News Briefs

  • 2/13/2024

    Bob W Secures €40 Million in Series B Funding

    Bob W sign
    Tech-powered hospitality operator, Bob W, has announced the completion of a €40 million Series B funding round. 
     
    Led by Finnish venture capital company, Evli Growth Partnership, and joined by growth capital investors and prominent European entrepreneurs, including Taavet+Sten, the investment firm of Wise’s founder Taavet Hinrikus and Sten Tamkivi, Flashpoint, and Supercell’s co-founder Mikko Kodisoja along with existing investors.
     
    This considerable financial investment will power the Bob W brand to further develop its technology, and support fast-paced growth throughout Europe, where it currently operates design-led, sustainably-focused, full-service aparthotels in 10 countries and 17 cities.
     
    Each Bob W apartment incorporates its own bespoke local design and technology that give guests the Best of Both Worlds: the consistency and quality of a lifestyle hotel and the local authenticity and amenities of an actual home.
    This is the largest investment so far for the startup, founded in 2018, which had previously raised a total of €22.5 million.
     
    Niko Karstikko, Co-founder and CEO, said: “There is a surging demand for locally rooted, seamless travel experiences that technology enables. Yet, the short-term rental sector has had a shortage of standards and professional operators who can offer both local authenticity, hotel-grade quality, and tech to elevate the experience. At Bob W, we are leading this category. 
     
    “Our growth and market-leading customer satisfaction prove that we are heading in the right direction. With support from our investors, we're eager and well-prepared to enter into a new phase of our company's growth and expand the Bob W travel experience across Europe.
     
    “Despite the challenging times in the capital markets, this investment is proof that top-performing companies continue to attract funding. We are thrilled to have these top-tier investors backing us, many of whom are successful entrepreneurs themselves and crucially, our happy customers. This funding enables us to further develop our technology, recruit top talent, and reinforce Bob W as Europe's most loved hospitality brand.”
     
    Bob W’s proprietary tech and apps provide a seamless digital front desk experience that is backed by robust digital customer service and other fail safes, so guests always feel looked after. Super-early check-ins or late check-outs can be instantly and automatically guaranteed based on live availability. The mainly chat-based perfect host ‘Bob W’ has been designed to make guests feel like they’re receiving the best customer service with a human touch, despite minimal staff on site. On top of a smooth online experience, Bob W’s ‘marketplace’ connects guests to local breakfast spots, gyms, facilities, and a host of digital products to ensure a truly local experience.
     
    The recent Series B funding round was led by Evli Growth Partners, with participation from Taavet+Sten, and notable European entrepreneurs, including Supercell’s Mikko Kodisoja, as well as existing investors.
     
    Mikael Hed, Growth Partner at Evli Growth Partners, said: "The hospitality industry needs bold disruptors like Bob W. The team is a pioneer in the new hybrid hospitality category, offering authentic, seamless travel experiences enabled by cutting-edge technology. Bob W's growth demonstrates the team's unique understanding of customer needs. We are excited to support the team in their next growth phase.”
     
    Leading the transition to sustainable hospitality 
     
    A hallmark of the Bob W experience is its commitment to local design and sustainability. The company partners with local brands, artists, and manufacturers, sourcing décor from close proximity to each property. This practice aligns the guest experience with the local community and further cements Bob W's role as a leader in sustainability. As a pioneer in the hospitality industry, Bob W is committed to transparency and honesty, actively advocating for these values while working towards climate net-neutrality. The company also offsets emissions of each stay.
     
    Karstikko adds, “Commitment to sustainability is at the core of our mission. We consider measuring and reducing our carbon footprint is a fundamental aspect of our business, and the principles penetrate our procurement practices, operations, and how we work with property owners. We acknowledge that we aren't perfect, as no one is, but we believe in transparency with our guests and peers. By openly sharing our data, we help our guests make more informed decisions, particularly with our emissions per guest night (in kg CO2-eq) metric. We are pushing the industry to follow suit. Consumers deserve the facts laid bare.”
  • 2/13/2024

    Curbit, Ovation Collaborate to Streamline the Guest Experience

    integration
    Curbit, a technology company specializing in AI-driven dynamic order throttling for restaurants, announced its strategic partnership with Ovation, a platform in the restaurant industry for guest feedback known for its real-time, SMS-based solutions. This collaboration aims to streamline brand interactions with guests, offering an elevated guest experience coupled with a comprehensive feedback loop.
     
