Collier County, business owners expect busy 2019 season in Naples

Crowds, long waits at restaurants and sounds of cash registers are music to many people’s ears as the season heats up in Southwest Florida. Business owners told us the season keeps starting earlier each year. And Collier County expects more people in the area than last year.

Naples business owners and the Collier County tourism department say they are preparing for what could be the biggest season in many years Monday.

“We’re grateful for the season,” said Matt Moen, the owner of M&M’s Café in Naples. “We love our snowbirds that come down. And without them, we wouldn’t be in business.”

Season is a time of year that businesses, restaurants and workers anticipate.

“For us, we want it to be full-time season if we had our way,” said Vincenzo Betulia, chef and owner of Tulia in Naples.

Restaurant owners say they are already starting to see business start to pick up, as season gets underway.

“We are starting to see sales volume increase,” Betulia said.

The Collier County tourism department said dining out is the top favorite activity in the area. The tourism department says it had 1.8 million people down in Naples in 2018. This season, the department expects 2 million.

“Oh, my goodness, we love it,” Gale Tillinghast said in Naples. “We go everywhere.”

Preparations are in full swing for workers, who are ready for the change of pace.

“Our employees get so used to a particular sales volume,” Betulia said. “Then, all of a sudden, it explodes like being shot out of a cannon. So weeks in advance, we are already starting to get everyone in that mentally.”

People who learned the hardy way say they like to prepare when they go out to eat.

“When the season comes around, I usually make reservations months in advance,” Tillinghast said. “So, that way, we can get in and still enjoy.”

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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