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News Briefs

  • 6/6/2023

    iSeatz Report Reveals Untapped Potential in Travel Loyalty Programs


    iSeatz, a provider of travel loyalty technology and digital commerce solutions for travel and lifestyle brands, including Amex, IHG Hotels & Resorts, and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, has released its 4th annual State of Loyalty: 2023 Hospitality Rewards Report. The report analyzes 27 of the most prominent hotel chains and hospitality brands’ loyalty programs according to the types of reward options available for earning and redemption. The report also examines the current hotel loyalty landscape and emerging trends across the hospitality industry.   

    The 2023 Hospitality Rewards report analyzes the ancillary product portfolios of leading hospitality reward programs; it assesses point-earning and redemption opportunities across thirteen categories of reward products, including air, car rental, dining, wellness, and activities. 

    Surprisingly, while air and dining are commonly offered as reward options, only 4 of the 27 brands analyzed offer ground transportation, often an essential need for travelers. Brands can enhance their programs in other categories to boost engagement. For example, only seven researched brands offer live events and only 11 offer wellness.  

    "Loyalty programs are critical for guest engagement and long-term success in the hospitality industry," said Kenneth Purcell, CEO and Founder of iSeatz. "Reward products, such as car rentals and tours and activities, are essential ancillaries for hospitality brands. Combined with traditionally-defined ancillary products and services, these rewards help enhance guest experiences and streamline the booking process by offering trusted brands, consolidated itinerary management, and the ability to earn or redeem points with each booking." 

    Unbundling of ancillaries provides a more personalized experience 

    The report also highlights a significant trend in the hospitality industry - the unbundling and upselling of ancillaries. With a growing emphasis on customer retention and delivering improved guest experiences, more hotel brands are offering unbundled options, giving guests greater control over their stay, for example, selecting a preferred floor, room location, and view. This trend emphasizes the importance of delivering individualized experiences and rewarding interactions at every stage of the customer journey,  

    More on-property earning and redemption options 

    Over the past two years, the hospitality industry has seen an increase in guests both earning and paying with loyalty points at on-property outlets such as restaurants and spas. Despite an overall decrease in loyalty-integrated offerings, the Dining and Wellness sectors have shown consistent growth since 2019, primarily driven by on-property retailing. By upselling ancillary products, hotels have an opportunity to integrate loyalty programs, offering guests a range of benefits from on-property dining to car rentals and activities.  

    These diversified product offerings enhance guests' overall experiences, streamline their stay, and drive engagement and incremental spending at the property.   

    AI enables a higher level of personalization 

    While AI currently dominates headlines in every industry, in the hospitality sector, it can significantly boost engagement and overall spending. Using AI, brands can examine patterns among their guests with the highest Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) and deliver personalized offers to guests with similar attributes. Personalization, AI, and Loyalty working hand-in-hand is the key to increasing CLV.  

    The State of Loyalty 2023 Hospitality Rewards report, available for download here, serves as a resource for hospitality executives and managers seeking to understand the competitive landscape and develop rewards strategies that drive engagement, loyalty, and customer satisfaction. “Investing in loyalty strategies is essential for hospitality brands to maintain relevance and drive customer affinity in this competitive environment,” Purcell continues. “Brands need a partner that can help them leverage their loyalty programs effectively to drive guest engagement and customer lifetime value.”   

  • 6/1/2023

    Tim Hortons Expands EV Charging Stations

    EV charging

    For electric vehicle owners in British Columbia, Tim Hortons is now fueling road trips in more ways than one.  The company has announced the expansion of its electric vehicle charging station pilot launched earlier this year in Oakville, Ontario, by unveiling six new charging stations at restaurants throughout  British Columbia.

    Tim Hortons announced the pilot in February in an effort to study the technology, its usage and opportunities.

    "We have been thrilled with the results of the pilot so far.  Usage of the charging station in Oakville has surpassed our expectations and we received many calls with requests to expand the pilot," said Paulo Ferreira, Senior Director, International Strategic Restaurant Design and Building Standards, Tim Hortons. "With more than 3,300 eligible restaurants across the country, we continue to look for opportunities to expand the pilot and contribute to the EV infrastructure."