    When patrons with a valid mobile number place an order through a brand utilizing the Curbit and Ovation service, real-time SMS updates powered by Curbit will provide accurate promise times and comprehensive order progress information. This ensures that guests are well-informed and can confidently anticipate the status of their orders.
     
    Approximately 30 minutes after the scheduled pickup time, customers will receive another SMS within the same thread. This touchpoint, powered by Ovation, invites them to share feedback and rate their overall experience. This dual-powered approach not only keeps customers engaged during the pickup experience, but also increases adoption into the feedback process.
     
    The integration was successfully tested and fully implemented at Marugame Udon, a California-based multi-unit operator. “Curbit and Ovation have simplified the process for our guests and made it intuitive for our operations team,” said Kristin Yi, Director of Marketing.
     
    “We are thrilled to bring this to our shared ecosystem,” said Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer Scott Siegel of Curbit. “This pairing closes the operator feedback loop with speed of service and guest sentiment insights. Actionable data goes right back into the operations to support continuous improvement and translates to a more reliable guest experience.”
  • 2/13/2024

    National Hotel Miami Beach Embracing Flexible Financial Management Tools to Streamline Back-Office Operations

    National Hotel Miami Beach exterior

    With 101 newly designed city and direct ocean view guest rooms in its historic tower and 36 luxurious cabanas and suites, The National Hotel Miami Beach is impressing guests with stunning views, luxury accommodations, personalized experiences, and unparalleled service. Invisible to guests at this AAA 4 Diamond oceanfront property is how efficiently the hotel’s finance team is operating thanks to the addition of two software solutions from Aptech: PVNG Enterprise Accounting and Targetvue Budgeting & Forecasting.

    “The Aptech software development team is amazing,” said Sarah Fisch, chief financial officer at The National Hotel. “Ever since joining the company I have been very demanding, always asking for new enhancements to meet our specific and strategic needs. Not once have I heard the word ‘no’ from anyone. Aptech always provides a solution. Before migrating to these cloud solutions, my team spent a lot of time creating journal entries and manually plugging data into legacy systems. Today, workflow is far more efficient, and tedious manual data-entry processes have been eliminated.”

    PVNG – named among the “Best Finance & Accounting Software” of 2024 by Hotel Tech Report – features Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, Statistics, Financials, Bank Reconciliation, automated invoice processing, a myriad of payment options, and drill-down capabilities in financial statements and reports. It is the first hotel accounting solution to connect to the Plaid Data Network. It can handle single or multi-property accounting and can be deployed as a hosted service.

    Targetvue provides accounting teams with “one version of the truth.” It consolidates reports, identifies trends, and eliminates the maintenance and distribution of Excel spreadsheets throughout the organization. Automated forecast snapshots offers users ad-hoc capabilities to previous and future performance projections. 

    “These solutions are extremely user friendly,” Fisch said. “I was surprised by the simplicity. Rather than giving us a lot of options or features that we will never use or cannot understand, PVNG and Targetvue have just what we need, like reports that can be updated instantly. The flexibility of the software and the support team makes us feel like both solutions were tailored just for The National Hotel. If I had to describe these tools in one word it would be ‘functional’ and/or ‘convenient.’”

    Exemplary Customer Care

    Impressive to Fisch and her associates is Aptech’s customer care department. Fisch said each member of the team values human relationships and applies technology to solve business problems for people through technical support, operational support, software support, on-site user training, report creation, software installation, customized programming, web-based user training, data transformation, data conversion, problem resolution and product updates. The team’s work with clients often extends well beyond the initial installation project to keep customers aware of industry changes affecting systems, business practices, enterprise resource planning and emerging options that may be available to enhance their operation.

    “Aptech support is wonderful,” Fisch said. “When I send an email request or question, I always get a response the same day, oftentimes within minutes. If my customer care agent is unavailable, someone else is always willing to fill in. It’s a great team.”

