News Briefs

  • 5/31/2023

    Panda Express Launches Rewards Program

    Panda Express loyalty program

    Panda Express announces the launch of Panda Rewards, its first points-based national rewards program.

    It utilizes a personalized points-based system that rewards members with ten Panda Points  for every dollar spent on qualifying purchases. Once 200 Panda Points have been accumulated, guests can start redeeming their favorite Panda menu items. Each month, guests' first qualified purchase will unlock a surprise Good Fortune Gift ranging from bonus points to special discounts or even free food, along with a unique digital fortune cookie message to be collected. Panda Rewards members will also receive a birthday gift of their choice.

    "Sharing good fortune is an important value at Panda, and we are delighted to launch our first rewards program nationwide as a heartfelt expression of gratitude towards our loyal guests for their continued support throughout the years," said Andrea Cherng, Chief Brand Officer at Panda Express. "We look forward to engaging our guests in a playful and meaningful journey of good fortune as they collect unique prizes offering exceptional value every time they dine at Panda."  

    The more Panda Points members accrue, the better the rewards options. The rewards range from a free upgrade to a premium entrée, a free drink of choice to even a free Family Meal. Guests have a personalized experience to choose their preferred reward from multiple options. What's more, Panda Points do not expire unless there are no qualifying purchases in 12 months.

    Panda Rewards members can earn and redeem Panda Points when ordering through the Panda Express mobile app or the website, in-store, or the drive-thru. Those ordering online that have logged in as a Panda Rewards member will automatically receive Panda Points for their purchase. For in-store and drive-thru orders, guests can easily access and present a QR code in the mobile app for a Panda associate to scan. Alternatively, guests can also enter a unique rewards code found on their receipt from an in-store order that can be entered in their account up to seven days from purchase in the app or online to earn Panda Points on that purchase.

  • 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.

  • 5/31/2023

    HFTP Announces HITEC 2023 International Perspectives Headliner Panelists to Explore Tech Trends for Today’s Global Traveler

    logo, HITEC

    Coming up later this month is the 2023 Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®) with a packed schedule of industry expertise. Topping the program is the Tuesday morning Headliner, “International Perspectives – Tech Future Proofing: Planning for The Global Traveler.” The Headliner stage that day will feature six executive hoteliers who have seen it all from localities that span the globe.

    “HITEC is the one time of the year where you can hear directly from the individual experts who are in the midst of planning strategy for the most significant hotel companies from across the world,” said HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe, CAE who will moderate the session. “Our panel represents a cross-section of property types and regions; and will present an excellent picture of how to plan for today’s guests.” 

    This interactive panel will feature a dynamic and live discussion format to proactively tackle the questions and challenges of today’s complex technology landscape and how to prepare for the global traveler coming to your property. The audience will get to know these seasoned executives and how their professional experiences have shaped their ability to facilitate business and plan for “better than ever” success.

    Panelists include:

    • Sanovnik Destang — Owner of Bay Gardens Resorts; First Vice President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association; Chairman of the CHTA Technology Task Force; and 2022 Caribbean Hotelier of the Year • Regional Experience: the Caribbean
    • Michael Levie, CHTP — Adviser to NEOM Hospitality Development and Tourism; Founding Partner of citizenM; HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame inductee • Regional Experience: Europe and Saudi Arabia
    • Bharat Patel — Owner, Gulf Coast Hospitality Solutions; 2023–2024 Chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) • Regional Experience: Americas
    • Amandeep Singh Sarna — CIO for ITC Limited, Hotels Division • Regional Experience: India
    • Tariq Valani — Global SVP Technology for Accor Hotels, Canada, Middle East; Global SVP of Technology, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts • Regional Experience: Canada and Middle East
    • Todd Wood — Vice President, Global Applications and Transformation for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group • Regional Experience: Americas, plus application development for Global use
    • Moderator Sherry Marek — Principal/Owner of Aiken Street Consulting; Co-founder of Datavision Technologies; HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame inductee
    • Moderator Frank Wolfe, CAE — CEO of HFTP; HFTP International Hospitality Technology Hall of Fame inductee

    The stage will also feature the Opening Headliner, “Strategy in a World of Disruption” presented by Shawn Kanungo on Monday, June 26 at 4:00 p.m., sponsored by Hospitality Network/Blueprint RF. Kanungo will explore how we can take unexpected approaches to innovation to remain competitive and relevant.

    Then on Wednesday, June 28 from 8:15 to 10:00 a.m., is HFTP’s hospitality technology start-up pitch competition: Entrepreneur 20X (E20X), sponsored by PROVision Partners. E20X 2023 will feature seven ambitious entrepreneurs presenting breakthrough business concepts to a room full of HITEC attendees and panel of expert judges. The start-ups are competing for the top Judges’ Choice award including a $5,000 USD cash prize, plus the honorary People’s Choice award selected by the audience.

    Access to the Headliner sessions is open to all registered HITEC attendees.

    Produced by Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®), HITEC North America will take place on June 26–29 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in Toronto, Ont. Canada. HITEC is the world's largest and longest-running hospitality technology exposition and conference. It offers a unique combination of top-notch hospitality technology education, led by industry peers and experts, and an unparalleled trade show showcasing the latest hospitality technology products and services. The 2023 event is expecting 6,000+ attendees and 320+ exhibiting companies. Registration for HITEC Toronto is now open.