    The BC expansion, supported by the Province of BC's Community Charging Infrastructure Fund and Koben Systems Inc. (KSI), placed charging stations strategically in Nanaimo, Langford, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Abbotsford and Coquitlam to create paths within the province, allowing guests to travel from restaurant to restaurant strictly on electric power.

    Tim Hortons offers charging stations as a courtesy to guests at six locations.  As of March 31st, 2013, Tim Hortons had 4,288 system-wide restaurants, including 3,453 in Canada, 808 in the United States and 27 in the Gulf Cooperation Council. 

  • 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.

  • 6/6/2023

    Bill Introducing Competition in Credit Card Swipe Fees Could Save Operators Money

    US Capitol

    A bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress that, if passed, has potential to save U.S. businesses billions in credit card fees.

    The bipartisan and bicameral Credit Card Competition Act of 2023, introduced today by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would inject competition into this process by prohibiting card issuers from forcing restaurants to use the issuer’s processing network. This change would drive down processing costs for both operators and diners alike, saving U.S. businesses and consumers an estimated $11 billion a year.

    “Swipe fees are one of the most expensive costs restaurant operators have to manage – behind food and labor costs – and being able to accept credit cards is essential to running a restaurant,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The Credit Card Competition Act would empower restaurant owners to choose the most cost effective and secure network to route a credit card transaction. The impact of this would be significant – saving restaurant operators and consumers billions of dollars a year.”

    According to the NRA statement, the two dominant credit card companies account for over 80% of all credit card transactions in the U.S. and those transactions can only be processed on their network. This means that restaurants that want to accept these credit cards do not have a choice but to pay the processing fee set by these companies. The lack of competition means these two companies can effectively price-fix how much it costs restaurants to run a credit card. In the past decade the cost of these fees has more than doubled – unchecked by market competition.

    The Credit Card Competition Act would:

    • Require that credit cards issued by the nation’s largest banks – those with over $100 billion in assets – are able to be routed through at least two unaffiliated networks.
    • Require that those banks offer a non-dominant network choice, creating competition and allowing smaller companies to compete in the credit card processing marketplace. This “dual routing” requirement already exists for debit cards and has saved businesses and consumers an estimated $9 billion a year over the last decade.
    • The bill also strengthens national security by blocking networks that are “owned, operated, or sponsored by a foreign state entity,” like China Union Pay, from entering the U.S. credit card market.
  • 6/6/2023

    xnPOS Partners with Craftable to Help Hotels Optimize Operations and Improve Guest Experience

    handshake partnership

    Hotel point of sale vendor Xn Global Systems Inc. is delighted to announce the integration of xnPOS to Craftable, the profit management software for hospitality operators. This partnership brings together two powerful food & beverage applications to help hoteliers optimize their business operations and increase profits.

    xnPOS provides an integration to Craftable’s three leading solutions, Bevager, Foodager and Analytics, giving hotel operators access to real-time data on product supplies, invoices and purchasing procurement at their fingertips. By using their POS data in combination with the Craftable suite of products, hoteliers can get crucial insights into how product cost increases, variances, and labor affect their bottom line. Using server clock-in and clock-out data from xnPOS in tandem with Craftable’s products, hotels can manage labor, forecast sales, and utilize a full procurement suite with vendor integrations and punchouts.

    Phil Probert,  Vice President of Growth for Craftable, commented

    “We are thrilled to partner with leading point-of-sale provider xnPOS. Combining two best-in-class hospitality tech providers allows us to assist even more operators in the hotel space. By equipping hoteliers with real-time insights and visibility into their operations, we can help them streamline operations, manage inventory and labor, and optimize guest experiences.”

    Emmanuel Clave, VP Product Management for xnPOS, commented

    xnPOS is excited to add Craftable to its growing F&B integration ecosystem -  Adding Craftable’s suite of products to xnPOS’s powerful POS solution provides extensive F&B-focused analytical tools and helps hoteliers & restaurateurs to improve their profitability and efficiency. We look forward to working closely with the Craftable team.

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