News Briefs

  • 5/10/2023

    Wendy's Pilots Google Cloud's Generative AI

    Wendys global next gen drivethru

    Wendy's and Google Cloud announced an expanded partnership to pilot an artificial intelligence (AI) solution, Wendy's FreshAI. The technology has the potential to transform Wendy's drive-thru food ordering experience with Google Cloud's generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology.

    Demand for Drive-Thru

    With 75 to 80 percent of Wendy's customers choosing the drive-thru as their preferred ordering channel, delivering a seamless ordering experience using AI automation can be difficult due to the complexities of menu options, special requests, and ambient noise. For example, because customers can fully customize their orders and food is prepared when ordered at Wendy's, this presents billions of possible order combinations available on the Wendy's menu, leaving room for miscommunication or incorrect orders. Google Cloud's generative AI capabilities can now bring a new automated ordering experience to the drive-thru that is intended to enhance the experience that customers, employees and franchisees expect from Wendy's. As HT reported last month, one Wendy's franchise, Wenspoke, is expanding its use of AI in the drive-thrus.

    "Wendy's introduced the first modern pick-up window in the industry more than 50 years ago, and we're thrilled to continue our work with Google Cloud to bring a new wave of innovation to the drive-thru experience," said Todd Penegor, President and CEO of the Dublin, Ohio-based QSR. "Google Cloud's generative AI technology creates a huge opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster and frictionless experience for our customers, and allows our employees to continue focusing on making great food and building relationships with fans that keep them coming back time and again."

    Pilot Near HQ

    In June, Wendy's plans to launch its first pilot of Google Cloud's AI technology in a Columbus, Ohio-area, Company-operated restaurant, using those learnings to inform future expansions to more Wendy's drive-thrus. The pilot will include new generative AI offerings, such as Vertex AI and more, to have conversations with customers, the ability to understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions. 

    This will all be powered by Google's foundational LLMs that have the data from Wendy's menu, established business rules and logic for conversation guardrails, and integration with restaurant hardware and the Point of Sale system. By leveraging generative AI, Wendy's seeks to take the complexity out of the ordering process so employees can focus on serving up fast, fresh-made, quality food and exceptional service.

    Today's update builds upon Google Cloud's and Wendy's long standing partnership to enhance the Wendy's restaurant experience. Since 2021, Wendy's has leveraged Google Cloud's data analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud tools to make it faster, easier, and more convenient for customers to access the brand.

  • 5/30/2023

    Panera Launches Drive-Thru Pickup Nationwide

    Panera Bread drive-thru

    Panera launches Drive-Thru Pick-Up, combining the ease of the digital ordering experience with the comfort and convenience of the drive-thru window.

    Guests can now choose the Drive-Thru Pick-Up option when ordering ahead on the Panera app or website to get their favorite Panera order at the Drive-Thru without leaving their vehicle.  

    Digital sales at Panera represent more than 50 percent of total system sales, and with more than three million average transactions each week from digital channels including the app, kiosk and web. Panera guests continue to seek their favorite soups, salads, sandwiches and more with the increased convenience, customization, speed and ease that the digital experience enables. Panera bakery-cafes featuring Drive-Thru Pick-Up will still offer the traditional Drive-Thru experience with the ability to order at the Drive-Thru screen. With Drive-Thru Pick-Up, guests who order ahead can simply announce their name at the speaker and pull ahead to the window - which allows for an even faster and more convenient way to pick up their order.

    “Panera pioneered the idea of digital ordering in the restaurant industry, and for years, our guests have loved the option to order ahead and pick their items up on the Rapid Pick-Up® shelf,” said Chris Correnti, SVP, Channels and Guest Experience, Panera Bread. “Now we’re extending that convenience to the drive-thru, giving our guests another fast and convenient way to get their favorite Panera meal.”

    Panera has continually invested in the digital guest experience creating new ways to order and receive food, including in-cafe kiosk, Rapid Pick-Up, Contactless Dine-In and now Drive-Thru Pick-Up. The Panera app is one of the top-rated restaurant apps and MyPanera, Panera’s loyalty program that began in 2010, has more than 53 million members.

  • 5/30/2023

    American Dairy Queen Adds Two VPs

    Dairy Queen DQ logo

    American Dairy Queen Corp. (ADQ), a subsidiary of International Dairy Queen Inc. (IDQ)  has two new hires to its international business team: Chris Wren, vice president of development, international, and Greg Kirian, vice president of marketing, international. Both executives will increase brand awareness and restaurant growth in countries outside of the U.S. and Canada.

    Wren comes to ADQ with nearly three decades of experience in franchising and in the restaurant industry. He has held executive finance and development roles at CIT Bank, Dine Brands Global, Wingstop and Yum! Brands. Wren will oversee the strategy and execution of international business development in new and existing markets.

