Who We Are

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals was established in September 2003 based on a shared passion to celebrate and preserve our community's culinary "sense of place." A group of 24 independent restaurateurs from Sarasota and Manatee counties joined together to become Florida's first chapter of a group of this kind. The Sarasota-Manatee Originals now boast more than 50 active members located from the northern tip of Anna Maria Island to Venice Pass at the southernmost point.

The prevalence of quality independent restaurants in the Sarasota-Manatee area is unsurpassed in the state of Florida. Within a 20-mile radius of downtown Sarasota, there are more Florida Trend Award and Zagat top-scoring restaurants than any other area in state. Remarkably, each one of these award winners is independently owned.

Our independent restaurant owners and chefs are obsessed with the flavors that define our region, yet are always looking for ways to incorporate interesting styles of cuisine from around the world into our own brand of SunCoast dining. Our motto is: "Eat Like a Local." We promise to serve our guests only the freshest food available. Our long-standing business and culinary relationships give us the distinct advantage of offering you meals prepared within hours of harvest from fields and waters close to our kitchens.

Our restaurateurs are famous for dishes that embody the flavors, color and culture of Florida's West Coast. Our fabulous menus offer locally caught or farmed seafood, fresh, just-picked fruits and vegetables and ever-inventive use of the best ingredients produced right here at home by chefs with a commitment to their suppliers, their customers and their craft.

Many of our member restaurants have been serving locals and visitors alike for 20 to 30+ years and have established a culinary heritage that simply can't be replicated in the corporate kitchens of Chicago, Los Angeles or Dallas. We live here, work here and play here.

From a casual meal on the beach to an exquisite four-course fine dining experience, we guarantee the meals you eat at member restaurants are freshly prepared using the best local ingredients combined with the famous heritage flavors of the SunCoast. It's what makes us The Originals!

How To Join

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals exists to promote dining in independently owned restaurants and collaborates to serve the interests of the the independent restaurateur in our community.

We believe in preserving and enhancing our local culinary legacy though collaborative partnerships with our members, customers, vendors and community.  When you join The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, you become a part of something special.

By joining The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, you get so much in return without paying a membership fee.

Why JOIN The Sarasota-Manatee Originals?

Increased advertising and marketing opportunities

  • Our members participate in marketing initiatives valued at over $180K.  This allows our members to be promoted locally and nationally.

Greater online exposure

  • Our website allows your current and future customers to research all aspects of your restaurant. They can see the pictures you post, your menus and events, recipes you want to share, your restaurant’s description, and get directions to your location. Customers are driven to our website through our marketing campaigns, word of mouth, search engines, and our electronic newsletter that reaches over 10,000 people nationally.  In addition, we have a large presence on social media channels that further promotes our members/events.

Helping you do business

  • We know the business of running a restaurant can interfere with interacting with your customers.  That is why we are always looking for ways to help you.  We offer free educational opportunities focused on the business aspects of your restaurant and free classifieds.  Our free online classified section lets you post all your job openings.


  • Let us act as your clearinghouse for requests for sponsorships, donations, and charitable community work.  We help connect restaurants to community organizations.  We also bring our members opportunities to take part in various charitable events.  This allows our members to get their food in front of large groups while helping charities raise much needed funds for our community.


  • We meet annually to discuss what’s going on with our organization, the community, and with each other.  We encourage our members to share ideas and resources
  • Educational Resources : During our member meetings we coordinate industry related presentations and seminars.  These resources are designed to save you money, better your business and educate you on important topics in the restaurant industry.
  • Our Summer Roundtable series allows our members to interact, connect, and share information. At these roundtable discussions, restaurant owners and managers get the opportunity to network and discuss current hot topics in our industry.

Free Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association (FRLA) Membership

All these amazing benefits are FREE!

Who can join The Sarasota-Manatee Originals?

  1. Restaurant is located in either Sarasota or Manatee Counties
  2. Restaurant will have less than 6 locations (same concept)
  3. Restaurant must be operating for one year at the time of joining The Originals
  4. Prospective members must have been in business (open to the public) for a minimum of one (1) year
  5. New member restaurants must be sponsored by an Originals Board Member and approved for membership by Executive Board.

What are my responsibilities as a member?

  1. Restaurant participates in Originals quarterly dining certificate sale program
  2. All members agree to participate in Forks & Corks Grand Tasting
  3. If unable to participate in Forks & Corks Grand Tasting, restaurant agrees to participate in another designed Originals event as a food host
  4. Restaurant must attend at least 1 (one) membership meeting a year (annual meeting is held in May of each year)
  5. Restaurant will display The Originals logo decal at entrance of their restaurant
  6. Restaurant will include The Originals logo with link on their restaurant website (suggested in the footer on your homepage)
  7. Restaurant agrees to abide by the Code of Conduct. Click here for Code of Conduct.

It is so easy to join! Just click here for a membership application. Once completed, forward it to The Sarasota-Manatee Originals via email to Sarah Firstenberger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail to 1215 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34239.

Allied Memberships

Our Organization Mission Statement 

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals exists to promote dining in independently owned restaurants and collaborates to serve the interests of the independent restaurateur in our community.

Potential Allied Members Should

  1. To market the positive attributes of Sarasota-Manatee Originals member restaurants and to raise public awareness of what makes us special and unique.
  2. Abide by the same Code of Conduct as SMO restaurants 

Business Partnerships

We maintain partnerships with various suppliers and vendors who support our group and our individual restaurants. These companies recognize and support our mission to promote locally owned independent restaurants.  Our business partners provide financial support to our organization to fund our marketing program. These partnerships are unique to each supplier and mutually agreed upon between the company and The Sarasota-Manatee Originals.

