News Briefs

  • 10/4/2023

    Chipotle Tests Digital Make Line

    Chipotle digital make line and employee

    Chipotle Mexican Grill is testing an automated digital makeline in collaboration with Hyphen, a foodservice platform designed to help restaurant owners, operators, and budding chefs move their business forward by automating kitchen operations. Bowls and salads are created by an automated system that moves the entrées through the bottom makeline where ingredients for the order are dispensed automatically. In tandem, a Chipotle team member can leverage the top makeline to create burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and kid's meals for the same digital order.

    How It Works

    1. Digital orders would be placed via the Chipotle app,, or third-party platforms.  
    2. If the order included a bowl or salad, those entrées would be routed to Hyphen's automated system. The bowl traverses along the bottom makeline and positions itself under the specified ingredient container. The intelligent dispensers dynamically portion each ingredient into the bowl. If the order included burritos, tacos, quesadillas, or kid's meals, a Chipotle team member would use the top of the same makeline to create those entrées.
    3. The completed bowl or salad would be raised from the bottom makeline and revealed at the end of the makeline through an opening in the countertop. A Chipotle team member would place a lid on the entrée and add any final items such as chips, side salsas, or guacamole to the order.
    4. Completed orders would be placed in their designated pick-up area: in-restaurant pickup shelves, walk-up window, or Chipotlane.

    Employee & Guest Experience

    Approximately 65% of all Chipotle digital orders are bowls or salads, so the cobotic digital makeline has the potential to free up more time for employees to service the front makeline and deliver exceptional hospitality, while simultaneously increasing capacity for digital orders during peak periods.

    The new digital makeline could also help enhance digital order accuracy, improving the guest experience.

    "Chipotle's new digital makeline built by Hyphen embodies our commitment to leveraging robotics to unlock the human potential of our workforce, ensuring an elevated dining experience for our guests," said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer. "Our goal is to have the automated digital makeline be the centerpiece of all our restaurants' digital kitchens." 

    Chipotle's Investment in Hyphen

    Chipotle invested in Hyphen as part of Cultivate Next, the company's $50 million venture fund that intends to make early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further its mission to Cultivate a Better World and help accelerate its aggressive growth plans. As a people-first company, Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its teams as well as increase access and convenience for its guests. Investments may include innovations in farming and supply chain, advanced robotics, alternative proteins, and more.

    Through Cultivate Next, Chipotle also invested in Vebu, a product development company that works with food industry leaders to co-create intelligent automation and technology solutions. Earlier this year, Chipotle and Vebu unveiled the Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype that cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant's famous guacamole. 


    image courtesy of Chipotle

  • 6/21/2023

    Shiji and IPORT Partner to Transform Hotel Restaurant Operations with All-in-One Tablet and Payment Device Solution

    Shiji teaser logo

    Shiji, a global hospitality technology innovator, has partnered with IPORT, an award-winning manufacturer known for enhancing the usability of iPads and iPhones, to introduce an all-in-one software solution for hotel restaurants. This collaboration will provide hoteliers with a seamless combination of a tablet and payment device to maximize their F&B operations.

    The integrated iOS and payment device solution simplifies guest service for hotel restaurant servers, providing them with an effortless tool to cater to their guests' needs. As a certified Apple partner, Shiji and IPORT guarantee exceptional performance and reliability. Hoteliers can choose from multiple device options, including iPad Pro, iPad Mini, and iPhone, ensuring flexibility and compatibility with their operations.

    “IPORT products are built around modularity and flexibility that empower our hospitality customers to do more with the iOS platform. We are thrilled to partner with a leading iPad and iPhone cloud PMS and POS platform provider like Shiji,” said Chris Lawson, Head of Partnerships, IPORT. “We look forward to innovating with Shiji in disrupting legacy, monolithic providers who have limited the industry from harnessing the power of iOS and mobility. The future is bright, and the possibilities are endless with IPORT, iOS, and Shiji.”

