News Briefs

  • 12/14/2023

    Chipotle's Cultivate Next Fund Invests in Autonomous Ag Robots, Fertilizer

    Chipotle logo

    Chipotle Mexican Grill announced it is investing in Greenfield Robotics, a company founded with the vision of making regenerative farming more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable by leveraging the latest advances in AI, robotics, and sensing technologies, and Nitricity, a company seeking to tackle greenhouse gas emissions by creating fertilizer products that are better for fields, farmers, and the environment. These minority investments are being made through Chipotle's $50 million Cultivate Next venture fund.

    Cultivate Next makes early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further Chipotle's mission to Cultivate a Better World and help accelerate the company's aggressive growth plans. As a people-first company, Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its restaurant teams and suppliers as well as increase access and convenience for its guests.


    Robots for Regenerative Agriculture 

    Conventional farming destroys weeds with chemicals and soil tillage, resulting in escalating costs, soil erosion and degradation of soil, resistant weeds, and health risks for both wildlife and humans. Greenfield Robotics provides regenerative agriculture solutions without chemicals. Their fleets of autonomous robots are lightweight and cut weeds between rows of broadacre crops, day or night, reducing dependence on herbicides while supporting regenerative farming practices and reducing risk for farmers.

    With its Cultivate Next investment, Greenfield Robotics will continue its efforts to build out its fleet of autonomous agricultural robots and develop additional capabilities for forthcoming iterations of its robots, including micro-spraying, cover crop planting, and soil testing.

    "The work of Greenfield Robotics to build out a tech forward alternative to herbicides plays an important role in ensuring a more sustainable future for the agricultural industry," said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer, Chipotle. "We will help Greenfield Robotics scale their robotic offerings and explore how their robots can be deployed on farms within our supply chain."

    "Like Chipotle's commitment to Food with Integrity, we believe in the future of real, responsibly and sustainably raised food," said Clint Brauer, founder of Greenfield Robotics. "In partnership with Chipotle, we can continue to explore creative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing farmers across the United States."

    New Age Fertilizer 

    Inspired by the natural occurrence of lightning breaking down nitrogen in the air and rainwater bringing it to the soil as nitrate to create natural fertilizer, Nitricity has pioneered a practice of creating artificial lightning. The company leverages air, water, and renewable energy from the artificial lightning to produce a cleaner, more sustainable, and cost-efficient fertilizer. The current process of producing, distributing, and using nitrogen fertilizer by way of the Haber-Bosch method requires a large amount of fossil fuels and emits significant amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to 5-7% of total global GHG (greenhouse gases). Nitricity's nitrogen fertilizer has 5 to 10 times less GHG emissions due to its electrified production and field application process. Nitricity is building its production model of fertilizer on or near its end customers to limit the emissions from fertilizer distribution and application. Currently, up to 20% of fertilizer in the U.S. is imported through an expensive and complex supply chain.

    Nitricity has started field trials for their fertilizer product with Salinas Valley farmers, including Chipotle suppliers in the region. Funding from Cultivate Next will be used to scale up Nitricity's production of nitrogen, build out the company's infrastructure, and support the launch of its first commercial product within the next two years.

    "We're proud to support Nitricity's pursuit of a product innovation whose environmental benefits are complimentary to Chipotle's approach to Food With Integrity," said Jack Hartung, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Chipotle. He added, "Fertilizers have experienced steep price increases in recent years due to supply chain issues, fossil fuel price volatility, and rising distribution costs. Nitricity's fertilizer offering not only has the potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the fertilizer industry, but it can be a cost-effective solution for growers in our supply chain."

    "Nitricity is committed to producing fertilizer that is optimized for farmers, not factory production or freight distribution," said Nico Pinkowski, co-founder and CEO of Nitricity. "Partnering with Chipotle will unquestionably accelerate our path toward disrupting the industry with climate-smart technology."

    Tim McAfee, a Cultivate Next Venture Collaborator and current Chipotle produce supplier noted: "I have visited the facilities of both Nitricity and Greenfield Robotics and am optimistic and enthusiastic about the impact these innovations could have on the growing community."

    What's Next for Cultivate Next? 
    Chipotle will continue to provide more updates on the Cultivate Next venture fund in 2024 and beyond. Companies interested in collaborating with Chipotle through the Cultivate Next venture fund can apply by emailing [email protected].  

  • 12/18/2023

    TGI Fridays Names Ray Risley to U.S. President & COO & Nik Rupp to President of International Markets, CFO

    TGI Fridays  announced  the hiring of Ray Risley as U.S President and Chief Operating Officer and Nik Rupp as President of International Markets and Chief Financial Officer. Both will report directly to CEO Weldon Spangler, who was appointed in October.

    In the role as U.S. President and Chief Operating Officer,  Risley will be responsible for the supervision and management of the operational facets and performance standards of all TGI Fridays establishments within the United States, encompassing both Company-owned and Franchised entities. Risley joins TGI Fridays after serving as CEO of Via 313 Pizzeria, where he doubled the brand's number of units and successfully positioned the award-winning independent pizza chain for significant future expansion. Prior to that, he was President and COO of Front Burner Society, where he was integral to the growth of the Whiskey Cake Kitchen and Bar concept. Mr. Risley notably spent nearly 20 years in a variety of leadership roles at Del Frisco's Restaurant Group, Inc, including most recently as President of Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse.

