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News Briefs

  • 2/6/2023

    Salad and Go Expands in Texas

    Salad and Go  salad and iced tea

    Up and coming QSR  Salad and Go  is expanding in Texas with three new locations opening in February in the Houston markets of Katy, Richmond and League City.

    The Katy store located opened February 1, the Richmond location at  is set to open February 17, and the League City store plans to open its doors on February 22. These new locations will mark the start of rapid brand expansion across the Greater Houston area.

    These suburbs were strategically selected as ideal markets for Salad and Go as some of the fastest growing communities in the region. Conveniently located in some of Houston's most popular suburbs, the new locations will provide fresh, high-quality meals with quick and easy convenience at an affordable price.

    As Salad and Go continues growing its national presence with a strong focus on Arizona, Texas, Oklahoma, and Nevada, the brand's expansive growth has it on a positive trajectory to provide fresh and affordable food to communities in more than 125 locations by the end of 2023. Houston is the next step in the brand's expansion across Texas with plans to open additional stores in the market throughout the new year.

    Salad and Go's chef-curated menu provides guests with food for any time of the day by offering a variety of delicious and healthy items including salads, wraps, breakfast burritos and soup as well as beverages including hand-crafted lemonades, teas and cold brew coffees.

    Salad and Go ensures each meal contains fresh, quality ingredients while keeping prices low by vertically integrating operations and distribution, and sourcing ingredients directly from high-quality local farmers and suppliers whenever possible. The brand's mission to make fresh, nutritious food convenient and affordable for ALL extends beyond its stores and is demonstrated in the work the brand does to donate 4,000 meals every week to those in need, as well as in partnerships with nonprofits to support and fundraise for various worthy causes.

  • 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. 

     

  • 3/19/2023

    Laxman Narasimhan Takes Over as Starbucks CEO

    laxman starbucks ceo

    Effective today, Laxman Narasimhan has assumed the role of chief executive officer of Starbucks and will join the company’s board of directors.

    Narasimhan was named incoming CEO on September 1, succeeding company founder and now former CEO Howard Schultz.

    Starbucks Reveals Roadmap for Reinvention

    Narasimhan joined the company as incoming ceo on October 1, 2022, bringing nearly 30 years of experience leading global consumer goods businesses and advising retail, grocery, restaurant and e-commerce companies. Over the past five months, he has embarked on a unique immersion experience, traveling to work with partners (employees) in over 30 stores, manufacturing plants and in support centers around the world, earning his barista certification along the way. He became immersed in the reinvention plans for the company led by Schultz who returned as interim ceo effective April 4, 2022.

    Since Schultz returned last year, Starbucks unveiled a company-wide reinvention strategy and continued to deliver on more than $1 billion in investments in retail partners and stores for prioritized areas such as increased pay and sick time accrual, new financial well-being benefits, modernized training and collaboration, store innovation and equipment and the celebration of coffee. 

    Schultz shared a letter to the company’s senior leadership team on the eve of the announcement – viewable here.

    Narasimhan will lead Starbucks Annual Shareholder Meeting this Thursday, March 23.

  • 3/19/2023

    Operto Guest Technologies Raises US$25 Million in Series-B Financing, Led By Centana Growth Partners

    logo, operto

    Operto Guest Technologies, a provider of automated solutions for 50 million-plus rooms in the global hospitality industry, announced that it secured US$25 million in a Series-B financing round. The financing was led by Centana Growth Partners, with participation from Thayer Ventures, FUSE, Blackpines Capital Partners and Derive Ventures.

    Proceeds from the round will be used to further fuel Operto’s aggressive expansion in the global short-term rental and hotel markets, where it already works exclusively with Accor Hotels to power its global digital key program. This includes luxury hotel brands such Fairmont and Raffles, where Operto’s revolutionary contactless digital solutions can be leveraged to remove common friction points in the guest journey, while lowering operating costs and driving new sources of revenue for the hotel.

    "We are delighted to announce our B-Round funding, which will enable us to build upon our exceptional company growth over the past 3 years. It will accelerate our company mission to build cutting-edge technology solutions that drive amazing guest experiences, across the entire accommodation spectrum. In addition, our solutions will continue to deliver huge operational efficiencies for property owners and hosts by lowering costs and driving additional in-stay guest revenues, which is becoming increasingly important in today’s macroeconomic environment.” said Operto CEO Steve Davis. “Hospitality is one of the last major industries to be disrupted by technology, and we believe there is a significant opportunity to bring the benefits of simple, affordable automation to the sector. We are excited about the future, and we look forward to making a real difference to the accommodation industry."

