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News Briefs

  • 1/9/2023

    Focus Brands Accelerates Dual Branded Locations

    Foucs Brand dual branded Jamba Juice and Auntie Annes

    Focus Brands says dual branding is the future of QSR, and the parent company of Auntie Anne’s®, Carvel, Cinnabon, Jamba, McAlister’s Deli, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and Schlotzsky’s, is leading the charge. Today, the Focus Brands portfolio boasts 175-plus open dual branded units with at least 65 more in various stages of development across the country. 

    Drive-Thru Convenience

    The Focus Brands portfolio brands have signed agreements to open more than 50 dual and tri-brand locations in the coming year, many of which include drive-thrus for added convenience as interest in dual branded franchise opportunities continues to surge.

    Flexible Store Formats

    Focus Brands is among the brands introducing new store formats, including Krystal, Jack-in-the-Box and Panera Bread, which opened its Panera To Go, solely offering Rapid Pick-Up and Delivery shelves where guests and delivery drivers can easily pick up orders.  

    Focus Brands has long pioneered the concept of dual branding, predominately in malls and non-traditional locations with Auntie Anne’s and Cinnabon. Now, the company’s portfolio brands have found new opportunities with streetside dual branded units, which is paving the way for immense franchise growth. 

    “Dual branding is the future of our brands, especially on the specialty side of the business,” said Brian Krause, Chief Development Officer at Focus Brands. “There will always be a place in malls, but there is an immense amount of growth opportunity in streetside venues, and, by dual branding, there is more opportunity for enhanced revenue.”

    The company invested heavily in consumer research to identify how to create combinations of its iconic brands to resonate with consumers and meet them where they want to be met.

    Focus Brands has identified four dual-brand concepts:

    • Auntie Anne’s/Cinnabon
    • Auntie Anne’s/Cinnabon/Carvel
    • Auntie Anne’s/Jamba
    • Cinnabon/Carvel – Cinnabon Swirl. 

    While key consumer benefits vary by dual-brand combination, one consistent benefit has been convenience. Having these brands together in one location makes them far more accessible than they are individually. This convenience also creates opportunity for franchisees, as co-branding leads to an expansive menu that drives enhanced unit-level volume. 

     

  • 1/14/2023

    Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux Invests in Tech Transformation

    Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux is making its largest technological investment in brand history.

    Walk-On’s is implementing a systemwide aggregator to consolidate third party orders, partnering with Lunchbox to upgrade its online ordering platform and guest loyalty program, and introducing a partnership with Toast to level up its POS management system.

    71% say the ability to integrate with other systems is driving their POS purchase decisions, according to HT’s2 2023 POS Software Trends Report.

    Walk-On’s new loyalty program and app, designed by Lunchbox, are scheduled to launch in the first half of 2023 with an improved interface and back-end integration that will create a more seamless user experience for guests and operators alike. 

    Continuing with marked enhancements to the guest experience, Walk-On’s is also partnering with BOWEN to modernize the brand’s website presence and streamline the online ordering experience. 

    In addition to the upgraded Toast POS system, Walk-On’s is installing Toast Kitchen Display System, and rolling out Toast Go 2 mobile handheld POS devices for tableside and curbside use at current and future locations. 

    Walk-On’s will implement a phased rollout across all current locations throughout 2023 and begin immediate implementation at all new restaurants in their development pipeline. 

  • 1/31/2023

    Chowly Acquires Koala

    handshake partnership

    Chowly, a restaurant technology company that integrates third-party delivery marketplaces with point-of-sale (POS) systems, has acquired Koala, a guest experience platform that empowers established and emerging restaurant brands to elevate their digital ordering experience across web, app and kiosk to drive immediate results. The combined business will represent over 16,000 restaurant locations on the platform, integrating over 350,000 orders per day across the US.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome Koala to the Chowly team,” said Sterling Douglass, co-founder and CEO, Chowly. “Merging these two businesses together represents a major leap forward in the mission of both organizations as we help restaurants navigate today’s complicated digital world. Koala’s open platform meshes perfectly with Chowly’s, while also giving restaurants a simpler experience for their off-premise strategies. We plan on bringing Koala’s best-in-class, enterprise-grade ordering to the SMB restaurant space and blend our partnership ecosystems while continuing to support their success in the enterprise restaurant space.”

    71% say the ability to integrate with other systems is driving their POS purchase decisions, according to HT’s2 2023 POS Software Trends Report.

    SMB and independent restaurant owners will soon gain access to a more sophisticated and holistic solution, including enterprise-grade online ordering, advanced data analytics, and proven machine learning recommendation engines for increasing basket sizes. Sophisticated native iOS apps, open platforms, and multi-platform support have long been relegated to the largest of enterprises, but are now being democratized for the independent restaurateur.