    Sam Costa, Aptech Director of Client Success, said hoteliers are Aptech’s best salespeople. Every time he reads a customer review on Hotel Tech Report, he said he is humbled by the words people use to describe his team and their proficiency, such as ‘amazing,’ ‘friendly,’ ‘efficient,’ ‘timely,’ ‘effective,’ ‘the best,’ ‘responsive,’ ‘always available,’ ‘fast,’ ‘understandable,’ ‘reliable,’ and ‘strong-knit team.’

    “We are delighted that The National Hotel is finding PVNG and Targetvue to be so flexible, functional, and user friendly,” Costa said. “Being able to streamline their financial processes is enabling management to deliver reports on the fly to those who need them. We look forward to supporting this legendary art deco hotel for years to come and introducing new solutions when the time is right. At Aptech, we are devoted to keeping our customers aware of industry changes in technology and developing innovative options to enhance their organization.”

    Aptech is an IBM Software Value Plus Partner and Premier Solution Provider as well as a Prophix Premier Business Partner, and proud members of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG), the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC), and Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI).

  • 2/12/2024

    El Pollo Loco's New CEO

    El Pollo Loco Holdings Inc.  has appointed Elizabeth (“Liz”) Williams as the new Chief Executive Officer and as a member of its Board of Directors, effective March 11.

    Williams will succeed Maria Hollandsworth, who has served as the company’s interim Chief Executive Officer since November 3. Hollandsworth has been appointed as President of El Pollo Loco and will also continue to serve as  Chief Operating Officer.

    Most recently, Williams served as the CEO of Outfox Hospitality, parent company of Foxtrot, a high-growth modern café and convenience store, and Dom’s Kitchen and Market. Prior to Foxtrot, she led innovative brands like Drybar and Hart House, a vegan quick-service chain.

    Williams has extensive restaurant experience working closely with franchise partners to accelerate growth. She spent ten years with Yum! Brands and Taco Bell between 2010 and 2020, holding various leadership positions including CFO and President of Taco Bell International. During her tenure, she was responsible for the brand strategy, growth, and performance of the international business across 30 countries, and drove notable operational improvements along with sales and profit growth.

    “We are excited to welcome Liz Williams as our new Chief Executive Officer,” said William Floyd, Chairman of the El Pollo Loco Board. “Throughout her career, Liz has demonstrated her ability to accelerate growth in food and beverage brands while simultaneously improving financial performance. We believe she has the skills and experience necessary to lead El Pollo Loco as we capitalize on the significant opportunity ahead of us.”

    Floyd continued, “We would also like to express our deep appreciation to Maria for her leadership as Interim Chief Executive Officer over the past three months. We are excited to benefit from her continued leadership as she helps craft and execute on our strategic vision as President and Chief Operating Officer of El Pollo Loco.”

  • 2/12/2024

    PAR Technology’s Punchh Recognizes Trailblazers in Customer Loyalty

    award teaser generic

    ParTech, Inc. announces the winners of the fifth annual PAR Punchh Customer Awards. These awards recognize outstanding achievements in customer loyalty, offers, engagement, and convenience within the restaurant and convenience store industries.

    Sean Thompson, VP of IT at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, receives the Punchh Voice of the Customer Advocate of the Year award for his pivotal role in sharing valuable customer insights within the Punchh community, contributing to the growth of Freddy's loyal customer base across their 500+ locations. This year's Digital Innovator award goes to Condado Tacos for their effective implementation of the "Buds with Benefits" reward program and targeted Challenge campaigns, resulting in a remarkable 44% retention rate and enhanced customer engagement.

    As Rookie of the Year, Goodcents strategically elevated their position by implementing the PAR Punchh-powered Goodcents Rewards Refreshed loyalty program. Leveraging Punchh's Loyalty Strategy services, Goodcents not only achieved impressive customization, data utilization, and direct communication capabilities through their app but also signaled a strategic move to scale operations and enhance customer engagement. RaceTrac earns the C-Store Champion title for its innovative RaceTrac Rewards loyalty program, which saw a 46% year-over-year increase in loyalty transactions and a 76% year-over-year rise in loyalty revenue in 2023, underscoring its commitment to enhancing customer experiences and driving member engagement.

