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

  • 10/23/2023

    NYU SPS, HBX Group, and Wayra Look to Virtual Reality and Metaverse for Second TravelTech Lab Innovation Challenge

    HBX Group, a B2B TravelTech ecosystem player, Wayra, Telefónica's leading open innovation program, and the NYU School of Professional Studies (NYU SPS) Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality have joined forces to launch the second TravelTech Lab by HBX Group innovation challenge to redesign the future of travel.
    The companies are calling on startups around the world, as well as affiliated students, to submit ideas on how emerging augmented technologies, such as virtual reality and the metaverse, can be adopted in the B2B travel arena to improve operational efficiencies and remove friction from the end traveler experience to create more enjoyable trips from the time they book to when they return home.
    José María Pestaña, chief innovation officer at HBX Group, said: “Bringing our innovation partners and the startup community together is a unique opportunity for us all to not only learn and share ideas, but provide a platform to bring about real change in the TravelTech arena. I’m excited to see what ideas are put forward and how we will be able to implement these to not only improve our tech capabilities but also inspire future trips for the traveller of tomorrow.”
    This second TravelTech Lab challenge comes months after the inaugural contest and just eight months after the launch of the innovation hub, which is based at HBX Group’s headquarters in Palma, Mallorca (Spain). The first event attracted submissions from 65 startups from across the world including South Africa, Colombia and Spain. Of these, HBX Group is now collaborating with the three finalists.
    Startups selected to join the TravelTech Lab by HBX Group will not only be given expert advice and guidance from industry experts, but they will also join Wayra's innovation ecosystem and work directly with HBX Group’s teams to develop collaboration opportunities. There is also a grant of up to €40,000 available from HBX Group to help bring their idea to life. All startups will be able to work with other like-minded entrepreneurs at Wayra’s 7 hubs in Europe and Latin America, as well as at HBX Group’s hubs in Mallorca and Madrid.
    “It is a privilege for Wayra to strengthen our alliance and commitment with HBX Group- to make available all our knowledge of the international entrepreneurial ecosystem, and to promote technological evolution in the travel sector. It is a key element of our economy, as tourism is one of the most important engines of our country and corresponds to 20% of Spanish GDP,” said Andrés Saborido, managing director, Wayra.
    In further support of the challenge, NYU SPS hosted a students' hackathon, collaborating with industry professionals chosen from HBX Group’s partners in the U.S. to refine their solutions and gain a deeper understanding of current pain points within the hospitality sector. The response was very positive, with 26 students taking part.
    “The TravelTech sector is growing every day,” said Richie Karaburun, MBA, DPS, clinical associate professor and Director of the Tisch Center’s HI Hub Incubator Program. “We look forward to working with HBX Group and Wayra on this challenge to find the next augmented technology innovator who can help change and evolve our industry to create better travel experiences worldwide.”
  • 10/23/2023

    Tripadvisor Launches AI-Powered Hotel Review Summaries

    logo, company name

    Following Tripadvisor’s July launch and months of successful public beta testing of an AI-powered travel itinerary generator, Tripadvisor announces a new AI-driven feature that summarizes reviews to give travelers a brief, digestible overview of each hotel. 

    How it works: Now visible to a subset of users, frequently-reviewed hotels* on Tripadvisor display a brief summary of their attributes, powered by AI. These summaries compile popular themes and details from the reviews and opinions on Tripadvisor from real travelers who have visited these hotels. The feature will roll out progressively to English-language users in the U.S. and Canada over the next few weeks 

    This feature also summarizes community perspectives on key attributes of quality about each hotel such as location, atmosphere, or rooms. Now, when deciding where to stay, travelers have access to rich, concise content so they can book with more confidence. 

    While there are other examples of AI-powered review summaries, Tripadvisor’s approach is noteworthy and unique because it enables travelers to more easily find specific reviews about each attribute. For example, travelers can see the set of real traveler reviews that contributed to an assessment of a “central” location. This proof point helps instill confidence in both travelers and hotel owners about where the content is derived from.  

    “Tripadvisor continues to seek opportunities to combine generative AI with our platform’s wealth of review and traveler intent data to provide more valuable and trustworthy guidance for our members,” said Sanjay Raman, Chief Product Officer at Tripadvisor. “We believe this update helps travelers easily discover the most important information about a hotel, enabling them to make faster decisions and ultimately plan better trips.”

    Both travelers and owners can provide feedback about any AI-generated hotel review summary. Tripadvisor plans to scale this feature in the future to include more travel categories, such as restaurants and things to do, as well as make it available in more markets and on native app platforms. 

    New Updates to AI-Powered “Trips” Planning Tool 

    In addition to review summaries, Tripadvisor improved upon its Trips product with the following key updates:

    • Inclusion of hotels in AI-powered itinerary recommendations. 
    • Dynamic activities that each destination is known for are now included in the prompt for interests when travelers are creating an itinerary – for instance, Irish whiskey distilleries in Dublin.
    • Itinerary recommendations organized by proximity, grouped by day, and within a day, to allow travelers to minimize their travel time between recommended places. 
    • Personalized “For You” recommendations served inside the Trips product, based on each users’ saves.  

    These updates, all currently live, offer more personalized, helpful guidance for travelers while they plan. Tripadvisor will continue to upgrade the Trips product in the coming months in its mission to help make everyone a better traveler.

  • 10/23/2023

    P.F. Chang's Names New CEO

    P.F. Chang's  China Bistro, Inc.  announced that Eduardo Luz has been appointed the company's Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President.

    Luz brings extensive experience from Panera Bread, where he served as Chief Brand & Concept Officer, leading all disciplines driving profitable sales and brand equity. These include strategy, channel P&Ls, digital, loyalty, subscriptions, pricing, culinary, guest experience, advertising, design, media, and sustainability. Before Panera, Mr. Luz served in various leadership positions at The Kraft Heinz Company including Global Brand Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for the U.S., President of the Grocery Business Unit, and Zone President North America for H.J. Heinz. Mr. Luz also served as CEO for 8Greens, a digital wellness startup.  

    "...I believe that P.F. Chang's has a tremendous omni-channel opportunity, both domestically and abroad," Luz said. "We will broaden our reach as we offer high-quality Asian cuisine and hospitality, proudly serving freshly prepared, chef-created dishes with a differentiated guest experience."

    Worldwide, P.F. Chang's has more than 300 restaurants in 22 countries and U.S. airport locations, including a growing number of convenient P.F. Chang's To Go locations offering takeout and delivery.

  • 10/23/2023

    Playa Bowls Reveals New CMO

    playa bowls logo

    Playa Bowls announced Nicolle DuBose as Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). As CMO, DuBose will be responsible for overseeing all aspects of Playa Bowls' marketing efforts, including brand strategy, digital marketing, social media, and customer engagement initiatives.

    With more than 20 years of marketing experience in the food and beverage industry, DuBose's strategic thinking, creativity, and results-driven approach has made her a respected figure in the field. She is well-known for her ability to develop and execute marketing strategies that resonate with consumers and drive business growth. Most recently, DuBose was the Vice President and Head of Marketing for Schlotzsky's at Focus Brands. Prior to that role, DuBose led marketing efforts for additional brands under the Focus umbrella including Carvel, Cinnabon, and Moe's Southwest Grill. 

    DuBose succeeds Playa Bowls' Co-Founder Abby Taylor, who will remain engaged in the business as Chief Branding Officer and continue to play a critical role in Playa Bowls' marketing efforts. 

    Since its inception in 2014, Playa Bowls has emerged as a leader in the national superfruit bowl shop segment. Today, the brand has over 200 shops systemwide, operating in 22 states. 

  • 10/23/2023

    Foodtastic Acquires Noodlebox

    handshake partnership

    Foodtastic Inc., a franchisor of restaurant brands in Canada, announced its recent agreement to acquire QSR Noodlebox. This strategic acquisition marks a significant milestone for Foodtastic as it continues to expand its presence in the quick service restaurant segment. 

    "We are delighted to welcome Noodlebox into the Foodtastic family," said Peter Mammas, President and CEO of Foodtastic. "Noodlebox's reputation as a top-tier Quick Service Restaurant brand aligns perfectly with our commitment to providing exceptional dining experiences to our customers. We look forward to working closely with all our new franchisees and driving the growth of the Noodlebox brand across Canada."

    Dustin May, CEO of Noodlebox added, "it is with great pleasure that I announce the sale of Noodlebox, to Foodtastic. We believe that Foodtastic is the perfect home for Noodlebox, and that together we will continue to uphold the values and quality that Noodlebox is known for."

    Noodlebox has 46 locations and a 50 in the development pipeline.

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