    The leadership team at Koala, Walter Beller-Morales, Melanie Norton and Brett Spiegel will play a critical role in integrating the two companies’ solutions in conjunction with Chowly’s leadership. Koala’s CEO Nat Trienens will remain temporarily to help shepherd the integration of the two companies.

    Chowly brings significant scale to the expanded organization, representing more than 12,000 locations and 3,000 brands. The company has delivered a consistent record of product innovation, best-in-class implementation time and POS integrations, and a strong value-driven sales team. By adding Koala’s strengths with product-leading features such as top tier conversion rates, enterprise-grade stability, a highly-customizable user experience and a machine learning engine for recommendations to maximize basket size, the combined company will be positioned for significant growth as a market leader.

  • 1/31/2023

    Hostaway to Expand Its Reach Using Amadeus as a New Global Distribution Channel for Short-Term Rentals

    A person packing for a trip

    Hostaway, a vacation rental management software company, has partnered with global travel technology provider Amadeus to distribute short-term rental properties worldwide.

    This partnership supports a growing interest in alternative accommodations within the travel industry, both from leisure travelers and business travelers craving more flexibility and choice. As the number of remote workers increases, ‘blended’ travel combining work and leisure time has firmly rooted itself in corporate culture. As such, travelers and their agents are looking for properties that can satisfy their unique needs more than ever before.

    Now Hostaway property managers looking to expand their distribution networks have the option to connect with Amadeus and distribute their own content thanks to LinkHotel technology. This not only adds to the wide variety of accommodations available in the Amadeus Travel Platform but allows Hostaway users to reach Amadeus’ vast network of travel agents to unlock new revenue. 

    Marcus Räder, CEO & Co-Founder of Hostaway, said: “Short-term rentals have always attracted a dedicated customer base of leisure travelers. Over the last two years, they have also proved their value to business travelers who want more flexibility. We wanted our property managers to be able to reach these guests and connecting with Amadeus was by far the best way of achieving this on a large scale. We’re proud to reveal it today.”

    Mirja Sickel, VP Hospitality Distribution, Amadeus, said: “As global travel resumes, it’s important we continue to grow our network with a wide range of properties suited to today’s life and travel-styles. By selecting Amadeus’ LinkHotel, Hostaway property owners are empowered to update and send information to a global network of travel agencies instantly with complete control over changes to inventory, rates, and availability.”  

    Property managers can learn more about the Amadeus connection by visiting the Hostaway marketplace at hostaway.com

  • 1/31/2023

    Twenty-Year Marriott Technology Strategist to Lead HCN Product Development in 2023

    Neil Schubert

    Forty-year hospitality industry technologist Neil Schubert has joined Canada-based Hotel Communication Network (HCN) as Chief Product Officer. With 20 of those years spent spearheading the technology initiatives for Marriott International, Schubert brings to HCN a wealth of knowledge in application development, product management, systems integration, financial systems management, infrastructure, IT architecture, and field service. His goal is to strategically transform HCN into a global hospitality communications brand. HCN’s Navigator tablets are quickly gaining traction in hotels as a two-way communication device that easily and efficiently replaces in-room phones, alarm clocks, voice assistants and other electronics. Schubert will perform this role from his office in Wilmington, N.C.

    “Neil has a keen understanding of hotel technology and how to balance the bleeding edge with a leading edge approach for effective adoption of new and emerging solutions,” said Kevin Bidner, HCN president. “We first met Neil while still with Marriott, as we installed our tablet and DineIN solutions at a 1,500 room Marriott property which was a great success. When Neil left Marriott, he joined HCN’s Advisory Board. We were always impressed with his passion for innovation and we feel greatly honored that he has decided to join us to provide his visionary leadership to the HCN guest communication platform. Driving ADR and reaching new heights in guest satisfaction are the missions we know Neil can help us evolve in our continuing quest to be the industry's innovation leader."

    Serving Those who Serve

    Serving on Advisory Boards is not new to Schubert. He has been recruited by several universities and leading hospitality associations to lend his expertise. Advisory posts include president of the University of Delaware Technology Advisory Committee, a member of the Penn State University Technology Advisory Committee, Advisory Board member of Hotel Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), and workgroup and forum chairman for Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG). Schubert also served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware educating graduate students on hotel technologies.

    Prior to joining Marriott — where he held such prestigious titles as Vice President IT Business Partnership & Planning, Vice President IT Strategy, Western Regional Vice President (IR Global Field Services), Senior Director (International Financial Systems), and IT Director — Schubert served as Senior Director of Renaissance Hotels International, responsible for managing all IT functions at the company inception when it spun off from Ramada International. His hospitality career began in 1986 where he served as a Systems Manager for Sheraton Hotels. Immediately following his exit from Marriott, Schubert worked as Senior Vice President Global Product Management, Exceptional Innovation. More recently, he served as Senior Vice President of Product Management and Development for Cloud5 Hospitality. Prior to joining HCN, Schubert and his wife, Anna, took a year-long RV trip visiting 43 states across 33,000 miles spanning the U.S. and Alaska.