    Named Top International Customer, Taco Bell Romania achieved significant growth in loyalty app participation, leveraging their Taco Bell Rewards program to enhance customer experiences and drive increased engagement through digital and social media campaigns, resulting in consistent growth across various metrics in a market where Mexican cuisine is still an up-and-coming delight. The Campaign Hotshot award goes to Charleys Philly Steaks, whose strategic use of data analytics enabled them to tailor personalized messages and promotions, resulting in increased adoption, purchase frequency, and surpassing benchmarks for sign-ups, unique users, and average check size in 2023.

    Pancheros earns the Retention Rockstar title for their steadfast focus on loyalty, boasting a remarkable 47% retention rate in Q3 2023, surpassing fast-casual benchmarks, through integrated tactics promoting referral offers, digital ordering deals, and local cause campaigns, further highlighted by a significant referral sign-up rate and quarterly transaction growth. Last but not least, McAlister's secures the All Star title for their innovations such as the subscription Tea Pass and personalized automated journeys, driving an impressive 21% YoY growth in loyalty participation and 20% of transactions stemming from loyalty purchases in 2023. Their strategic approach, utilizing Punchh data pipeline and open APIs, ensures sustained guest retention and unparalleled customer satisfaction.

    Selected from PAR Punchh’s diverse customer base of over 275 brands, the winners demonstrated excellence in utilizing the PAR Punchh platform for customized loyalty program management, omnichannel engagement, digital campaigns, personalized offers, and more.

    “We are thrilled to celebrate the success of our clients who have embraced the PAR Punchh platform to enhance their customers' experiences,” said Savneet Singh, CEO of PAR Technology. “These brands have shown innovation and dedication in leveraging technology to drive loyalty program engagement, customer feedback, and overall business success.”

  • 2/13/2024

    SageNet Names Durga Gandi as New Chief Information Officer

    Durga Gandi SageNet CIO

    SageNet, a Tulsa-based managed digital experience and network services provider, has named Durga Gandi as its new Chief Information Officer (CIO).  

    With a 20-year career spanning consulting, product development, healthcare, manufacturing and nonprofit sectors, Gandi is recognized as a driving force in technology. As SageNet's incoming CIO, Gandi will focus on enhancing performance through innovative and strategic technology implementation.

    “I am thrilled to welcome Durga to our executive team,” said SageNet CEO Brad Wise. “Her forward-thinking approach to technology and proven leadership in driving innovation align perfectly with SageNet’s strategic goals. We are confident that with her expertise, our technology and systems initiatives will thrive, keeping us at the forefront of our industry.”

    In her role as Vice President of IT Operations and Technology Solutions at the American College of Radiology, Gandi managed a team of 250 IT professionals, steering transformative technological initiatives. Her strategic alignment of IT objectives with organizational goals included overseeing a comprehensive range of custom and SaaS applications. Gandi’s leadership in overhauling systems across 20,000 radiology sites was marked by a focus on data-driven enhancements and pioneering AI technologies. This included initiating an AI marketplace in radiology. Her efforts in advancing data analytics and machine learning played a crucial role in enhancing clinical research support, ensuring compliance and boosting customer engagement, thereby demonstrating her profound impact in leveraging technology for substantial business transformations.

    “At SageNet, we’re empowering our customers to embrace the phygital environment – the confluence of the physical and digital worlds – and all of this is driven through a focus on digital experience and a fabric of fast, secure, always-on connectivity,” said Gandi. “It’s crucial to listen to the market and evolve proactively, to continue accelerating SageNet into the future of tech and the next big innovation.” 

    Gandi said that making sure SageNet is at the cutting edge of the latest security developments will be a key priority, as well as utilizing AI and intelligent systems to transform the customer experience and provide better service to customers.

    “Managed Services can, at times, be perceived as dull or routine. SageNet is anything but. Our ‘secret sauce’ is a unique mixture of deep vertical market experience, industry-leading support and an entrepreneurial mindset. That involves using things like AI to better understand and capitalize on data and proactively providing our customers insights and thought leadership as a value-added service.”

    In addition to her work as a technology executive, Gandi is also founder of ADE, a volunteer community of career-minded women, stay-at-home moms and single women across the United States that is focused on improving their financial literacy, closing the gender gap and breaking the glass ceiling.

    “It’s an exciting time to be a CIO. Technology has become everybody’s business – every company is now a technology company. Customer focus is huge for SageNet, and we intend to stay on the cutting edge of technology as we transform the managed services industry. I’m excited to be part of it.”

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