    Kirian brings more than two decades of global food and beverage industry experience, including international marketing leadership roles at Little Caesar’s, Wingstop and Yum! Brands. In his role at ADQ, he will lead brand and marketing strategies for international markets.

    “Given our aggressive business goals to expand the company’s global footprint outside of the U.S. and Canada, strong leadership in marketing and development roles will be critical,” said Nicolas Boudet, chief operating officer, international at American Dairy Queen Corporation. “Chris and Greg both add impressive and diverse portfolios of experience in global businesses. Their contributions will help us drive DQ restaurant growth and brand awareness in new and existing markets around the world.”

    Through its subsidiaries, IDQ develops, licenses and services a system of more than 7,000 restaurants in over 20 countries.

  • 5/30/2023

    Aavgo Partners With Econo Lodge Franchise Association as Exclusive Provider of Smart Reception Kiosks for Econo Lodge Hotels

    aavgo kiosk

    Aavgo, a cloud-based SaaS provider, announced an agreement with the Econo Lodge Franchise Association (EFLA) to offer its Smart Reception capabilities at the more than 700 Econo Lodge hotels across the U.S. and Canada. The partnership allows Econo Lodge owners to provide guests with a streamlined, personalized check-in experience while maximizing hotel profitability.

    Aavgo’s Smart Reception kiosk connects guests with a certified and trained front-desk agent who is dedicated exclusively to helping manage operations at a single property. Real-time response agents are available to care for guests at check-in 24/7, 365 days a year, and Aavgo’s end-to-end platform offers all Econo Lodge hotels an all-in-one contactless solution designed to enhance the guest experience while reducing operational costs.

    With Smart Reception, guests get all the services offered by a traditional front desk, such as check-in, receiving room keys, and speaking with a remote agent, which properties can provide without diverting scarce resources away from hotel operations.

    Aavgo's remote agents provide a full scope of critical guest services, including:

    • Checking guests in and out, including managing both advance reservations and walk-ins.
    • Signing guests up for loyalty or rewards programs and informing them of their capabilities.
    • Managing payment transactions through cash, card swipes, EMV chips, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and more.
    • Responding directly to guests’ requests or questions about the hotel and the surrounding area.
    • Generating guestroom keys.

    Through Smart Reception, remote front-desk agents can also provide assistance with administrative and clerical tasks, freeing onsite hotel workers to focus on direct guest interactions. Some of these back-of-the-house tasks include:

    • Managing the night audit process.
    • Responding directly to online reviews.
    • Opening, managing, and responding to housekeeping and maintenance ticket requests.
    • Answering phone calls to the property from both on-premise guests and off-property requests.

    The flexibility and breadth of the Aavgo solution are especially timely for hotel owners in the current environment, in which staffing resources are tighter and more costly than ever. By utilizing the company’s Smart Reception service, hoteliers can ensure guests are always given the highest level of service, regardless of any operational limitations.

    “We are excited to partner with Aavgo to welcome their remote front-desk technology to Econo Lodge,” said Pradip Patel, President of the ELFA. “This technology is helping hotel operators remain efficient and profitable in an environment that is increasingly competitive. Using Aavgo, our hoteliers will be positioned for success despite the many challenges limiting operations across hospitality.”

    “Our recent agreement with the Econo Lodge Franchise Association is helping more hoteliers than ever take their tech edge to a new level in a hospitality labor market that is still in recovery,” said Mrunai Desai, Founder and CEO of Aavgo. “We are pleased to provide state-of-the-art, remote front desk support systems to any and all Econo Lodge hotels, giving guests access to a fully contactless stay experience while reducing the operational burden on hoteliers. Our certified and trained agents can perform any action associated with the front desk, including responding to guests, answering online reviews, and even managing night audit processes. As the oldest hospitality association in the United States, ELFA has been looking out for its members’ success and well-being since 1974. We are honored to be a part of their strategy for success and will continue to support hoteliers through technology going forward.”

  • 5/30/2023

    IDeaS Powers Park Plaza Hotels Europe’s Revenue Management

    logo, company name

    IDeaS, a SAS company and provider of hospitality revenue management software and services, has been selected as the preferred RMS provider to Park Plaza Hotels Europe (PPHE Hotel Group) in Europe.

    Following a competitive tender process, IDeaS’ G3 RMS was selected for its innovative automation and ease of integration within the wider tech stack. G3 RMS will be deployed at 17 properties, including Park Plaza branded hotels across the UK and the Netherlands, as well as art’otels in Amsterdam, Rome, and in London at its newest property, art'otel London Battersea Power Station.

    • Holistic optimisation: Manually managing multiple properties without an automated system became unsustainable. PPHE Hotel Group needed a sustainable solution for the long term that capitalized on the depth of their data. This future-proofs the business and enables modern pricing capabilities that optimize legacy and emerging business segments and channels.
    • Advanced pricing capabilities: The IDeaS system enables simultaneous dynamic pricing across hotel products based upon demand patterns to increase incremental profitability from all products.
    • Centralise insights and management: With efficiency and portfolio oversight a key need, Park Plaza realized centralised clustered revenue management environment was an essential need for the group. The solution’s deep insight into demand, cancellation, and no-show patterns and its ‘What-if’ simulation analysis was key in the group’s selection of IDeaS.