    TGI Fridays is also announcing the hiring of Nik Rupp as Chief Financial Officer and President of International. In this role, Mr. Rupp will oversee the financial strategy of TGI Fridays with an emphasis in accounting, finance and capital structure, as well as focus on growth and managing relationships with International franchisees. Mr. Rupp most recently held the role of COO at Papa Murphy's International, subsequent to serving as the company's CFO. Throughout his tenure at Papa Murphy's, he played an instrumental role in driving a clear vision, strategy, and growth for the international pizza company. Previously, Mr. Rupp held leadership positions at esteemed global consumer brands, among them, Specialized, Nike and Converse.

    "We have a significant opportunity to lead this much-loved, heritage brand through a revitalized new chapter, and by bringing on Ray and Nik to our leadership team, we are confident in what we can accomplish in the coming year," said Weldon Spangler, CEO of TGI Fridays. "Not only do Ray and Nik have tremendous experience in the restaurant industry that will drive growth for our brand and our franchisees, but their enthusiasm and passion for TGI Fridays will also be a cornerstone to our vision for the company."

    This news comes as TGI Fridays continues the revitalization of its brand, including reinvigorating many of its legacy menu offerings. Most recently, TGI Fridays unveiled its most innovative bar menu to date with the launch of its "Claus for Celebration" menu, offering up an incredible 14 new cocktails and mocktails for the holiday season. In addition, the brand revamped its world-renowned appetizers menu and rolled out its new Grilled & Sauced™ platform earlier this year.

    With a laser focus on operational excellence and compelling menu offerings, TGI Fridays will continue to execute its growth-oriented business plan focused on revitalizing TGI Fridays. Delivering on "That Fridays Feeling™" has been synonymous with the iconic brand for nearly 60 years.

    TGI Fridays operates and franchises nearly 700 restaurants across 51 countries. The company saw total system wide sales of $1.6B in 2022 with same US sales growing at +8% compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic). The company announced its most significant deal in September of last year, consisting of 75 new franchised restaurants to be opened throughout South and Southeast Asia over the next 10 years representing an additional $500MM in restaurant revenue.

  • 12/18/2023

    Walk-On's Hires VP of IT, VP of Supply Chain

    walk ons sports bistreaux logo

    Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux, the renowned restaurant and sports bar concept, is proud to announce the appointment of two industry veterans with Tyler Schack stepping in as the Vice President of Technology and  Jamie Davis being named the Vice President of Supply Chain & Procurement.

    "We are thrilled to welcome Jamie Davis and Tyler Schack to the Walk-On's family. Their extensive experience and proven track records in their respective fields align seamlessly with our commitment to delivering top-notch experiences for our guests and assembling a high-caliber team to drive Walk-On's to new heights." said Chris Dawson, CEO of Walk-On's.

    As the VP of Supply Chain & Procurement, Davis brings over fifteen years of invaluable experience in the Foodservice industry to her role at Walk-On's. Her previous experience includes positions as the VP of Supply Chain & Procurement at Insomnia Cookies, VP of Supply Chain at Edible Brands, Director of Supply Chain at Focus Brands (Cinnabon), and Director of Supply Chain at Tropical Smoothie Café. She's a proven procurement strategist who excels at building scalable distribution networks as a foundation for rapid revenue growth.

  • 12/18/2023

    McDonald’s, Accenture Deepen Partnership to Accelerate Technology to Reinvent Customer, Crew Experiences

    handshake partnership

    McDonald’s Corp. and Accenture announced an expansion of their strategic partnership to help execute McDonald’s strategy to leverage the latest edge technology and apply generative AI solutions across its restaurants worldwide to improve operations as well as customer and crew experience. Through this work, McDonald’s also will enhance the digital capabilities of its employees.

    This partnership will help support McDonald’s technology strategy which aims to leverage scale and unlock greater speed and efficiency for customers, restaurant teams, and employees. This includes the acceleration of automation innovation from equipment manufacturers, allowing restaurant general managers to quickly spot and enact solutions to reduce business disruptions, ultimately reducing complexity for restaurant crew and leading to customer benefits such as hotter, fresher food.

    This phase of innovation is also designed to build an even stronger technology team at McDonald's. Accenture will help train and support McDonald’s global workforce by using Accenture’s learning and development programs, online training courses and boot camps for emerging talent to ensure the workforce has the AI, data and edge computing skills needed in the digital era.

    Brian Rice, executive vice president and global chief information officer, McDonald's, said, “In order to unlock the opportunity in our ongoing digital investments, we chose Accenture, our long-time partner who has helped us build our digital foundation, to work with us on this next phase of innovation. Accenture’s deep understanding of our business, our industry, and of course technology, will allow us to leverage the full potential of the cloud and generative AI solutions by implementing advanced practices to quickly leverage those technologies as well as to nurture and empower the talent within our organization. Lifelong learning and digital upskilling are at the heart of our culture and long-term growth plans – and embedding this across our workforce will enable greater business agility and performance.”