    "The partnership with IPORT is a significant milestone for Shiji in our commitment to provide innovative technology solutions for the hospitality industry," said Ryan King, Senior Vice President of Shiji in the Americas. "By combining our expertise with IPORT’s hardware solutions, we empower hoteliers to streamline restaurant operations and deliver exceptional guest experiences. This collaboration represents another step forward in our dedication to driving success in the Americas, and globally."

    The tablet and payment device solution seamlessly integrates with multiple payment gateways, allowing hoteliers to choose the system that best suits their needs. By simplifying the payment process, it reduces operational complexities, minimizes errors, and saves valuable time and resources for hoteliers.

  • 10/6/2023

    Blackbird Lab Raises $24M for Blockchain-Based Restaurant Loyalty

    loyalty buttons

    Blackbird Labs, a hospitality technology company whose platform helps restaurants directly connect and reward their guests, as well as incentivize these customers to return, has raised a $24 Million Series A round.

    Blackbird was founded in 2022 by Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Eater and Resy.

    The new funding will help Blackbird scale operations as it meets an ever growing need from leading restaurants across the country for an all new solution that will help them drive customer loyalty and create new revenue streams.

    The round was led by a16z, with participation from Amex Ventures and Bolt by QED, as well as the company's previous seed investors like Union Square Ventures, Shine, Variant, plus restaurant groups: Quality Branded, Rustic Canyon Family, Souvla and Brooks Reitz.

    In just a few short months, Blackbird has struck a chord with over 80 restaurants in the industry, with 22 restaurants already live. This set includes New York restaurants like: Anton's, Corner Bar, Crown Shy, Di An Di, Ensenada, Ernesto's, estela, Fish Cheeks, Freeman's, Francie, gertrude's, Hanoi House, Joseph Leonard, Momofuku, Nami Nori, Principe, Overstory, and SAGA; Jon & Vinny's (LA), Souvla (San Francisco), Daytrip (Oakland), Little Jack's Tavern (Charleston), The Daily (Charleston), Melfi's (Charleston), Razza Pizza (Jersey City). 


    How it Works 

    With Blackbird's advanced platform, restaurants can seamlessly gather insights, including their diners' likes and dislikes, where they prefer to sit, and how many times they've visited the establishment. As today's dining landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, with little direct connectivity between guests and restaurants, Blackbird's technology helps restaurants get to really know their patrons. Operators can consistently surprise and delight their customers, while giving them the special feeling that they are very important and appreciated regulars, sparking increased and ongoing loyalty to the restaurant.

    For diners, Blackbird is also incredibly easy to use. When customers arrive at a restaurant, they simply tap their phone on a Blackbird NFC reader and enter their phone number to create their membership. From there they start leveling up their regular status with each subsequent tap-in, thus unlocking benefits and insider perks like surprise off menu items and even a direct SMS concierge. They also earn $FLY, Blackbird's non-transferable native token, which opens up a world of possibility. Diners can use their $FLY to power up for specific items they might want or they can also use them for membership rewards with a specific restaurant. Blackbird users also don't need to have a pre-existing web3 wallet. The company works with Privy to provide embedded wallets, so users who simply sign in with their phone number get a self-custodial wallet for use. Users are able to manage their memberships, view $FLY balance, monitor recent activity and message restaurants all through the Blackbird app.

    "Web3 enables a powerful, new way for restaurants and guests to connect, making each dining experience unique and more meaningful," said Arianna Simpson, General Partner at a16z crypto. "...With just a few taps, diners can unlock new loyalty programs that only web3 technology can provide."

    With its new funding, Blackbird also has plans to rapidly expand its offering into new markets, as it continues to roll out new features like: $FLY Redemption, which empowers consumers to use their accumulated $FLY points to "power up" and redeem perks either in the moment or in a future planned visit at participating Blackbird restaurants. The company will also be introducing an all-new referral program, giving diners the ability to text their friend a link to become members at a specific restaurant, where they will gain access to an entirely new and exclusive slate of offerings. Diners will also be able to opt into global data sharing, where restaurants will gain visibility into their full dining history and any associated insights, in exchange for providing more $FLY on regular dining activity like tap-ins.