Our Business Partners are:

  • Sysco
  • US Food Service

Allied Membership

There are several local businesses who provide a product or service that many of our member restaurants use or would use in order to operate efficiently. Once an Allied Member, your business will be introduced and endorsed to our member restaurants. Allied Membership may also be combined with Forks & Corks corporate sponsorships.

There are 3 different levels of Associate Membership:

  • Industry Exclusivity
  • Local Supporter
  • Approved Vendor

The partnership benefits vary with the three different levels of partnership.  Some very valuable benefits of joining The Sarasota-Manatee Originals as an associate member are:

  1. Having a presence on The Sarasota-Manatee Originals website, link, and logo.
  2. Personal endorsement of company/product/service to our restaurant members as well as an opportunity to present company/product to our restaurant members.
  3. 1-2 eBlasts to membership about company/service/product.
  4. Company is included on a vendor list that is distributed to all restaurant members.
  5. Ability to have Originals distribute company’s promotional materials to the restaurant members
  6. Opportunity to partner in area charitable events.
  7. First right of refusal to sponsor our annual food and wine festival, Forks & Corks.
  8. Exclusive press release announcing the partnership.

If you or the company that you represent is interested in becoming an Associate Member of The Sarasota-Manatee Originals, click here for an application or contact Sarah Firstenberger for an application.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 941-365-2800.

Business Partners

The Sarasota-Manatee Originals would like to thank its Associate Business Members, named below. Together with the restaurant members of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, these companies are committed to promoting locally owned businesses. All have a vital connection to our mission of supporting local eateries.

Sysco is the local leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products to area restaurants. More chefs turn to Sysco than to any other brand in the world to deliver the freshest and highest-quality products for their restaurants.

US Food Service offers more than great products and local service ingenuity. They also provide unmatched food safety and quality, giving customers better solutions and value through utilization of their extensive global and local resources as well as specialty food products.

Peter Acker has been a fll time professional photographer since 1996. From his base in Sarasota, he shoots nationally and internationally for a variety of coroproate clients. Locally he covers events around Sarasota, shoots commercially for several high profile organizations, and he is a regualr contributor to Edible Sarasota Magazine as well as he official photographer for The Sarasota-Manatee Originals.

Sarasota Magazine is the area’s leading lifestyle magazine, publishing for more than 30 years and reaching an affluent, sophisticated readership that enjoys the best in life—shopping, arts and culture, travel, and, of course, fine dining. The magazine regularly runs restaurant reviews and features on the local restaurant/dining scene and is proud to educate the community about the importance of supporting local eateries.

Our mission is to help small and medium size businesses in the Sarasota/Manatee County area to succeed. We work with clients to increase their understanding of the financial data that is available from their transactions so they can become more successful, creating a positive relationship for us. The client determines the level of service they need; from limited consultation to consistent reconciliation and review, or full financial outsourcing including check writing and payroll. If you are successful, we all benefit!

Datum Corporation is a global technology consulting firm specializing in solutions-based technology leadership, infrastructure management, compliance and regulation needs. Datum supports clients in all 50 states from their headquarters in Sarasota, Florida, and offices in Los Angeles, California, and Honolulu, Hawaii. As a managed technology services organization, Datum provides a single point of contact for all aspects of technology to its clients.

Design Works is Florida's premier statewide resource with over 40 years in business specializing in kitchen and bathroom design and remodeling. We can provide state of the art tile, natural stone with inherent beauty, captivating granite and quartz countertops, an alluring array of cabinetry, and enticing hardware. Our design staff, with their expertise, can assist you in designing the perfect kitchen, bathroom, or furnishings for your home or office. Design Works has showrooms throughout Florida; the resources you need are never out of reach. At Design Works, we look forward to making your vision become your reality... Infinite Possibilities. One Source. We invite you to visit our website at 

Think Donson is committed to helping businesses establish their brand. From logo design and copywriting, to website development and SEO, Think Donson is focused on helping your business succeed. Partners Gary and Felicia Donson provide exceptional customer service, offering your business the best marketing strategies - online and offline. Think Donson embraces an alternative agency model, strategically partnering with some of the finest talent in the area without the traditional agency markup. The result is competitive pricing, transparent collaboration and direct communication between clients and creative talent.

Icard, Merrill was founded in 1953 in Sarasota. The firm has grown along with Southwest Florida and now also has offices in Lakewood Ranch and Punta Gorda, offering expertise in business, banking, commercial and construction law and related litigation, personal injury, real estate, land use, family law, probate, tax and estate planning. The firm has a strong commitment to the communities it serves, with members involved in numerous civic and not-for-profit organizations in the arts, education, health and human services. In 2010, the firm received the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice’s Law Firm Commendation for significant contributions of legal services to the indigent and to charitable groups on a pro bono basis. For more information about Icard Merrill, call (941) 366-8100

Suncoast Motorsports is a Premier Porsche, Audi and Volkswagen dealer and part of the Sunset Automotive Group located in Sarasota, Fla. In business for over 13 years, owner Vance Dickinson is a major contributor to the local nonprofit and arts community and supports other local area businesses with partnerships such as the one with The Originals and Forks & Corks. Gordon Hunter, general sales manager of the three luxurious showrooms, heads a dedicated staff trained to fulfill motoring dreams for new and pre-owned vehicles as well as service, parts and an Automotive Boutique serving Sarasota and the nation. Suncoast Motor Sports, 5005 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 923-1700

For information on becoming an Business Partner or Allied Member of the Sarasota-Manatee Originals, contact Sarah Firstenberger at 941-365-2800 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Sarasota-Manatee Originals
1215D S Tamiami Trail
Sarasota, FL 34239