s®; Red Gold Tomatoes; Pyure® Organic; and Wampler’s Farm Sausage. No limit on submissions. Dishes will be scored using WFC’s E.A.T.™ Methodology by a panel of hand-picked, veteran judges. While judges will not be tasting the entry dishes, they will be able to score a dish on perceived taste after studying the recipe and submitted description. WFC recommends describing prominent flavors and accents in the recipe description to help with establishing perceived taste scores. Recipe submissions are accepted through March 31 at Would you rather be a judge than compete? WFC will train you in its very own EAT™ methodology, the scoring system that allows any dish to be judged consistently using three key criteria: Execution, Appearance and Taste. Go to to register.

Twitter @WorldFoodChamp); Facebook & Instagram @WorldFoodChampionships).


Signing on the dotted line during a pandemic can be a “touchy” situation for most people. With Resmark’s WaiverSign, contactless solutions are just a phone call or internet connection away. “Businesses everywhere are finding they can be far more organized, improve customer service and build a clean contact database through the collection of digital waivers,” said Brandon Lake, CEO. Founded in 2013, WaiverSign’s Application Programming Interface allows other reservation and customer relationship databases to push and pull customer data directly to and from WaiverSign. Just in the first quarter of 2021, the company has seen a 32% increase in the number of online waiver accounts signing up compared to the same time period in 2020. Here’s a breakdown of the company’s clients: Travel & Tourism, 34.22%; Personal Care (gyms, salons etc), 30.34%; Non-Profit, 10.44%; Sporting Events & Leagues, 11.17%; Entertainment, 7.28%; and Education Services, 6.55%.; (877) 741-7705.

For those of you who have yearned to don cowboy boots and hats and ride your horse into the sunset, maybe a dude ranch would be a great starting point. Finding the right one has just gotten easier. The Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA), formed in 1926 as a way to preserve a way of life, has launched their redesigned and retooled website. More than 90 ranch destinations are included on the site, which evokes the emotional pull of the Old West. If there are still questions after searching Find a Ranch Page, an interactive Chat capability welcomes questions directed to a live dude ranch representative. Information on the site will run from how to choose the right ranch, what to pack, travel insurance and more.;; (307) 587-2339; www.facebook/DudeRanchers


As of now, the state of Nevada has lifted capacity limits for events to no more than 250 individuals or 50% of the fire code capacity (whichever is less) and operated under social distancing requirements. On May 1, limits will transfer to the control of local authorities, but statewide directives such as face covering mandates and social distancing protocols will remain in place.

The Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®) Global Board of Directors is adding two club-focused in-person events co-located with HITEC Dallas and the Annual Convention, September 27-30, as well as continuing the work on the revision of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI), with the 12th edition scheduled for release in early Spring 2022. HFTP is also bringing back its Club Summit on May 24-25 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL Also, HITEC Dubai will be held with The Hotel Show Dubai on May 31 – June 2 at the Dubai World Trade Center. HITEC Europe Sessions, a five-week series of virtual hangouts with language-specific breakout rooms for post presentation discussions, will run Wednesdays from May 26-June 23, 2021.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of International Live Events Association, Meeting Professionals International and the Society of Professional Journalists. She is now serving on the 20121-2022 MPI Independent and Small Business Owners Advisory Board. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.