News Briefs

  • 2/26/2024

    SOCi Report: 52% of Marketers Cite Privacy as Top Concern in AI Adoption for Hotels

    bar graph from Soci
    SOCi Inc., the leading CoMarketing Cloud Platform for multi-location enterprises, today released Part IV of its AI Marketing Transformation Index. The comprehensive report offers insights into the current implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and forecasts its trajectory in the marketing industry.
    SOCi's commissioned study of more than 300 digital marketers provides further understanding of AI utilization in marketing and future plans for its use. Part IV focuses on whether or not clear guidelines and protocols are in place to effectively and safely steer AI adoption and use. 
    40% of Marketers Say “No Plan” for AI Integration
    When asked if their company “has a clear and actionable plan for AI integration into their marketing strategy,” nearly 40 percent (36%) said “no,” with 10% of that group stating "no and we don’t know where to start." Alternatively, 40% said they have “a clear plan and are executing it well,” while one-quarter (22%) admitted they had a plan but “are struggling with the execution.”
    “Effective AI integration in marketing demands not just technological capability but also strategic clarity,” said Monica Ho, CMO, SOCi. “Our study reveals a gap between awareness and action, underscoring an urgent need for a roadmap to better navigate AI adoption.”
    Privacy is Top Concern for AI Marketing Adoption
    When asked about their concerns regarding AI in marketing, “privacy concerns” topped the list at 52%. This was followed by “over-dependence on technology” (46%), “making data ‘AI-ready’” (41%), and “AI potentially replacing my role” (36%). Other concerns included integration with current systems (35%) and ensuring ROI (30%).
    “Privacy concerns often stem from how companies collect, store, and use consumer data for marketing purposes,” said Ho. “With AI's ability to analyze large datasets, there's an increased risk of sensitive information being mishandled or used in ways that violate consumer privacy. Establishing clear internal guidelines and policies around AI usage in marketing can help ensure ethical practices and compliance with laws.”
    In terms of established usage and privacy guidelines for AI technology, 39% confirmed having guidelines in place, while 35% are currently in the process of developing these guidelines. However, 22% do not have any usage or privacy guidelines in place.
    “Establishing comprehensive AI usage and privacy guidelines is paramount for businesses,” said Ho. “It's a crucial step not just for compliance but also for building trust with consumers and ensuring responsible utilization of AI.”
    Additional findings from the study include:
    • Integration Challenges - When asked about the challenges faced when integrating AI into marketing strategies and workflows, the top concern was “lack of understanding of AI,” cited by 47%. This was followed by "difficulty in aligning AI with marketing goals" (44%), “inadequate training or education” (43%), and "budget constraints” (36%). Only 1% reported other challenges, while 7% are not integrating AI at all.
    • Resource Allocation Needs - Regarding resources needed for better AI integration, the most significant need was for “more time to understand and implement AI,” highlighted by 62%. This was followed by “more trained personnel” (53%), “more budget” (44%), and “clearer strategies from leadership” (32%).
    • Personnel Readiness for AI - Concerning dedicated marketing personnel for overseeing AI models, 39% have specialized staff, 21% do not, and 37% are in the process of training or upskilling their staff.
    • Confidence in Using AI - When evaluating confidence in leveraging large language models (LLMs) and generative AI to support marketing efforts, three-quarters (75%) are confident, with 26% of that group very confident, and 49% somewhat confident. In contrast, 19% aren't confident, with 14% not very confident, and 5% not confident at all.
    • Ease of Use - Regarding the ease of implementing AI, 25% said using AI was difficult (3% “Very difficult,” 22% “Somewhat difficult”), while 40% had an easier experience (27% “Somewhat easy,” 13% “Very easy”). The largest group, 35%, were neutral, indicating that a clear consensus on AI implementation ease is yet to be established.
    “Today's findings reveal a big gap in AI adoption for marketing,” added Ho. “While 3-in-4 are confident in using AI, challenges like understanding AI, aligning it with marketing goals, and resource constraints persist. This calls for a strategic focus on education, planning, and resource allocation to maximize AI's potential.”

