News Briefs

  • 10/17/2023

    Makeready Partners with PTO Exchange

    makeready logo

    Makeready, a Dallas-based experience hospitality, restaurant and retail management group, announces a new benefits initiative in partnership with PTO Exchange, a company which enables employees to transfer unused PTO to different benefits. This year, Makeready became the first hospitality group to join forces with PTO Exchange, giving all Makeready employees the opportunity to transfer their unused paid time off to financial, wellness and philanthropic benefits. 

    “We are so pleased to be partnering with PTO Exchange to bring these unique benefits to our deserving employees,” said Christine Magrann, president and COO of Makeready. “We strive to create unique experiences for our guests while providing the best work environment for our rapidly growing team, and this partnership allows us to continue this work.”

    Makeready’s partnership with PTO Exchange offers employees benefits including travel, education, 401K contributions, HSA savings account and philanthropic donations, among others. Outside of this benefit, Makeready incorporates a variety of wellness initiatives including free counseling services and company-wide wellness programs including the upcoming April Stress Awareness Month, which provides employees the opportunity to participate in different ways to deal with stress. Makeready also offers a student loan repayment program and tuition assistance program to help with financial and intellectual wellness.

    The partnership with PTO Exchange is a reflection of Makeready’s brand growth, with new properties on the horizon and streamlining processes in the form of a newly launched GDS system. 

    Headquartered in Dallas, Makeready was founded in 2015 and develops unique experiences that are an essential part of each community, cultivating deep, emotional connections across guests, teams and local brands. Since its conception, the hospitality company has grown its portfolio to more than nine hotels and 24 restaurants, bars and coffee shops, in discerning locations such as Charleston, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Savannah, Cape Neddick, Phoenix, and Columbus, with more exciting developments on the horizon for 2024. 

  • 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

  • 10/17/2023

    HBX Group Marks Start of New Era for Hotelbeds

    HBX logo

    Hotelbeds has launched its new group brand, HBX Group to lead the B2B TravelTech company into the next phase of its evolution.

    Two years on from its shift to being a leader in the TravelTech space, the company is today establishing itself as a global travel ecosystem player, introducing new product lines to meet the needs of the end consumer as they seek a frictionless end-to-end travel experience.

    “As we continue our transformation as a world-leading TravelTech company, HBX Group simplifies our structure into four distinct brands under our new umbrella,” said CEO Nicolas Huss. “We have completely rebuilt our tech stack over the past year to support this shift and better serve our clients and partners by improving our reliability and number of self-service tools to maintain our market position.”

    HBX Group will go to market with a collection of best-in-class B2B solutions, each with a clear proposition and market focus that meets the needs of its growing and diverse client base across more than 190 global markets. These are:

    • Hotelbeds, who cater for the specific needs of hoteliers, tour operators, airlines and online travel agents
    • Bedsonline, exclusively serving the retail travel segment bringing together all the travel products they need to complete and serve their travellers’ needs
    • Roiback, the HotelTech partner for independent hotels and chains seeking growth through direct channel solutions
    • TravelStack, providing all products, services and solutions to businesses looking to enter into the lucrative travel arena

    HBX Group will also be vastly simplifying its brand architecture, to provide a much clearer and streamlined experience for all partners. As a result, existing product brands including last minute travel and Carnect, will continue to operate but will eventually be fully integrated into the HBX Group ecosystem. Hotelbeds’ long-standing flagship event, the MarketHub, as well as its innovation hub, the TravelTech Lab, will also be endorsed by HBX Group.

    Technology Rebuild

    HBX Group will be underpinned by new technology, which has been re-engineered in just under one year. The new HBX Group transaction platform is an open-source relational database management system emphasising extensibility and SQL compliance, allowing for more effective use of data and unlimited scalability. This complete re-platforming, re-architecture and new cloud based infrastructure enables HBX to have a global, cloud-based modern tech stack on which to build its future ecosystem strategy.

    The technological transformation effectively futureproofs the company, with further functional changes easier to implement and benefits reaped by agents through easier access to more accurate data, reduced downtime and quicker responses. 