    "Blackbird offers a compelling new platform with the potential to evolve how restaurants deliver on loyalty and supercharge the insights they need to thrive," said Matt Sueoka, Global Head of Amex Ventures. "We are thrilled to back Blackbird as they explore how to leverage web3 technology to positively transform the dining experience for consumers and the restaurant industry."

    For more information on Blackbird,  visit

  • 10/9/2023

    Historic Hotels of America Names Spectrum Enterprise as a Technology Alliance Partner

    logo, company name

     Spectrum Enterprise, a part of Charter Communications, announced today that it has been named an Alliance Partner by Historic Hotels of America®, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation for recognizing noteworthy historic hotels, as a preferred technology solutions provider. Through Historic Hotels of America’s Alliance Partners program, Spectrum Enterprise will be providing member properties with an easy way to modernize their digital infrastructure to help improve staff operational efficiencies and enhance the guest experience while maintaining the establishments’ distinguished heritage.

    “Hotels inducted into Historic Hotels of America have contributed to a significant part of the history in each of their communities – including hosting U.S. Presidents, First Ladies, and their families; world leaders, authors, composers, celebrities, and guests celebrating special occasions,” said Lawrence Horwitz, Executive Vice President, Historic Hotels of America and Historic Hotels Worldwide. “Many have magnificent art collections, spectacular landscapes and gardens, and legendary golf courses. Spectrum Enterprise will make it easier for our members to further grow their legacies and attract generations to come by ensuring that their network operations are built on a digital infrastructure that can flex and adapt to new technology.”

    Today’s guests expect a digital first experience in connectivity and hotel amenities when traveling, including easy access to entertainment streaming and hotel services using personal devices. Spectrum Enterprise technology solutions and managed services can support staff, delight guests and help hoteliers maximize their resources to handle increasing bandwidth demands on a hotel’s network. A modern digital infrastructure is necessary to enable these solutions and scale as the business at America’s historic properties grows.

    “Inducted hotels in Historic Hotels of America are dedicated to preserving the legacy of the past, but their properties need to rely on modern technologies to ensure that they continue to operate successfully in a digital world,” said Richard Twilley, Group Vice President, Vertical Markets at Spectrum Enterprise. “We will work with each property to design an overall solution that helps ensure that they will continue to stand the test of time with their guests.”

    Spectrum Enterprise is already working with some hotels who are part of Historic Hotels of America. Hoteliers can choose from many different Spectrum Enterprise technology solutions on its scalable, nationwide fiber network, including Enterprise Network EdgeManaged Network EdgeFiber Internet AccessManaged Network WiFiFiber Connect Plus TVTV Streaming Access and Unified Communications.

  • 10/9/2023

    Harri Raises $43M in Growth Equity Capital

    Harri funding logo

    Harri, a Frontline Employee Experience platform provider, announced details of its latest funding, which included the close of its Series B. The growth equity round was led by New York-based Atalaya Capital Management, with additional participation from existing investor Golub Growth, an affiliate of market-leading direct lender Golub Capital, and prominent undisclosed strategic investors. Harri will use the $43M in growth equity financing to deliver continued innovation, accelerate growth, and scale in response to market demand.

    According to researchers at Gartner, there are approximately 2.7 billion frontline workers worldwide, more than double the number of desk-based workers. Frontline workers rely on mobile-first applications, which is why Harri’s Frontline Employee Experience platform, the only end-to-end solution built natively for the needs of frontline employees and managers, has garnered such significant momentum in the hospitality sector. Harri’s frontline worker-first platform addresses the unique human capital management needs across the entire employee lifecycle from talent acquisition through modern workforce management and talent development.

    The Harri Frontline Employee Experience platform is lauded by users for its ease of use, comprehensiveness, powerful scheduling capabilities, and unmatched depth of compliance capabilities unique to frontline employers and franchise systems.

