Taylor Morgan is a true foodie and entrepreneur. She is the founder of South Florida Dines, the original South Florida dining deal company. Visitors to the site can choose from hundreds of restaurants throughout South Florida to purchase discounted certificates for. She is also the brainchild behind the 2011 South Florida Hot Chefs Calendar. We recently caught up with Taylor.
Clean Plate Charlie: How did you think up the idea for South Florida Dines?
Taylor Morgan: I always wanted to do a radio show about dining and entertainment. It was 2001, and my radio show was supposed to start in October. I was looking for advertisers, and then September 11 came. I had contracted for a year to do this radio show, and I was responsible for $600 a week, and I just sat on the couch and cried. So one day in late September, I was on eBay and I noticed bidding on a gift certificate for a restaurant. The certificate was for $25, and it was already up to $22.50. I thought: Why not ask restaurants to give me gift certificates instead of cash? We're going into our tenth year, and we work with over 400 restaurants.
South Florida Dines has been around for ten years, but now there's a lot of competition. How have companies like Groupon and LivingSocial affected your business?
Most of these companies only offer one deal a day, and they're not always restaurant deals. It's really apples and oranges. It doesn't affect our deals at all; in fact, it really helps us. Also, there hasn't been enough time to see the ramifications of a Groupon deal on a small business -- when you sell 1,500 deals on Ma's Bakery, it can put them out of business. Imagine if everyone came in on one weekend -- that's a lot of food to put out.
How did the Hot Chefs Calendar happen?
The original idea was for it to be a naked chef's calendar. After I talked to a few chefs, I realized that's not going to fly. I realized that if we wanted to attract the right caliber of chefs, I had to make it classier. The chefs were chosen based on their hotness -- not in eye candy but their reputation. That's what we meant by hot -- we have two James Beard Award winners, chef Allen Susser and chef Douglas Rodriguez. We also wanted to give calendar buyers the incentive to meet the chefs and sample their food, so in the back of the calendar, there's a $25 gift certificate for each restaurant featured.
What are some of your favorite dishes?
The yellowtail snapper at Bistro Mezzaluna was the best piece of fish I've eaten in 2010. It's topped with jumbo lump crab. I just wanted to lick the plate. The Coca-Cola BBQ ribs at Lola's on Harrison are amazing. Charlie Soo at Talay Thai makes a lobster pad Thai -- hello! He always takes his dishes to the next level.
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What are you drinking these days?
I'm totally a wine girl -- lately, it's been pinot grigio. If I'm at home, I'll drink Barefoot. When I'm out, I'll drink the good stuff. I eat like a bird, but I drink like a fish.
Follow Clean Plate Charlie on Twitter: @CleanPlateBPB.