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Columbia Restaurant Server Receives Iris D. Larson Hospitality Award

TAMPA, Fla., July 28, 2015 – Visit Florida and the Florida State University Foundation named a long-time server at Tampa’s Columbia Restaurant as this year’s annual hospitality award winner.

Armando Gonzalez, a server at the original Columbia Restaurant in Tampa’s Ybor City for 24 years, will receive the Iris D. Larson Hospitality Award at the Visit Florida conference on Aug. 31. (He started at the Columbia this week in 1991).

The award recognizes a  tradition of service to the hospitality industry, its guests and fellow employees. Bob Larson established it in 1991 in honor of his wife, Iris, who had a long career as a hotelier in Kissimmee. Iris offers an  example of selfless spirit, warmth and devotion to quality service. For this and for their many contributions to Florida tourism over the years, the Larsons were inducted into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame in 2003.

“It is my honor to serve the guests of the Columbia Restaurant,” Gonzalez said. “Great food and great service have been a tradition at the Columbia for more than 110 years. I know that whatever we do reflects not only on the restaurant, but also on the founding family members who are still running the business. I don’t want to let them down. At the Columbia, we serve many tourists but we also serve many regulars. Our goal is to make everyone feel welcome – as if we’re inviting them into our home. I try to provide the newcomers with a sense of the legacy here. For the regulars, I try hard to remember what they like. People appreciate that. We also know we’re not just serving food. We’re serving history and heritage, too. That makes everything taste better.”

Richard Gonzmart, fourth generation at the Columbia Restaurant, enthusiastically supported Gonzalez’s nomination.

“At the Columbia, we believe in fine dining and attentive, informed service,” Gonzmart said. “Armando is a great example of what we strive for. He is a server of the Old School: Polite, well-mannered, respectful, knowledgeable. Armando’s waiter’s uniform is always immaculate, his clothes pressed and his shoes shined. His appearance reflects his preparation and attitude toward work.  He has a great grasp of our menu, including our extensive wine list.”

The Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 and is Florida’s Oldest RestaurantSM. Locations include the flagship restaurant in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City, additional locations include St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach, Central Florida's town of Celebration, the Columbia Cafe on the Riverwalk in Tampa and the Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport. All Columbia locations are owned and operated by 4th and 5th generation members of the founding family; except for Columbia Restaurant Cafe at Tampa International Airport which is operated in partnership with HMSHost. Follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Please see for more information.