    Turning Tech Noise into a Symphony

    “One thing hoteliers are challenged with today is giving travelers a digital experience equal to – or better than – what they experience at home,” Schubert said. “Unfortunately, operators are getting hit with too much technology noise; I’m talking about spot solutions and micro applications that are taking over the guestroom. HCN’s Navigator tablets don’t just turn down the noise, they turn it into a symphony. Their tablets with audio docking stations replace most peripheral solutions and does it with an ROI that is not capital intensive. More importantly, it’s affordable for luxury brands and economy properties alike. Navigator not only transforms how guests interact with the hotel, the city, and their room, but it’s an interactive in-room two-way communication platform allowing guests to send and receive information, make purchases, order room service, report problems, and control their room with just a touch or voice command.

    “Wi-Fi has matured to a point where hotels have a reliable wireless footprint today,” he said. “That was not always the case; wireless in rooms started out with very spotty coverage and made it nearly impossible for tablet providers to connect guests to the hotel. Those early adopters did not have the digital platform adeptness that HCN is putting into rooms today. Navigator is supporting brands’ desires to drive guests to their own apps using personalized marketing. Quick messages to guests via the tablet is proving to be a strong business case for improving the guest experience. HCN’s innovative approach to tablet technology and their team’s ability to look at applications through a unique lens is what made me eager to join the company. I look forward to helping them grow.”

    To learn more about HCN and its Navigator Tablets, visit www.hcn-inc.com.

  • 1/31/2023

    ROH Launches Bringing Purpose-Built Revenue Optimization Software to the Hospitality Industry; New Finance-Specific Dashboard Now Available

    ROH logo

    Carats & Cake announced the launch of ROH, a purpose-built revenue optimization platform for hospitality groups. Developed by industry experts, ROH’s software solutions drive revenue growth, margin expansion, and operational efficiencies for the largest asset owners, hotel groups, and property operators. Further the platform provides visibility across an organization and multiple assets. Sales and finance teams benefit from intuitive, real-time dashboards from which they can manage contracts, invoicing, payments, and more. The data accessible via ROH enables hospitality brands to take informed actions that materially impact the bottom line.

    “What we’ve learned over the past decade working with thousands of the most innovative properties is that there is a massive opportunity to provide them with standardization and transparency. Today, many properties under the banners of leading hospitality brands are actually operated by incredible groups or asset owners. This industry evolution creates unique needs for software that enables operational efficiencies and increases conversion and revenue across multi-property portfolios. Meeting the needs of the hospitality industry is a fundamentally larger business for us that warrants being center stage,” said Jess Conroy, Founder and CEO, ROH. “ROH’s end-to-end revenue optimization platform is now positioned to address the needs of asset owners and property operators as they seek efficiencies across marketing, sales, and finance as well as access to real-time intelligence to rapidly improve conversion rates. We’re grateful to the brand we’ve built in Carats & Cake and will continue to engage its 100 million strong audience as a marketing channel for businesses that serve the events industry at large.”

    Coinciding with the announcement of ROH, the company is expanding its multi-team platform offerings to include a new finance-specific dashboard that, for the first time, gives finance team members real-time reconciliation capabilities. In one place, finance team members can see invoice status details including if invoices have been opened, payment due dates, paid or unpaid details, and a proprietary invoices-at-risk analysis. Additionally, ROH’s platform provides details on any issues around refunds and disputes as well as manages those infrequent occurrences. These real-time analytics enable finance to identify and collaborate with the sales teams on any potential problems before they occur, versus waiting until the end of each month to retroactively assess issues and begin the manual process of chasing payments in collaboration with sales.

    The ROH revenue optimization platform is feature-rich including:

    • Invoice creation & scheduling
    • Real-time payment & contract notifications
    • Mobile-friendly, branded invoicing & payments
    • Payment type optimization (Credit Card / ACH / e-check)
    • PCI DSS Level 1 compliance with card on file functionality
    • Standardization across all small & large group sales
    • Streamlined integration with Property Management Solutions (PMS)
    • Custom performance dashboards for finance & sales

    Initial deployments of the ROH revenue optimization platform have already delivered impressive results:

    • Average 15% increase in event revenue
    • 81% of payments convert faster
    • 4.5x ROI

    "1Sharpe Ventures invested in Jess and her team due to their expertise in identifying and solving pain points in world-renowned properties with industry-specific digital solutions. With successful adoption among leading asset owners, the team has expanded beyond the events market,” said Gregor Watson, Co-Founder, 1Sharpe Ventures. “ROH, the latest project from Jess, aims to address a massive opportunity in the hospitality industry. We're thrilled to support the platform's growth into these rapidly expanding brands with tailored digital solutions."

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