  • 5/31/2023

    Mews Announces Successful Completion of SOC 2 Type 2 Examination, Proving Its Commitment to Data Security

    mews logo

    Mews, the hospitality technology leader and innovator, completed its SOC 2® Type 2 examination to help meet its users’ security needs and get an objective evaluation of the effectiveness of controls.

    The SOC 2® Type 2 Examination is a detailed examination of design suitability and operating effectiveness for the controls implemented around the information and system security. The examination reflects the third-party testing results of Mews’ security controls against the Trust Services Criteria published by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

    “In the world of hospitality, data security is critically important. We designed Mews to have the highest degree of safety and confidentiality, and we’re deeply proud to be among the few PMS providers to have passed this rigorous test  ”, said Richard Valtr, Founder of Mews. “Our technology empowers properties to securely handle guest data and process real-time payments, all while minimizing potential threats.” 

    The successful completion of the SOC 2® Type 2 examination further strengthens the growth strategy for Mews in North America, more specifically the enterprise segment in the US market.

    "With this, Mews is entering a new stage of maturity. We're unlocking new possibilities in North America and delivering industry-leading technology to modern hoteliers and their guests,” said Michael Wesner, Chief Commercial Officer at Mews. “The data security of our customers is a point of trust that Mews will continue to protect as we grow our platform and client base.”

    It comes at the same time as Mews tripled their North American business with the acquisition of Hotello.

  • 5/31/2023

    Mews Open API Enables Hoteliers to Build and Connect 1,000 Bespoke Solutions to Transform Hotel Operations

    a person looking out a window

    Mews, the industry-leading hospitality cloud, is transforming the way hotels operate thanks to its open APIs, which have enabled customers to build and connect more than 1,000 of their custom applications to the hospitality management platform. 

    Mews, as the pioneer of open APIs in the hospitality industry, has seen a remarkable surge in the adoption of interconnected and tailored integrations over the past year. With over 20,000 installations of these applications across Mews-powered properties, the daily volume of messages exchanged through Mews APIs has exceeded 10 million. 

    “We have dedicated teams working on Mews Open API, which means we develop it in parallel to the rest of Mews Hospitality Cloud,” said Jirka Helmich, CPO at Mews. “This allows us to release new APIs immediately alongside new products and features, giving our users and partners total flexibility when it comes to connecting with Mews.” 

    As unique, personalized experiences become a growing priority for guests, hoteliers are increasingly turning to technology to help enable them. Often, this requires bespoke solutions that need to seamlessly integrate with their established hotel tech stack.   

    For instance, Cabiner, a unique Dutch wilderness brand, has a custom integration that connects food package orders to their supplier via Mews Open API. “Because the API is open, we’re able to build a whole custom front end that exactly fits our needs, but still runs on Mews,” said Sander Ejlenberg, Co-Founder of Cabiner. “Mews is the glue in the middle that connects everything – it fits our open mindset where everything is a network.” 

    Other common API use cases include connecting bespoke booking engines and kiosk solutions. Mews is also introducing new multi-property functionality that will improve performance and development speed for multi-property products, both custom-built and public integrations. 

    “Having access to open APIs is vital for our own software development and for any tech-enabled operator that wants to build our own solutions,” said Rami Zeidan, Founder and CEO of Life House, the innovative US hotel brand. “Mews’ connectivity is what sets it apart from other hotel software systems, especially the legacy systems, both in terms of their APIs and their marketplace of integrations.” 

    In addition to APIs, Mews Marketplace provides a pool of over 750 integrations to hospitality’s best tech solutions. Many of these purpose-built connections are plug-and-play, making it fast and easy for hotels to build their ideal tech stack. 

  • 5/31/2023

    User-Generated Social Mapping Platform Raises $18M

    gps mobile phone app

    Atly, the user-generated social mapping platform purpose-built for discovering places to go and things to do, today announced its official launch with $18 million in funding from Target GlobalTal Ventures, and FKA Brands to offer users seamless, effective, and trustworthy location-based content. In its open beta to date, Atly witnessed thousands of user-created community-based maps, with hundreds of new maps generated organically each month across verticals like food and restaurants, travel, nature and the outdoors, parenting, and more.

    Digital search is currently undergoing a massive transformation as people turn to an ever-growing list of resources beyond traditional search engines to decide their next moves. Often, they rely on social media over Google Search and Google Maps for destination, activity, and purchase recommendations that feel authentic, up-to-date, and personally curated for them. But platforms like TikTok and Facebook weren't purpose-built for location-based discovery. Social media users are forced to dig through never-ending streams of stories and posts, whose usefulness counterintuitively dissipates the more information is shared, and are faced with limited location-based search, filtering, and bookmarking capabilities. Meanwhile, creators and businesses suffer limited monetization among an audience not necessarily intent on immediately visiting the places they discover while scrolling aimlessly. As a result, people pay the price of wasted time and effort as well as inferior real-life experiences, and creators and businesses suffer lower ROI.

    Atly leverages social media-like user-generated knowledge with mapping and location discovery tools to help people find their new favorite places. In the Atly app, users create and join map-based communities centered around the things they love. Atly creates a go-to source for previously unmapped content and surfaces gems of information from like-minded people that allow users to trust in the authenticity, integrity, and specificity of every recommendation they uncover. In doing so, Atly gives people intent on discovery the confidence that they're sure to enjoy the places they visit, and creators and businesses are met with higher conversion. The funding will allow Atly to invest in state-of-the-art algorithms and overall performance, to release much anticipated product features and updates, and to collaborate with additional creators. The app is available in the App Store or Google Play Store.

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