    The company has refactored all visible channels – including its websites – which are now device agnostic. The changes are driving tangible increase in booking conversion and have been achieved for a capital expenditure of €11 million.

    Ecosystem creation

    HBX Group is an ecosystem player within the world of travel. By combining the company’s four pillars – making up the “X” – technology, data, product and people, HBX Group is better-placed to support its clients and partners by offering the full scope of travel products, including ancillary services, and selling them in one package. It also encompasses the multiplier effect businesses that choose to work with the Group will benefit from.

    “Being an ecosystem player enables us to provide our customers with interconnected products and services, which complement each other and which, when combined and sold seamlessly together, gives our clients what they want, when they want it.” adds Nicolas Huss. “It also streamlines the buying process while enabling clients to upsell ancillary products, enhancing their business and providing frictionless travel to the end consumer.”

    Supporting the transition into an ecosystem player, Hotelbeds’ accommodation, mobility and attractions sales teams have been brought together as part of the new Group infrastructure, enabling them to cross-sell all product lines and streamline client relationships as they will now have one point of contact for all sales activity.

    New fintech solutions

    As part of the evolution to HBX Group, the company will introduce fintech products in 2024, including travel insurance, payment solutions, and multi-currency solutions. These products will be embedded into the company’s core business to offer its clients and partners these services across their total business volumes.

    The size of these opportunities is already large and growing. For example the travel insurance sector alone is currently worth €15 billion and is expected to grow to €99bn by 2030, according to research by Spherical Insights & Consulting.

    “As travelers increasingly seek the connected trip experience with all aspects of their travel included in the same ticket, we must ensure we’re meeting this need through travel insurance and associated financial products,” added Nicolas Huss. “We have offered hotels since our inception in 2001, later adding car hire, transfers and attractions. Financial services are the natural next step in our business development and one our clients have asked us to provide.”

    Learn more about HBX Group at hbxgroup.com.

  • 10/17/2023

    Generation Privacy: Younger Consumers Are 7 Times More Likely to Exercise their Data Rights, New Cisco Survey Shows

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    Cisco published its 2023 Consumer Privacy Survey*, an annual global review of consumers' perceptions and behaviors on data privacy. This year's survey highlights how younger consumers are taking deliberate action to protect their privacy, as 42% of consumers aged 18-24 exercise their Data Subject Access Rights, compared with just 6% for consumers 75 and older. Many say they have lost trust in organizations because of their use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and 50% of respondents look to the government to set rules and enforce privacy protections. The survey also provides early insights on Generative AI (Gen AI), revealing that only 12% of respondents identify as regular users. 

    Artificial Intelligence and Privacy Concerns 
    From shopping to streaming services and to healthcare, 48% of survey respondents agree that AI can be useful in improving their lives. A majority of respondents (54%) said they are willing to share their anonymized personal data to help improve AI products and decision-making.  

    Nevertheless, 62% of surveyed consumers expressed concern about how organizations are using their personal data for AI today, with 60% saying that they have already lost trust in organizations because of their AI use. Organizations can implement measures to (re)gain customer trust, such as auditing products and solutions for bias, being more transparent and explaining how the AI works, ensuring human involvement, and instituting an AI Ethics Management Program. 

    "The world is watching how companies will approach AI in a responsible way," said Dev Stahlkopf, Cisco Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer. "For Cisco, this means keeping a keen focus on respecting privacy and human rights as we incorporate AI technology."  

    Generative AI: The Privacy Contradiction 
    The survey also provides an early snapshot of the use of Gen AI and some of the potential risks and privacy challenges. Generative AI is still relatively new to most people. Over half (52%) of survey respondents said they were not aware of it.  

    Of those that use Gen AI regularly (12%), only half indicated that they were refraining from entering personal or confidential information into Gen AI applications. It is notable that the other 50% may indeed be entering personal or confidential information. This is despite 88% of respondents indicating that they would be "Somewhat" or "Very" concerned if their data entered in Gen AI were to be shared. 

    Young Consumers Championing Data Privacy 
    This year, 33% of respondents qualify as "Privacy Actives": they care about privacy, are willing to act to protect it, and have acted, for example by switching companies or providers because of their data policies or data sharing practices. Younger consumers are the most willing to take action to protect their privacy. Forty-two percent of consumers, aged 18-34, are Privacy Actives, a percentage that steadily decreases with age.  