    About the Study

    The AI Marketing Transformation Index includes a sample of 317 digital marketing professionals across consumer companies in the U.S. More than half of the respondents (55%) were decision makers in their roles and job titles surveyed included CMO and VP.
  • 2/26/2024

    A New Type of Robot- High Tech Helpers Enhancing Hospitality Efficiency With Smart Follow Technology

    More than ten years ago the first robots were implemented in hotels. Early robots were expensive and limited to mostly room deliveries or used as hotel marketing tools. The ROI was difficult, the impact on guest experience was questionable, and staff were skeptical that this technology could be used to replace them.

    Fast forward to today and a lot of those problems still remain. However, costs have become more manageable and the ROI can be quantified under the right circumstances, but there are still relatively few hotels that have robots in use today. A new wave of robots enhancing the guest and staff experience are changing that. 

    Co-bots and humans working together 

    Most of the robots that hotels have implemented are autonomous. They are intended to replace some or all of a task that has been provided by hotel associates like bringing towels to a guest or delivering food. In a business that is based on human connections, robots can be perceived as a hindrance to providing a personal experience or as a rival with employees for their jobs.

    But co-bots are changing that perception, Co-bots or collaborative robots, are created with a different purpose in mind. These co-bots are intentionally designed to work with humans with a focus on augmenting staff, not replacing them. Co-bots can perform a variety of repetitive or menial tasks in collaboration with their human counterparts and have been deployed in a number of other more industrial settings. Piaggio Fast Forward is reshaping the way hotels deliver exceptional guest experiences through groundbreaking robotic technology and leading the way with introducing co-bots to the hotel space.

    The newest co-bot that Piaggio has developed is called kilo. kilo was formally announced at MODEX in Atlanta in March 2024. With current pilots in progress, the kilo is set for full commercial release later this year and it will change the way that robots are used in the hotel industry and beyond.

    PFF kilo and Benefits for Hotels

    The kilo platform is flexibly designed to be either a stand-alone solution or to be integrated into existing hotel carts and platforms to move and carry materials throughout the property. Whether it is housekeeping carts, mobile bars, catering trolleys, or luggage carts, all of those platforms can be automated to follow staff and travel independently back to a designated location for storage, re-use, or re-stocking.

    A great example of this would be a typical housekeeping cart that follows the housekeeper to the room and can travel back to a stock room to be replenished while the room is being cleaned, making the staff member more efficient and helping them eliminate a non-essential task. It also works to lower the physical wear and tear on the associate, making their job easier, more pleasant, and potentially lowering turnover as well as reducing potential injuries.

    Studies show that 30% of workplace claims are related pushing and pulling injuries, so eliminating these tasks don’t just improve the employee environment, it makes it safer and saves the hotel money on both premiums and from associate downtime. It also helps with compliance to OSHA regulations.

    Additionally, the kilo robots can actually follow each other. So instead of having to take 3 trips to 

    banquet storage to set up for an event, or pulling three heavy mobile bars for an outdoor event, they can caravan together being led by a single associate who will not have to push or pull those heavy loads The technology is easy to learn, implement and complement employee jobs. Finally, they provide the associate with new skills that can help to justify the rising hourly costs for many of these roles. 

    Putting People First while embracing new technology 

    As we continue to use technology to solve problems in the industry, and enhance customer service we must never lose sight of the fact that our associates and our guests are the reason that we are here. Technology that augments and improves the guest experience as well as the work environment is how our industry can keep our focus on people, while still delivering value for owners. Co-bots have the potential to truly bridge that gap and ensure that both needs are met without compromising our primary mission of delivering hospitality.

  • 2/26/2024

    Chris Caldwell Named Brinker International's CIO

    Chris Caldwell headshot

    Chris Caldwell has joined Brinker International as SVP and Chief Information Officer. 

    Caldwell is a world-class leader with an impressive background across all functions of IT. He spent 27 years leading technology teams at Yum! Brands, most recently serving for a decade in the role of Chief Technology Officer at KFC, where he helped build a leading technology team, robust tech platforms and an amazing culture. As Brinker's CIO, Caldwell will lead the IT team and accelerate its progress against the company's ambitious technology roadmap.

    Brinker International Inc. announced other updates to its executive leadership team, including  the retirement of Joe Taylor, EVP and Chief Financial Officer, the appointment of Mika Ware as SVP and Chief Financial Officer, effective June 27.