    Julie Sweet, chair and CEO, Accenture, said, “We are incredibly proud to continue to partner with McDonald’s as they reinvent the customer experience, stay ahead of their customers’ changing needs and reimagine what a restaurant can be. This new work will be a leading example across industries of innovating with tech data and AI at the core, across the cloud continuum, all the way to the edge. And doing so in a way that keeps their people in the forefront, building the skills they need to meet and delight their customers in new ways every day."

  • 12/18/2023

    WebBeds Partners with BeCause to Increase the Availability of Eco-Certified Properties Listed on Its Platforms

    BeCause logo

    WebBeds, a global marketplace providing accommodation ground product distribution services to the travel industry, has partnered with BeCause to provide WebBeds users with certified sustainability data on its hotel partners.

    As a multinational organization, WebBeds recognises the importance of global corporate responsibility and is dedicated to reducing its environmental footprint by promoting environmentally responsible sustainable travel.

    WebBeds has partnered with BeCause – a sustainability technology start-up transforming how companies in the hospitality, travel, and tourism industries manage their sustainability data – to scale up the number of properties tagged as ‘eco-certified’ on WebBeds booking platforms.

    BeCause will enable WebBeds to automatically match hotels in its database to those with Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GTSC) credentials (currently 49 recognised standards). Individual properties that meet GTSC criteria will receive an eco-friendly identifier on WebBeds' booking platforms, which travel trade partners can use to book hotel stays for the end traveller aligned with their values on sustainability.

    Daryl Lee, WebBeds CEO said, “Partnering with BeCause is a key step in our ongoing journey to become a more environmentally responsible business. Our travel trade customers are becoming more conscious about the eco-credentials of the properties they recommend to the end traveller. Working with BeCause helps us to rapidly scale the number of eco-certified properties we provide on our platforms with the assurance that these properties have all been through a rigorous certification process administered by recognised standards authorities."

    Frederik Steensgaard, CEO and co-founder of BeCause said, “Without BeCause, marketplaces like WebBeds have to manually perform sustainability checks. This process is expensive, outdated, and error-prone. BeCause eliminates these issues. Not only does automation help speed up and reduce costs, but with our centralised data hub, marketplaces and their users have access to real-time, trustworthy hotel information from recognised sustainability organizations like the GSTC. With more and more travellers putting a premium on eco-friendly travel, enabling this transparency is vital to a marketplace’s business.”

  • 12/18/2023

    Knowland Showcases Business Milestones and Latest Innovations for Enabling Revenue Growth in Hospitality

    logo, company name

    Knowland, a provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, showcased its dedication to helping customers increase revenue, expand market share, and adapt to shifting dynamics through innovative enhancements in services and data optimization in 2023. 

    As the company heads into its 20th year, Knowland’s holistic account-based selling platform helps customers go beyond meetings and events sales. Using data intelligence to sell across account segments, hotel sales teams drive higher revenue from group, corporate, meeting space, and catering operations. Innovations include more than 80 platform features and enhancements since the launch of its enhanced platform to make it even easier to identify and capture hotel revenue:

    • Providing fast access to actionable sales data through innovation – Knowland’s agile development process delivered new innovative functionality in 2023. Features such as Account Alerts, Market Snapshot, Portfolio Capture, and Market Segmentation, provide easy access to actionable sales intelligence.
    • Broadening data access through partnerships – Knowland forged partnerships with Amadeus and Oracle to deliver world-class integrations and enablement solutions. The company has increased data volume and quality, with over 50 percent of data captured through electronic processing.
    • Informing the industry through award-winning meeting and event data – Beginning in 2020, the company became one of the first data sources to establish a growth metric for the meeting and event industry. Today, it is the pre-eminent expert for insights into meetings and events trends. In 2023, Knowland won the Skift IDEAS award in the data provider category for its contributions to industry recovery.
    • Expanding markets into the Middle East and Asia – Knowland expanded service and support in the industry’s highest growth regions with new operations in Doha, Sentosa, and Ras Al Khaimah and additional highly competitive international markets.
    • Building industry proficiency through education and certification – The company launched its Knowland Certification Program as part of the Knowland Academy to validate user skills, demonstrate value to management, and showcase strategic workflows that drive revenue and ensure positive ROI for its customers.
    • Enhancing data through AI – Knowland enhanced its data scalability, reliability, and speed-to-use with AI and automation technologies. It is currently developing upcoming disruptive functionalities such as automated lead discovery.

    Jeff Bzdawka, CEO, Knowland, said: “The foundation of Knowland is based on three important product pillars: deliver increasingly robust data and ongoing improvement through enhanced collection methods, technology, and partnerships; provide a simple interface with an intuitive user experience; and most importantly and foundationally, deliver improved sales outcomes for hospitality businesses. By using the Knowland Platform, hospitality organizations can fill need periods faster, increase market share, and deliver a more productive sales experience at scale across their commercial operations into 2024 and beyond.” 


    For a preview of what is to come in 2024, view Knowland’s State of the Business here:

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