    The percentage of consumers requesting data deletions or change rose to 19%, up from 14% last year. Again, this is highly correlated with age: thirty-two percent of consumers aged 18-24 make data deletion or change requests compared to only 4% of older consumers.  

    Public awareness of privacy laws continues to be relatively low with 46% of respondents aware of their country's privacy law. Those who are aware of the law are more likely to feel they can adequately protect their data: only 40% of those unaware of their country's law feel they can protect their data compared to 74% of those who are aware of the law. Sixty-eight percent of consumers aged 18-24 feel they can protect their data, and this gradually declines to 47% of consumers over age 65 saying so. 

    Role of Laws and Governments 
    Many consumers look to the government to set the standard of care and enforce privacy protections. Half (50%) of respondents said national or local government should have the primary role in protecting data, whereas 21% said private companies should be primarily responsible for protecting data.  

    "As governments pass laws and companies seek to build trust, consumers must also take action and use technology responsibly to protect their own privacy," says Harvey Jang, Cisco Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer.   

    Consumers are split on the value of data localization. Most have heard about such requirements, and 76% indicated initially that data localization might be good. However, when considering the cost associated with it, thereby making products and services more expensive, only 44% were in favor of data localization.   

  • 10/15/2023

    Denny’s Hires Pankaj Patra as Chief Digital and Technology Officer

    Denny's

     Denny’s Corporation announced the hiring of Pankaj Patra as Chief Digital and Technology Officer (CDTO), effective October 30. This is a newly created enterprise role that will include support for Denny’s and Keke’s. Patra will be responsible for accelerating the company’s capabilities across all specialties within the Digital, Technology and Information functions.

    Patra comes to Denny’s from Brinker International, Inc., where he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer, responsible for overseeing information technology and data security for the company and its restaurants brands. Patra brings 25 years of experience as an innovative enterprise technology architect, digital strategist and information technology leader.

    “Denny’s is an iconic restaurant company that understands and values the connection between great people and smart technology. I am looking forward to working collaboratively across the company to identify opportunities for improvement and implement exciting, innovative, transformative solutions,” said Patra.

    Patra earned his undergraduate degree from the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela and went on to attain his MBA from Southern Methodist University. He is a member of the Dallas chapter of the International Food and Beverage Technology Association.

    Patra is based in Dallas. Michael Furlow, Denny’s Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, will remain on staff through the end of the year to support the transition. For more information, please visit dennys.com.

  • 10/17/2023

    WorkJam Expands Partnership with Blue Yonder

    handshake deal

    WorkJam has expanded its long-term partnership with Blue Yonder, a provider of  digital supply chain transformation and omni-channel commerce fulfillment. This expanded partnership will seamlessly bring together the best of Blue Yonder’s Workforce Management (WFM) solution and WorkJam’s digital frontline workplace to unlock value for joint customers.

    Enterprise customers that use Blue Yonder’s WFM have long been able to access WorkJam’s Open Shift Marketplace, but now they will also be able to empower and fully orchestrate their frontline workforce with WorkJam’s integrated task management, two-way communications and frontline learning tools.

    “We’ve worked successfully with Blue Yonder for more than five years and are thrilled to hit this new milestone to offer the best solution on the market,” “By extending the integration of our solutions, we expand Blue Yonder’s offering and provide better value for headquarters and their frontline teams around the world. Our complementary solutions ensure that enterprises across the retail, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, and hospitality sectors can equip their frontline workers with tools and technology that improve productivity, engagement and retention,” said Rich Halbert, Chief Strategy Officer, WorkJam.

    Blue Yonder is on a mission to reinvent and reenergize the workforce management industry through innovation through composable microservices. By extending their partnership, WorkJam and Blue Yonder are leveraging their platforms’ synergies and providing their growing enterprise customer base with best-in-class solutions across the four operational pillars of frontline work—scheduling, task management, communications, and training and learning. Such collaboration helps customers generate operational efficiencies and realize significant returns on their digital transformation investments.

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