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

  • 10/10/2023

    Uber Adds Multi-Store Ordering

    uber eats logo

    Uber Eats users can now order from multi stores in one transaction. This feature will allow users to order from a second nearby restaurant, convenience, or liquor store in the same session, without paying an additional delivery fee. 

    Personalized Orders

    This builds upon Uber Eats' testing of ways to add items to an order—and brings a major expansion in the stores and restaurants available for bundling. Users can now build the cart they want from multiple Uber Eats merchants and have all items delivered together.

    Here’s how it works:

    1.After selecting items from a store’s menu and adding them to the cart, tap “Bundle another store” at the bottom of the menu
    2. Add items from a second store and then head to checkout

  • 10/10/2023

    Howard Anderson Promoted to Chief Operating Officer at Odyssey Resorts

    odyssey resorts logo

    Odyssey Resorts, largest owner and manager of Minnesota resort properties, announced today that Howard Anderson has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer.

    In this role, Anderson leads several of the organization’s key functions including sales and marketing, group sales and resort operations. He is responsible for developing and forming deeper partnerships with the company’s guests, team members and owners and ultimately building on Odyssey’s strong foundation of growth. He works across the company to anticipate and solve challenges, leverage, and evolve Odyssey Resorts’ brand, and achieve operational and financial goals.

    Anderson joined Odyssey Resorts in 2022 as Vice President of Strategic Planning. He has more than three decades of experience in the hospitality industry. He served as Vice President of Operations at ZMC Hotels before joining Odyssey Resorts. He is an accomplished leader, skilled at brand development, market planning, hotel management and financial execution. He has a deep knowledge of the current state of the hospitality business and is a collaborative thinker focused on achieving tangible goals and planning for future success.

    He received a B.A. from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. He is the past board chair of Hospitality Minnesota, a past president of the Minnesota Lodging Association and a member of the Minnesota Lodging Association’s “Minnesota Hospitality Hall of Fame.”

    Odyssey has been welcoming guests for nearly a generation. Odyssey manages nine distinct resort properties and specializes in creating memorable vacations with modern conveniences and high-quality guest service. The family of resorts is in the heart of the area’s many scenic locations, outdoor recreation activities, and shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations.

    The Odyssey Resorts portfolio includes East Bay Suites in Grand Marais, Caribou Highlands Lodge in Lutsen, Lutsen Sea Villas in Lutsen, the Mountain Inn in Lutsen, Breezy Point Cabins on Lake Superior in Two Harbors, Grand Superior Lodge in Two Harbors, Beacon Pointe Resort in Duluth and Ruttger’s Bay Lake Resort in Deerwood. In addition to being Minnesota’s largest developer of resort properties, Odyssey is also a leader in fractional vacation home ownership. To learn more, visit

    “As our company continues to grow and evolve having strong leadership becomes paramount. Since joining the team, Howard Anderson has proven to be an invaluable asset to Odyssey Resorts. He embodies our guiding principles, values, and dedication to providing the highest quality service to our valued guests and owners. Further, he is an enthusiastic and innovative leader. As our new Chief Operating Officer, Howard will continue to help us grow and thrive in the years to come,” said Kirk Schultz, CEO of Odyssey Resorts.

  • 10/10/2023

    Hotelbeds Signs Exclusive Partnership with Merlin Entertainments

    hotelbeds new teaser

    Hotelbeds and Merlin Entertainments have signed an exclusive distribution agreement for its six LEGOLAND® Hotels at LEGOLAND® Resorts in the United States.

    The two companies have had a long-standing successful theme parks and attractions partnership, but this new contract will be their only hotel offering. Encompassing LEGOLAND® New York Hotel, LEGOLAND® California Hotel, LEGOLAND® California Castle Hotel, LEGOLAND® Florida Hotel, LEGOLAND® Florida Pirate Island Hotel, and LEGOLAND® Florida Beach Retreat Resort, Hotelbeds will be the sole partner of B2B accommodation bookings globally.

    Chris Leonard, Managing Director of Mobility and Experiences at Hotelbeds, said: “This partnership marks a new phase in our relationship with Merlin and is an endorsement of our joint success to date. Thanks to our extensive global footprint, we are able to now support LEGOLAND® Hotels in attracting customers from around the world while also helping agents attract new customers seeking new holiday experiences.”

    Reservations made by travel agents will include access to LEGOLAND® Resort’s signature Halloween extravaganza “Brick-or-Treat” running on select nights until 29 October 2023.

    Additional benefits of staying at LEGOLAND® Hotels include:

    • Early access to LEGOLAND® theme parks
    • Easy access to the LEGOLAND® Water Park in California and Florida and Peppa Pig Theme Park in Florida
    • Complimentary breakfast

    “Bringing families with children ages 2 – 12 together to create awesome family memories is what we excel at and we’re excited Hotelbeds is able to work with us to offer families across the globe the unique LEGOLAND® experience,” said North America Director of Public Relations for Merlin Entertainments Julie Estrada.

    LEGOLAND® Hotels become part of Hotelbeds’ portfolio of more than 300,000 hotels and 16,000 experiences worldwide.

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