    Darren Thacker, director of revenue, digital marketing, and analytics, PPHE Hotel Group, said: “IDeaS G3 RMS will revolutionise revenue management within our group. The system’s intuitive and automated decision-making is what helped it stand out from the competition. With IDeaS, we’ll be able to respond more quickly to changing market conditions than we could previously, providing peace of mind that our rates will always be optimised and in line with our business strategies.”

    Michael McCartan, area vice president, EMEA, IDeaS, said:Park Plaza Hotels Europe is well recognised within Europe for delivering innovative, customer-focused experiences across its Park Plaza and art’otel brands. We’re delighted to be working with them to elevate their revenue management and help them achieve their strategic objectives and improve their commercial results.”

    The installation of IDeaS G3 RMS is scheduled for Q2 2023, following the roll-out of a bespoke system-wide training program designed by IDeaS for PPHE Hotel Group.

  • 5/30/2023

    IHG Hotels & Resorts Provides Community Solar Offering for Hotel Owners in Collaboration with Ampion

    IHG hotels logo

    IHG Hotels & Resorts (IHG) announced an industry-leading renewable energy offering for IHG hotels in select markets across the United States in collaboration with Ampion, a provider of community solar solutions. IHG is the first hotel company to provide hotels a community solar offering that includes Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), helping hotels reduce greenhouse gas emissions by accessing renewable energy through solar panel projects built near a hotel’s community.

    The electricity generated by solar panel projects is fed into the local power grid, and hotels can subscribe to a portion of the projects and will receive both Green-e® certified RECs and a discount on their regular electricity bill for the clean energy produced. Through this model, enrolled hotels can credibly claim to be powered by renewable energy while supporting the development of new local solar projects that create jobs and improve the air quality in their communities.

    This offering is available in states with legislation supporting community solar, contingent on available capacity. IHG’s community solar offer is currently active for hotels across Illinois, Maine and Maryland, with more states to follow soon. Hotels that have signed up or engaged in the enrollment process represent nearly 30 percent of IHG’s hotels’ energy footprint in those three states – the equivalent of replacing the electricity usage of more than 5,700 average U.S. homes with renewable energy.

    Catherine Dolton, SVP, Corporate Responsibility & Chief Sustainability Officer, IHG Hotels & Resorts, said: “We are excited to offer IHG-branded hotel owners an innovative solution to help them reduce their carbon emissions at the property level. IHG’s community solar offering, in collaboration with Ampion, is a win-win for hotel owners due to its cost savings, zero capital expenditure and environmental benefits. This offering is just one of the many ways we’re driving progress toward IHG’s sustainability commitments, which includes reducing our energy use and carbon emissions in line with climate science.”

    Joshua Lustig, General Manager, Crowne Plaza College Park - Washington, D.C., said: “Our decision to go live with IHG’s community solar offering at our nearly 300-room hotel is two-fold: we are passionate about being a more sustainable hotel and know we can make a positive impact here in Washington, D.C. We are on a journey toward decreasing our environmental impact and we are proud to support our local community through this offering.”

    Nate Owen, CEO, Ampion, said: “Ampion is proud to help IHG hotels reduce emissions with clean energy while saving money. We look forward to expanding this offering to more states and helping more hotels enhance their sustainability. The leadership teams of both companies have worked hard to make this innovative community solar offering a reality. Ampion’s mission is to make renewable energy accessible everywhere, for everyone. We’re thrilled to be partnering with a company that shares our commitment to a clean, sustainable future.”

    In markets where community solar projects are not available, IHG hotels can act sustainably in other ways, such as purchasing RECs to negate the emissions produced by their energy use or installing solar panels on their roofs, to name a few. For example, the InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta hotel purchased unbundled Green-e® certified solar RECs to cover their estimated emissions from their electricity usage for 2023. Likewise, IHG purchased RECs to offset energy use at its corporate office and Design Center facilities, both located in Atlanta, Ga.

    Leveraging renewable energy is just one way IHG is approaching its 46 percent carbon reduction target, which is part of the company’s Journey to Tomorrow (JtT) 10-year responsible business plan. Reducing carbon emissions is not only vital to protecting the world around us but is also critical for the long-term resilience of IHG’s business.

    In line with JtT, IHG has established brand standards, launched tools and trainings, and released guidance that help hotels reduce their energy use – from low and no cost behavioral strategies to the adoption of energy conservation measures that require a larger investment. While energy conservation measures typically pay for themselves over time, IHG also supports hotel owners by increasing their awareness of tax incentives and rebates that help reduce the overall cost of these investments.

    To learn more about IHG’s commitment to responsible business, please visit

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