    Chief Financial Officer Joe Taylor has informed the Company of his intention to retire at the end of the company's fiscal year in June 2024 after almost 25 years at the company. He will continue to serve the company in a senior advisory role through August 2024.

    Current VP of Finance, Investor Relations, and Restaurant Development Mika Ware has been appointed SVP, Chief Financial Officer, and will assume the role upon Taylor's departure at the beginning of fiscal year 2025 on June 27. Ware started her Brinker journey in 1988 as a Chili's host and earned her finance degree while working at Chili's. Over the years, she's held finance and IR roles of increasing responsibility at the Company and is an expert in Brinker's business, brands, and the finance organization.

  • 2/26/2024

    Wendy's Promotes Matt Spessard to CIO

    Wendy's logo

    The Wendy's Company promoted Matt Spessard to Chief Information Officer. He will report to President and Chief Executive Officer Kirk Tanner and serve on the Wendy's Senior Leadership Team. Spessard will succeed Kevin Vasconi who has served as Chief Information Officer since October 2020.

    Spessard has served as Senior Vice President, Global Chief Technology Officer for The Wendy's Company since August 2022. In this role, he was accountable for establishing the Wendy's System global technology vision and leading technological innovation and development to drive continued growth, competitive brand advantage and topline revenue for the Company and franchisees. As Chief Information Officer, Spessard will assume responsibility for all aspects of Wendy's global technology efforts, including Restaurant Technology, Data Management and Analytics, Enterprise Technology, Software Architecture and Engineering, and Information Security.

    "Driving the growth of the digital business and harnessing technology in restaurants to improve the customer and crew experience are important pieces of our plan to accelerate sales and profitable growth across the global System," said President and CEO Kirk Tanner. "Matt's extensive experience in overseeing global technology initiatives at Wendy's positions him as the ideal leader to build growth on our already successful foundation."

    Spessard joined Wendy's in May 2020 as Vice President, Restaurant Technology and assumed the expanded role of Vice President, Digital and Restaurant Technology in September 2020. Prior to that, he spent six years with Inspire Brands. He served in several roles of increasing accountability, including Vice President of Technology at SONIC. He also previously held various operations and technology leadership roles at YUM! Brands, Church's Chicken and Braum's Ice Cream & Dairy Stores.

  • 2/26/2024

    McDonald's Brings Anime Fans' Favorite Fictional Restaurant to Life

    McDonalds anime

    For years, anime fans have been making McDonald's-inspired "WcDonald's" restaurants a part of anime's most memorable movies and shows. Now, in collaboration with some of the biggest names in anime, WcDonald's will make the move from fiction to real life. 

    Beginning Feb. 26 in more than 30 global markets, McDonald's is building on its fans' vision and imagination by unleashing the WcDonald's universe in our restaurants and beyond, with a new sauce, manga-inspired packaging, episodic shorts and so much more.

    "Anime is a huge part of today's culture, and we love that our fans have been inviting us into the conversation for years," said Tariq Hassan, Chief Marketing and Customer Experience Officer at McDonald's USA. "The WcDonald's universe is a reflection of what fans have created. It honors their vision and celebrates their creativity, while authentically bringing it to life in our restaurants for the first time ever."

    Marketing with Manga

    McDonald's teamed up with iconic Japanese manga artist/illustrator Acky Bright to design custom WcDonald's packaging that will take fans deeper into the world of WcDonald's. For a limited time, fans will receive manga-inspired packaging featuring WcDonald's Crew characters, sketched by Acky himself.

    Fans can also scan the code on the packaging to access weekly digital manga drops that star a full cast of WcDonald's Customers and Crew, including Hashirune, a WcDonald's regular, Mr. Bev, the Crew jokester, WcDizer 3000, WcDonald's very own mecha, and many more.

    "I had a great time partnering with McDonald's to help make WcDonald's a reality for manga fans who have a genuine love for the brand," said Acky Bright. "From the details of the diverse Crew characters to the manga plot itself, I loved being able to use my artwork to bring to life the dynamic, vibrant world of WcDonald's for people around the world."

