News Briefs

  • 10/24/2023

    Palmer Digital Group Completes Voice AI Pilot Program

    voice ai soundwaves

    Palmer Digital Group, a full-service supplier and installer of custom indoor and outdoor digital kiosks, display enclosures, and drive-thru digital menu boards, has successfully completed a pilot program with a major QSR that confirms interoperability between its outdoor digital menu board systems (PDG QSRDMB155) and third-party voice AI technology built into its network infrastructure. The eight-month pilot program was tested at six of the QSR’s flagship stores, and the new voice AI-enabled systems will begin deploying to stores early in 2024. Deployments are expected to continue into 2025.

    PDG has recently adjusted design characteristics to ensure protection and reliable operability for the new Voice AI technology across the entire PDG ODMB product line. This includes a camera enclosure with swivel to track customers as they order, special speaker and mic enclosures, and electronic component enclosures, all of which protect against weather-related intrusions, vandalism and other damage. PDG’s ODMB series offers single, double, and triple display configurations, with display sizes of 46, 49, and 55 inches.

    AI can provide a range of benefits for restaurant owners, from gaining insights into customer behaviors to automating tasks and improving efficiency. This customer was particularly interested in how Voice AI technology could bring additional layers of confidence to the customer, and shorten conversational flows to expedite the ordering process and reduce the time of each customer journey.

    PDG is also working with two large property developers to design custom AI-enabled outdoor touchscreen kiosks at large premium outlet malls. In this case, AI will be used to gather demographics for suggestive selling based primarily on age and gender. “The camera will play an important role here in gathering demographics once the customer initiates the Voice AI application through a query,” he said. “We worked very closely with this customer as well as our QSR customer to understanding the exact hardware and network infrastructure needed to support their AI visions.”

  • 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

  • 10/24/2023

    Guesty Expands Its Accounting Solution

    The Guesty Platform

    Guesty, a hospitality operations platform, is proud to announce the expansion of its accounting solution – Guesty Accounting – which now enables hospitality businesses to comply with North Carolina Trust Accounting (NCTA) regulations. With this announcement and a slew of innovative product transformations, Guesty is redefining financial management for property managers and setting a new industry standard for hospitality accounting solutions.

    By facilitating strict compliance with North Carolina Trust Accounting regulations, Guesty gives customers the confidence they need in their operations to ensure they are meeting the highest legal standards. Additionally, Guesty Accounting fosters stronger, more transparent relationships with property owners.

    “With our recent product innovations in accounting, Guesty has truly achieved an industry gold standard. Guesty’s customers can rely on our platform to effortlessly navigate the complexities of financial management, ensuring peace of mind and enabling them to focus on optimizing their rental operations and fostering owner trust,”  says Nadav Ravid, Guesty’s Director of Product Management.

    In addition to enabling NCTA compliance, Guesty Accounting has been redesigned with an intuitive interface that simplifies complex accounting tasks and automates processes in order to reduce the potential for human error. The result is pristine financial records, and time and resources saved. Another stand-apart innovation in the expanded product is that it enables end-to-end cash management control, offering comprehensive oversight of cash flow, from initial guest payment to final owner payout. Enhanced financial security measures, including locking accounting periods and systematic fund disbursement, ensure accuracy and integrity in financial reporting.

    “Guesty is committed to continuous innovation, ensuring that users have access to the fastest rate of feature releases in the industry so they can compete in a tough market and stay ahead of the curve,” says Amiad Soto, Guesty’s CEO and co-founder. “At Guesty, we invest every resource we have back into developing advanced technology and the result is solutions, like Accounting, that ensure businesses of every inventory type and every size stay relevant and are able to adapt in the fast-paced hospitality sector.” 

    Guesty Accounting's dynamic scalability supports businesses of all sizes, adapting to varying financial needs and evolving alongside company growth. Personalized reporting capabilities allow businesses to reflect their unique financial journeys and strategies, providing insights aligned with specific goals and practices.

    "Guesty Accounting is not only a game-changer for vacation rental and property managers, but also a glimpse into the future of financial management in the hospitality industry," adds Amiad Soto. "The platform's commitment to compliance, automation, user empowerment, and continuous innovation positions Guesty as the indispensable solution for the next generation of hospitality financial management."

  • 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.

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