News Briefs

  • 10/9/2023

    Hoteliers ‘Get Hoppy’ Over Reopening of Gregg Hopkins & Associates Consultancy

    Greg Hopkins Consultancy logo

     Gregg Hopkins is once again bringing insight, experience and passion to the hospitality advisory services business. Recently the 40-year hospitality industry veteran re-opened his travel and hospitality focused consultancy, Gregg Hopkins & Associates (GH&A), to serve as a trusted technology advisor for hotels, resorts, restaurants and clubs, and a hands-on mentor for hospitality technology company executives and front-line marketing and sales personnel.

    “It’s been a rough few years in hospitality and it’s time that today’s owners and operators fall back in love with the reasons they chose this industry in the first place,” Hopkins said. “There is a lot to do to keep travelers coming back. That’s why I re-opened GH&A — to do everything today’s operators do not have time to do . . . don’t know how to do . . . and simply don’t want to do because they are too busy serving guests with limited resources. For instance, many hotel companies and independents say they would benefit from a full-time chief technology officer, but they don’t have the finances to support it. GH&A will come in, help standardize the company’s technology across their portfolio, then ensure that it stays up and running all on an outsourced consulting basis. We can help evaluate projects, conduct research, and even advise on global expansion and sales strategies.

    “I’m passionate about the hotel business and have built a tremendous career developing, advising, and marketing some of the industry’s most innovative technologies,” he said. “With the industry stabilizing, I feel it’s time to get back to doing what I love the most — engaging with hoteliers to address their challenges — from digital transformation, tech stack modernization, and operational needs/gap analysis, to cloud migration, enterprise analytics, procurement services, project management and more.”

    ‘Get Hoppy’ Consulting Services

    A professional service offering of GH&A is “Get Hoppy Consulting.” Here hoteliers and technology vendors can receive assistance with strategic planning, technology, business development, sales leadership, operations, financial planning, and marketing.

    Get Hoppy Consulting focuses on two areas:

    1. Attaché Technology Consulting for Hotels, Resorts, Restaurants, & Clubs – Get Hoppy will access a hotel’s existing technology framework, infrastructure, security, distribution, sales and operational controls, labor efficiencies, associated agreements, and related costs to uncover technology barriers to operations and use a unique blend of business and technology experience to solve your unique challenges. Via proven methodologies, tools, and best practices, Get Hoppy will fast-track a hotel’s digital business transformation while leveraging technology to reduce costs.

    It will also work with vendors on its clients’ behalf to procure solutions and services while understanding the capital and/or operating expenses associated with the selection of the technology and communications infrastructure. Finally, Get Hoppy will provide complete project oversight on planning and deployment of the selected technologies and related infrastructure while ensuring timely coordination of the overall project timeline.

    “Doing assessments of a hotel’s current tech stack is critical today so that operators can mitigate vendor or technology encumbrances,” Hopkins said. “Get Hoppy will not only uncover operational inefficiencies in how solutions are being used – or not used, but we will fix what is broken or find something new to replace the old system. We have the astute ability to negotiate with vendors and select the best fitting partner. Then, we will manage and oversee new technology from a property perspective on time and within budget, including streamlining the API process. Properties that are not optimizing solutions effectively and executing against their technology strategy need to Get Hoppy.”

    1. Ascend Business Advisory for Travel & Hospitality Technology Companies – Get Hoppy works with owners, operators and their teams to address growth challenges as opportunities, including creating strategic marketing frameworks and goals, planning operational guidance for expansion strategies, defining product roadmap development requirements, as well as product diversification strategies — all critical components to the overall business growth strategy.

    Get Hoppy’s marketing and sales capabilities include brand strategy, customer relationship management, sales optimization, channel strategies, pricing, customer segmentation, new product development, product portfolio optimization, and marketing strategy. The company helps hoteliers maximize the business results from major initiatives and aids executives with evaluating the case for investment, set up projects for success—or place current projects on the right track—to ensure they capture value when implementing new systems and programs.

    Get Hoppy is also available to execute full trade show management, including but not limited to exposition coordination, exhibit design, on-site management, social functions, post event surveys, and wrap up. GH&A will deliver experiences that move people to engage with a brand and act, whether when planning a company’s special event, such as a Consultant’s Summit, Customer Advisory Board, or Company Sales Meeting.

    “Whether you are a young business just getting off the ground, or an established one this is looking to evaluate current strategies and their effectiveness, we are ready to provide experienced strategic advisory services to help take businesses into the future with success beyond their wildest dreams,” Hopkins said.

    Prior to the re-launch of GH&A, Hopkins served as CEO of PROVision Partners. His professional career is highlighted with executive roles as VP of Strategic Marketing for Quore; Chief Sales and Marketing Officer for Intelity; VP of Global Marketing for Newmarket International & Amadeus Hospitality; Founder, President, and CEO of Libra OnDemand; Chief Business Officer of MAI Systems & SoftBrands Hospitality; and VP of Technology & Distribution for Palmer Hospitality Group. Hopkins has served, or currently serves, as a committee member of select organizations and industry associations including the HFTP Executive HITEC Vendor Council, HTNG Workgroups, the MPI Foundation Global Board of Trustees, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management, and as a member of various Board of Advisors for hospitality technology organizations.

    People are ‘Hoppy’ with GH&A

    “Gregg has been a mentor throughout my career and provided priceless business and marketing advice. He is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and very well respected in the industry. I am more than happy to recommend Gregg Hopkins & Associates to my friends and colleagues.” — Frank Wolfe, CEO, HFTP

    “As an entrepreneur in the hospitality technology sector, Gregg has consistently demonstrated his expertise and leadership. His dedication to improving the guest experience is unparalleled. His vision and execution have led to groundbreaking solutions for businesses in this space and he would be an asset to any team.” — Mike Blake, Chief Technology Officer, American Hotel & Lodging Association

    “Gregg understands the workings of the hospitality industry and has a deep knowledge of technology. And I’m pretty sure he knows everyone in the industry, too. His all-in marketing strategy and approach to messaging embraces all elements of the media, which is something I admire. His marketing strategies are fun and sometimes push the limits of a media company, but they create important, relevant, and interesting messaging that reach the audience – which is the ultimate goal.”  — Geneva Rinehart, SVP & Managing Editor, Hospitality Upgrade

    In addition to serving as an industry leading consultant, Hopkins is a published contributor of content to the hospitality trades, and a participant in industry webinars, roundtables and podcasts.

     

  • 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, Chipotle.com, 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 https://www.blackbird.xyz/.

  • 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.”

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