    The First Official WcDonald's Anime

    McDonald's has partnered with legendary animation house studio pierrot to produce the first official WcDonald's anime. Four episodic shorts will take fans into the flavorful world of WcDonald's, where a story about the WcDonald's Sauce and WcNuggets unfold each week.

    Every Monday, from Feb. 26 until March 18, a new short will drop in tandem with new manga on, or by scanning the code on the WcDonald's bag. The shorts will honor four of anime's biggest subgenres - Action, Romance, Mecha and Fantasy.

    • The Race to WcDonald's (drops Feb. 26): A rivalry strong enough to withstand the test of time as our two heroes embark on an epic race to WcDonald's.
    • Love from Across the Booth (drops March 4): Our two protagonists discover the WcDonald's Sauce and WcNuggets aren't the only perfect pairing.
    • WcNuggets Space Frontier 3000 (drops March 11): A team of WcDonald's pilots must protect the last WcNugget against an ominous force.
    • The Wisdom of the Sauce (drops March 18): Three women are transported to a distant land to unravel the mystery surrounding the elusive sauce before it's gone forever.

    An Immersive Dining Experience at WcDonald's

    Taking inspiration from the isekai anime subgenre, McDonald's is transporting fans to the first IRL WcDonald's on March 9-10. The WcDonald's Immersive Dining Experience will be a multi-sensory dining experience in Los Angeles, - a genre-bending fusion of entertainment and food. Guests will be transported into the WcDonald's universe through 360 projection mapping and immersive tabletop projections inspired by the four WcDonald's anime episodic shorts – all while enjoying a set menu of WcDonald's items. Fans can reserve their spot exclusively on OpenTable starting Feb. 28 by searching "WcDonald's Immersive Dining Experience" on the OpenTable app or website. 

    A Celebration of Anime Fan Art 
    WcDonald's wouldn't be what it is if it weren't for the creativity of our fans. So, we're recognizing three up-and-coming anime artists who have created WcDonald's-themed artwork with grants to help fund their upcoming projects and a celebration at their local McDonald's. Additionally, the three artists will receive a one-on-one mentoring session with top manga artist/illustrator, Acky Bright.

    On Feb. 26, get ready for an anime-fueled adventure that starts with, "Welcome to WcDonald's, may I take your order?"

  • 2/25/2024

    Tropical Smoothie Cafe Rewards Financial Literacy

    tropical smoothie app game

    Greenlight Financial Technology, Inc.,  announced a new rewards program with Tropical Smoothie Cafe, to bring financial literacy game Greenlight Level Up  to more families for free.  Starting today, families can download the Greenlight app and play a selection of Level Up challenges with no Greenlight subscription required, while earning fun rewards for a limited time.

    Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the first brand to reward kids and teens for completing Level Up challenges in the Greenlight app. The program is designed to motivate kids to improve their financial knowledge and skills by rewarding them with a free 12-ounce kids smoothiewhen they or their referred friends complete 10 Level Up challenges in a learning quest.

    93% of teens believe they need financial knowledge and skills to achieve their life goals, and 97% of parents agree.  Still, only 35 states require a personal finance course for students, and teens score an average of 64% on the National Financial Literacy Test, showing a clear gap in financial education that is accessible and effective. Parents also rank personal finance as the #1 most difficult life skill to teach their children with 81% saying they wish they had more financial education tools and resources.

    Greenlight Level Up is an in-app financial literacy game with a curriculum to empower young people with money skills and confidence. Built by academic and game design experts, Level Up challenges are packed with bite-sized videos, quizzes, and minigames that keep kids and teens engaged.

    “Our collaboration with Greenlight aligns with our mission to Inspire Better  and help all kids shine bright. As the first brand providing rewards that are integrated into the Greenlight Level Up game, we look forward to the opportunity to reward hard working kids with a free 12 oz. kids smoothie,” said Deborah von Kutzleben, CMO of Tropical Smoothie Café, LLC. “Tropical Smoothie Cafe hopes to enhance Greenlight’s mission to improve financial education among kids by offering an incentive to learn about money.”

    Families can download the Greenlight app  to start playing a selection of Level Up challenges for free and earn rewards. The full suite of Level Up challenges are also available for free through Greenlight’s partner programs with banks, credit unions, and employers. 

  • Show MoreShow More
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds