Lakeland Business Guide 2019 Chamber Guide_2019 - Page 20

“The community has really rallied around and supported us since the beginning.” – J E A N N I E W E AV E R However, like any business endeavor, there are common challenges owners may face when opening a new restaurant. All too often, connecting with the local community, including local businesses, can be a struggle for restaurant owners, regardless of where their storefront is located. Getting out there, spreading the word, and building hype can be difficult, and often make or break a restaurant’s long-term success. Though these are very real concerns, the Chamber has discovered the key to effectively unlocking community buy-in which can be seen in the restaurant industries’ rapid growth. “With over 1,400 members [81 of which are restaurants], the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce is one of the larger Chambers in Florida,” says Miller. By leveraging their abundant contacts, and creating ongoing opportunities for collaboration, the Chamber makes it possible for restaurants to showcase their cuisine to a wider demographic from day one. Each month, the Chamber hosts networking events sponsored by various Chamber members. 2Infinity hosted one a few months back, and, “Instead of just choosing one restaurant to cater the event, they invited six different restaurants to come in,” says Miller. “It was almost like a restaurant highlight showcase. They had Cracker Barrel, Duke’s Brewhouse, and Little Greek there. All of them were Chamber restaurants who had the chance to bring samplings of their food and highlight their catering services.” Chamber events like these are invaluable for restaurant owners. “At these networking events we have local business leaders who will be holding meetings and parties, and they are going to be searching for delicious catering options,” says Miller. She has observed that, “The growth isn’t all just happening downtown; it is expanding in all directions, moving further south and north.” She recently attended a Lakeland Chamber ribbon cutting for Jade Fox Wine Bar & Lounge, a new business located in the Winn-Dixie plaza off of Lakeland Highlands Road. “It’s such 20