    “Operto is leading the digital transformation of the hospitality industry by creating a seamless, automated check-in and check-out experience for its customers,” said Eric Byunn, co-founder and partner at Centana Growth Partners. “Centana has been following the digitization of the hospitality industry closely, and we are very excited about this sort of innovative disruption streamlining the experience of owners, hosts, and guests. We will leverage our expertise in the payments and commerce ecosystem to work with Operto as they continue to innovate in an industry with such enormous potential.”  

    In addition to the funding announcement, Operto is pleased to announce that Sam Shank has joined the company’s Board of Directors. Shank, who was previously CEO and founder of HotelTonight and former head of Airbnb’s Commercial Team, brings a wealth of hospitality and travel industry experience to Operto. "Operto's cutting-edge technology solutions are reshaping the hospitality industry, and I am excited to be a part of the journey,” said Shank. “I look forward to working with the team to help drive growth and innovation."

    Operto’s automated, customizable platform enables hotels, property managers and others to remotely provide access as well as monitor and control a wide range of devices and systems, including smartphone-enabled guest verification, security deposit and payment, electronic elevator and room access. By providing property managers with real-time data and insights, Operto helps streamline operations, reduce costs and enhance the guest experience.

    Operto Guest Technologies is well-positioned to continue its rapid growth and expansion into new markets. The company is committed to delivering innovative solutions that help property managers improve efficiency, reduce costs and provide a better experience for their guests.

  • 3/19/2023

    Aimbridge Hospitality Acquires Terrapin Hospitality Management Portfolio

    aimbridge new logo

    Aimbridge Hospitality, a global hospitality company, has assumed management of 71 hotels previously operated by Houston-based Terrapin Hospitality. With over 8,100 rooms in 21 states, the diverse portfolio is national in scope with representation in the upper midscale and upscale segments across all major brand companies.

    Joining Aimbridge Hospitality’s Select Service Division, these hotels will benefit from the impact of the industry leader’s deep bench of industry talent, a specialized operational approach that maximizes value, and a path toward continued global growth and industry-leading innovation.

    As part of the transaction, Aimbridge Hospitality will build on its existing relationships with Waramaug Hospitality and Terrapin Investments—two large-scale hotel owners in the Terrapin Hospitality portfolio and active investors in the hospitality space. The portfolio Aimbridge Hospitality manages on behalf of Waramaug and Terrapin Investments will increase to 42 hotels from 12 prior to the transaction, and the parties have concurrently entered into a long-term strategic development relationship that is anticipated to generate incremental unit growth as early as the first half of 2023.

    “We are pleased to welcome these new properties and owners into the Aimbridge Hospitality family,” said Michael J. Deitemeyer, Aimbridge Hospitality President & CEO. “We are already applying our expertise and operating acumen to the Terrapin Hospitality portfolio, and we look forward to a long-term relationship where we can generate meaningful results and chart a path to future success."

    “The strategic relationship with Aimbridge Hospitality will allow our properties to benefit from the scale and experience of the number one management company in our industry,” said Tony Sherman, Terrapin Hospitality Founder & CEO. “It was critical we found the right partner for my portfolio and my clients. Aimbridge Hospitality has best-in-class talent, management approach and resources to ensure our assets will continue to grow their profitability and our team members will be valued.”

    Sherman will continue to serve as an operating partner to Aimbridge Hospitality moving forward. The introduction of these properties to Aimbridge Hospitality’s robust portfolio and expanding Select Service division is another step forward for Aimbridge Hospitality as it continues to commit and invest in providing an unparalleled management experience for owners.

    To learn more about Aimbridge Hospitality, visit aimbridgehospitality.com.

  • 3/19/2023

    Smarter.ai Introduces E-Commerce Tool

    machine learning data ai

    Smarter.ai, the provider of AI solutions for SMEs, introduces its e-commerce tool, CommerceIQ. Leveraging the power of its marketplace model, Smarter.ai has seamlessly integrated analytical machine learning apps with generative AI capabilities, allowing businesses of all sizes to create unique, personalized customer engagements at scale and compete with large enterprises. With CommerceIQ’s unique combination of generative AI's incredible creativity and analytical AI's deep learning capabilities, it provides prescriptive recommendations that can be automatically implemented, streamlining the marketing process for SMEs. 

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

    "This technology enables smaller companies to reclaim their space in the e-commerce ecosystem where they have been dwarfed for so long by the e-commerce giants with teams of data scientists and marketing specialists." said Francesco Benincasa, CEO of Smarter.ai.

    Designed to connect natively with Shopify and Klaviyo, CommerceIQ provides businesses with the flexibility to connect with other platforms upon request and manually load data via .csv/.txt files. This makes it easy for any business owner to take advantage of the powerful suite's capabilities, regardless of their technical skills or resources. According to Forrester research, with AI, businesses can achieve 3 times faster revenue growth, 50% higher lead generation, and 25% higher sales productivity,

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