    Harri’s customer base spans the spectrum of marquee operators across the hotel and restaurant industries including Jersey Mike’s, Subway, McDonald’s, Hawaiian Bros., José Andrés Group, Wolfgang Puck, Hawksmoor, Firmdale Hotels, and Radisson Hotel Group.

    Luke Fryer, CEO of Harri, said, “Never before has there been a clearer link between employee and business performance for service industries. The components of a high-performing team are also more complex and dynamic than operators have ever experienced. Harri is playing the long game, we’re building solutions that help our clients navigate seemingly endless challenges and seize timely opportunities related to their most valuable resource. Our investors’ confidence in Harri and valuable guidance will be instrumental as we expand our go-to-market strategies as well as deepen our business intelligence and intentional AI solutions that increase worker productivity, satisfaction, retention, and ultimately, profitability.”

    “We are thrilled to partner with Harri and its management team as the company continues to build on its success within the hospitality enterprise software vertical,” said Kyle Goss, Principal at Atalaya and a member of the firm’s corporate investing team.  “Our investment stands out as a great example of our capability to provide flexible capital to growing businesses.”

    “We are proud to be a long-term partner to Harri as they revolutionize the frontline employee experience,” said Robert Sverbilov, Managing Director at Golub Growth. “Harri continues to build unique, innovative solutions with its platform, and we look forward to supporting the company’s continued growth and expansion.”

  • 10/9/2023

    TourReview Lifts Waitlist to 300 Tour Operators, Enabling Access to Automated Customer Reviews System

    TourReview logo

    TourReview, an online reputation management platform for tour operators, announced that its waitlist of more than 300 tour operators across the U.S. is now lifted. The platform offers a complete automated system for users to easily access customer review data and recommendations to improve their online presence. TourReview and Arival are also announcing winners of the Spotlight Awards at Arival 360 in Orlando today, recognizing tour operators across different travel sectors. 

    With the tourism industry totaling approximately $2 trillion in the U.S. this year, the competition among tour operators has increased, and exceeding travelers’ expectations today is crucial. In fact, 93% of global travelers say their travel booking decisions are impacted by online reviews. TourReview is helping tour businesses understand transparent customer satisfaction by using AI and business intelligence to aggregate data from millions of reviews across online travel agencies including Expedia, GetYourGuide, Google, Klook, Tiqets, Tripadvisor (excluding duplicate reviews also on Viator), and Viator. Now with TourReview’s platform update, users can navigate this data and customer guidance with complete autonomy. 

    “The tourism industry has significantly evolved in the last 20 years and a tour operator’s reputation in-person is just as important online with the internet and review applications being everyone’s go-to source for research and validation,” said Jose Arozarena, CEO of TourReview. “With my team’s deep understanding of this industry, we developed a data-driven, robust business intelligence system so every tour business gains access to their data, control what insights they want to see, and receive strategic direction on an all-in-one platform.”

    TourReview partnered with Arival on the Spotlight Awards to recognize the best in-destination companies in the industry based on TourReview’s impartial software, collating information from over a dozen online platforms and millions of customer reviews. The finalists have been chosen across five distinct categories: Sightseeing Tours, Attractions, Day Tours and Excursions, Activities, and Food, Drink, and Gastronomic Tours. The winners will be announced at Arival 360 in Orlando today, October 10 at 5:30 p.m. 

    “It’s fantastic to see so many companies across the travel industry consistently impressing their customers,” said Douglas Quinby, co-founder and CEO of Arival. “Tours and experience companies have a unique opportunity to get close to their customers, giving them experiences that they’ll remember for years to come; it’s clear that so many brands are investing the time and care in understanding what their customers really want. I’m excited that we've worked with TourReview to help recognize the travel companies for their outstanding contribution to the industry.”

    TourReview’s CEO Jose Arozarena will conduct a live demo of the platform and discuss the benefits of it at Arival 360’s Demo Lab on Wednesday, October 11 at 11 a.m. The company plans to release more features in the coming months to continue supporting tour operators around the world to better their business model and surpass customer excellence. 

  • Show MoreShow More
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds