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  • 6/17/2024

    SpotOn Restaurant Operator Survey Highlights the Connection Between Technology and Profitability

    spoton logo
    SpotOn, a software and payments partner for restaurants and small businesses, revealed the details of its Restaurant Operator Intelligence Report, which further solidifies the connection between technology and restaurant profitability. Known for operating on notoriously thin profit margins, the restaurant industry now faces a triple threat of rising costs, increasing regulations, and reduced consumer spending, requiring restaurants to leverage effective industry-specific technology. SpotOn found that 61% of operators say online ordering platforms provide them a way to drive greater customer loyalty and repeat visits. 
     
    In the survey of more than 300 restaurant owners and operators, 63% of respondents said their profitability increased in 2023. When asked about the benefits of technology used in their restaurants, many directly correlated new efficiencies and higher profits with the use of technology. Operators noted faster customer service, better loyalty engagement, increased check averages, and decreased labor costs as major contributors to their bottom line.
     
    “In today’s tight economy, technology can be the key difference between a restaurant barely making ends meet and thriving,” said Kevin Bryla, Chief Marketing Officer at SpotOn. “Restaurants that utilize an integrated tech stack, which includes handheld devices, online ordering, order kiosks, QR codes, and more, will be turning over more tables, pushing through more orders, and making life easier for staff. Restaurant technology that is designed to enhance the experience for both staff and guests has a positive bottom-line impact -- and the results of this survey prove it.” 
     
    Technology That’s Moving The Needle
    Over the past 12–18 months, restaurants have seen significant fluctuations in cost and labor. With reduced consumer spending, operators must focus on repackaging menus, supplementing labor, and streamlining operations to ensure sustainable growth. SpotOn is committed to helping operators find innovative ways to maintain profitability, whether by reducing labor costs or increasing average order value. 
     
    According to the survey, a majority (51%) of independent restaurants reported increased profit margins, with small restaurant chains (79%) seeing the greatest increase in profit margins during the survey period. Survey respondents pointed to the benefits of technology in several key areas, including faster service, greater customer loyalty, higher check averages, and overall higher profits:
     
    • Online Ordering: 61% of operators reported that having an online ordering platform led to greater customer loyalty and repeat visits, and 55% said it also contributed to higher check averages. It was also the top-ranked tech tool for increasing profits among respondents.
    • Handheld devices: 58% of operators said that handheld devices provided faster service, and 48% reported that they led to higher average check sizes. 
    • QR codes: 61% of operators stated that QR codes provided faster customer service, which in turn led to more tables turned, more guests served, and higher profitability
    • Order Kiosks: 70% of operators reported that order kiosks provided faster customer service, which resulted in more customer transactions and higher customer check averages. 57% also said that the technology helped lower labor costs. 
     
    Employee Retention 
    Outside of the operational benefits of technology, respondents indicated that digital systems play an integral role in employee retention, which is a priority considering that:
     
    56% of operators said that employee engagement is moderate or low in their restaurants;
    20% of operators state that staff turnover is one of the biggest challenges in the first half of 2024. 
     
    Respondents indicated that increasing employee earning potential is the key to retention. With increased check sizes and faster table turnover, servers equipped with tech like handheld point-of-sale devices can net larger tips and serve more customers, increasing their take-home pay while making their shifts run smoother. In research among SpotOn clients, restaurant operators found a 4.2% average increase in tables served when using SpotOn handhelds.
     
    Technology Adoption is increasing.
    The use of technology in the restaurant industry is becoming more widespread, and a majority of operators surveyed expect to increase their investment in technology in 2024. Specific priority areas for investment include online ordering capabilities on owned websites and apps. Only 22% of respondents report that they currently use a point-of-sale system that offers delivery integration, but one in four say they plan on investing in owned delivery technology in the next year. These findings point to a shift away from third-party platforms and toward integration with existing systems. 
     
    With most third-party delivery apps taking 30% or more in commissions on online orders as well as critical guest data, technology that allows restaurants to take control of online orders can be crucial to increasing profits. SpotOn’s zero-commission online ordering solution, SpotOn Order, lets guests place online orders directly from the restaurant's website or Google and works seamlessly with SpotOn’s point-of-sale and loyalty program to keep guests coming back each time. SpotOn is committed to providing integrated restaurant systems with flexible, easy-to-use technology at a transparent price. SpotOn users can access 24/7 customer support from real people, saving restaurant operators valuable time, as one-third report communicating with technology partners at least once a week. As restaurants continue to lean on technology to increase profitability and streamline operations, SpotOn will be there to support them in their success.
  • 6/17/2024

    Meyer Jabara Hotels Offering IT Services & Support Across its Portfolio and Beyond

    business man looking at tech symbols

    Meyer Jabara Hotels (MJH) is invested in technology – so much so that the company is taking on the role of technology support, help desk, and implementation for its portfolio of 32 hotels plus any other properties needing IT assistance on a project basis. With the goal of enabling guests and staff to communicate at the speed of business or faster, the hotel owner and third-party manager will design, procure, install, certify, and monitor each property’s network infrastructure. In addition, MJH will work to ensure the highest levels of cybersecurity and provide data backup/recovery and helpdesk support.

    “It’s been said that 93% of all communication is nonverbal; that means, when we communicate, only 7% of all shared information is actually getting through,” said Ted Jabara, Meyer Jabara Hotels regional vice president and technology team leader. “As a multi-property, multi-brand hotel owner/operator, our responsibility is to make sure that when we communicate through technology, the transmitted information is delivered consistently and with the highest quality. Only a well-designed network can ensure that efficient, secure, and reliable connectivity will make verbal communications actionable for everyone. With the internal capacity, certifications, and industry knowledge to build a proper network ourselves, we saw value in supporting managed IT as an additional service.”

    MJH will oversee the various components and systems that enable connectivity, data management, and communication at its hotels, including:

    • Physical Infrastructure – Cabling, Switches, Routers, and Access Points
    • Network Segmentation – Guest Network, Staff Network, IoT (smart thermostats, security cameras, automated lighting systems, etc.) and Operational Network
    • Internet Connectivity – ISP services, Bandwidth Management
    • Supporting Security Measures – Firewalls, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems (IDPS and Access Control)
    • Management and Monitoring – Network Management Software, Logging and Analytics, Remote Management (for network administrators)
    • Key Services and Applications – PMS, VoIP, Entertainment Systems, POS, Reservation Systems,
    • Redundancy and Reliability – Backup Systems, Failover mechanisms
    • Compliance and Regulations – Data Protection Regulations, Payment Card Industry (PCI) Compliance

    “Managing a hotel network is not an easy task,” Jabara said. “There is a lot happening behind the scenes that can take a hotel off the grid if not properly supported or maintained. Therefore, we have assembled a team of highly skilled IT professionals capable of designing, implementing, and interconnecting all IT systems in a hotel. We also have the certifications required by the brands to do the work. Whether a property is in a pre-opening, construction, or renovation phase, this group will keep each hotel connected to its customers and to corporate, and we will provide periodic system updates as required.”

    Tech Support as a Tiered Service

    Meyer Jabara Hotels will also maintain the help desk for properties. While the services team resides at the company’s corporate office in Danbury, Conn., it will appear to each hotel as if it has an in-house specialist for any connected system on the network. In addition, the company can provide consulting and implementation with regard to pre-open/conversion design and PIP-related upgrades.

    “We will ensure that our hotels are 100% operational, 100% of the time,” Jabara said. “Our help desk is comprised of well-seasoned hospitality professionals who understand how hotels and their interconnected systems work. These people are familiar with the brands and with the tech side of service. Most help desks don’t know the intricacies of hotel technology and how systems connect and why. Without this skillset, it can cost owners a bundle not just in fees, but in lost business.”

  • 6/17/2024

    Knowland Announces Automated Prospecting Tool: Knowland Select

    knowland select

    Knowland, the leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, announced the introduction of Knowland Select, a new product specifically designed for hotels with limited meeting space. Knowland Select subscribers will receive a curated list of target accounts for upcoming need periods directly to the seller’s inbox. It provides a low-cost option to help optimize resources, save time and improve performance while ensuring a steady flow of qualified local prospects.

    Identifying active accounts in a particular market can be stressful and time-consuming for sales teams, especially for smaller hotels with fewer staff. It can be difficult to decipher which accounts best fit a property, and sales staff often feel overwhelmed as they conduct both sales and operations duties. A streamlined set of Knowland features designed with a bias to action, Knowland Select simplifies prospecting for qualified accounts using automated emails and alerts.

    Driven by customer requests for stronger group sales tools in select service hotels, Knowland developed and piloted a solution with leading hotel groups to ensure fast, effective delivery of actionable prospects. The general market release is scheduled for later this summer. Hospitality organizations can register for a sneak peek at the solution here.

    • Enables prospecting at scale—Knowland Select enables sales personnel to prospect at scale with greater efficiency and higher performance. Alerts provide robust account intelligence to foster prospecting automation by allowing operators to capture more business in an increasingly competitive market. 
    • Improves sales productivity—An account summary details booking behaviors, including how that account may have booked in a market or with a brand or how active it is in specific months, featuring an indicator for multi-day events. Each identified account includes a link to additional details within Knowland Select, including Account Summary, Market Summary, Top 3 Markets, Top Brands Booked, and Active Event Months.
    • Sub-market activity reports identify the most active accounts—Operators receive an emailed report of up to 250 accounts that had smaller event bookings, reflecting data the quarter ahead from the year before. Robust account intelligence and prospecting automation give sellers everything they need to take advantage of booking window lead time. 
    • Uncover new opportunities and grow market share—A weekly New Account Alert helps leaders keep their finger on the pulse of new and emerging business in their market and identifies accounts that have not visited their sub-market in five or more years. The emailed report is delivered weekly and highlights new activity in a designated submarket.

    Jeff Bzdawka, CEO, Knowland, said: Knowland Select empowers limited service hotels, hardest hit by the recent travel slowdown, with automated prospecting. It streamlines prospecting for the segment’s diverse hotel teams by directly delivering qualified accounts and contacts to the seller’s inbox, boosting productivity and group business growth. Importantly, Knowland Select expands our suite of Platform offerings to provide valuable sales intelligence solutions for all hotel sizes and chain scales in a portfolio. And with its accessible price point, it lowers the barrier to entry for automated prospecting at scale and helps hotels unlock a clear return on investment."

  • 6/17/2024

    Little Caesars, Ilitch Companies Announce Trio of Tech Promotions

    a sign in front of a building

    Little Caesars, a global leader in the pizza industry, is proud to announce the promotion of three exceptional executives to key leadership positions within the company's technology division. These promotions come at a time of tremendous growth for Little Caesars, underscoring the company's commitment to leveraging cutting-edge innovation to drive future success and enhance the guest experience. These promotions will also continue to elevate technology at the entire Ilitch Companies family of businesses, including Ilitch Sports + Entertainment.

    Keith Faigin Promoted to Chief Information Officer, Restaurant Systems

    Keith Faigin, who recently celebrated his 10-year anniversary at Little Caesars, has been promoted to Chief Information Officer, Restaurant Systems. Throughout his tenure, Keith has overseen numerous software initiatives, with a significant focus on the company's e-commerce platform. 

    Little Caesars received Hospitality Technology's 2021 Breakthrough Technology Award for its store software.

    He has been instrumental in securing multiple patents for Little Caesars and holds a bachelor's degree from Williams College and a master's in computer science from the University of Illinois. In addition to his professional accomplishments, Keith is a resident cast member of Go Comedy! Improv Theater and a founder of the Detroit Improv Festival.

    Afia Phillips Promoted to Chief Information Security Officer

    Afia Phillips has been promoted to Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). Afia has been serving as the Vice President of Information Security at Little Caesar Enterprises, overseeing information security across all Ilitch companies. Afia has established a strategic enterprise information security program that focuses on mitigating cyber risk across the organization. She is passionate about social responsibility and has led key initiatives pertaining to food insecurity, volunteerism, diversity, equity and inclusion. Afia is an active member of the Michigan Council of Women in Technology, T200, and Chief, a selective nationwide network of female executives. She is a governing body member of the Evanta CIO & CISO Network (Detroit Chapter) and was appointed to the State of Michigan's Board of Ethics by Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Her achievements have been recognized with a Crain's Notable Women in STEM honor and a Top Global CISO Award from Cyber Defense Magazine. Afia holds a degree in computer science from Wayne State University and has certifications in cybersecurity and risk management.

    Lance Shinabarger Promoted to Chief Information Officer, Shared Technologies and Applications

    Lance Shinabarger has been promoted to Chief Information Officer, Shared Technologies and Applications. With over 25 years of IT management experience, Lance has been with Little Caesars since 2017 as Senior Vice President of Enterprise Systems, Data Services, and Global Infrastructure. He has successfully led the global infrastructure for Little Caesars, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, and other Ilitch companies. Lance holds a degree in Computer Science from Cleary University and has a proven track record of developing and executing technology strategies that drive business growth.

    "These promotions highlight the incredible talent and dedication of our leadership team," said Anita Klopfenstein, Global Chief Information Officer. "Keith, Afia, and Lance have consistently demonstrated their commitment to innovation and excellence through their strong leadership. We are confident that they will continue to drive our technology initiatives forward."

    As Little Caesars continues to grow and innovate, the company remains focused on its mission to provide exceptional value, convenience and quality to customers through pioneering technology and forward-thinking strategies. These leadership changes are a testament to the company's dedication to staying at the forefront of the industry and preparing for an even brighter future of continued aggressive growth.

    Ilitch Companies represents leading brands in the food, sports and entertainment industries, including Little Caesars, Blue Line Distribution, the Detroit Red Wings, Ilitch Sports + Entertainment, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Development, Little Caesars Fundraising Program, Champion Foods, MotorCity Casino Hotel, Ocean Casino and Tenda. The organization also has a joint venture interest in 313 Presents.

  • 6/16/2024

    Hoteliers Embrace AI, but Lagging Tech Holds them Back, says Cloudbeds CEO

    While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming industries, hoteliers are struggling to embrace it, despite rapid industry growth.  In a recent interview by Hospitality Expert and Influencer Paula Carreirao, CEO Adam Harris explored this disconnect, highlighting both the potential and the roadblocks to AI adoption in hospitality.

    Key takeaways from the interview:

    • AI can solve real hotel problems:
      Instead of chasing the latest tech buzzword, hoteliers should focus on what specific problem they want to address; AI can be the answer to hyper-personalized contact with guests, staff automation, data analysis, and faster content creation.
    • The power of personalization:
      AI powered by natural language processing can personalize guest communication even with limited data.  However, the human touch remains irreplaceable.
    • AI, the review responder’s friend:
      Responding promptly to online reviews is crucial to a hotel’s search algorithms.  AI can automate this process, helping craft appropriate responses and improve search rankings.

    Beyond the hype: The need for collaboration

    Harris acknowledged the confusion surrounding AI's complexity, hype, and potential risks – and that this stands in the way of adoption for hotels.  While some advancements are happening in travel planning (think AI-powered itineraries), the hospitality industry itself hasn't seen a breakout moment yet.

    “Hoteliers wonder if it’s as good as people are saying,” Harris said. However, he believes collaboration between hoteliers and platforms like Cloudbeds can bridge the gap. Cloudbeds has been using ML for the past 10 years in areas such as distribution, application scalability and behind-the-scenes technology, and is now taking those learnings and applying them to solutions such as advertising, online positioning, and reputation management.

    AI can empower the art of hospitality

    Despite its size, the hospitality industry lags behind in technology adoption.  This is particularly concerning with the projected surge in hotel stays by 2030, says Harris.

    “Every hotel is an art – the artist is the owner, and they have a style and a concept, so they have to provide a service to match that.  They have to build their systems around this, and AI can help.  The challenge lies in balancing a hotel's unique character with efficient service.  AI can help navigate this balance, but requires a willingness to pass some control to “robots”.  That can be scary.

    “To do AI and data in the right way, everything that happens needs to go into one single source – and that’s where AI can help.  However, the industry must prioritize education around AI before diving into complex AI solutions. The fact that we have, on average, 20 systems powering the hotel landscape creates too much opportunity for data integrity loss. Data sits in too many places to make it actionable.”

    “Consider the digital door lock – we have the capability to control these locks remotely via our phones.  But despite being around for a decade, only 13% of hotels utilize this technology today.  If basic tech adoption is low, widespread AI adoption seems like a distant future.  I think the industry is afraid of change, not AI.  If we are going to get technical with AI, we need to look at the less technical items first, as these will otherwise stand in the way of AI.”

    By focusing on foundational tech adoption before diving into AI, the hospitality industry can position itself for a future powered by intelligent solutions.

    The interview concluded with the importance of working with a technology partner who listens.  “If we’re not listening to our customers, we’re dead in the water,” Harris concluded.  “Every year, our product and research teams spend thousands of hours talking to and listening to our customers, and I believe that differentiates us from our competitors.  You’ll see some fun things come out of our camp in the near future… I won’t say anymore now, but watch this space.”

  • 6/17/2024

    HotelREZ Connects to Apaleo PMS Helping Hoteliers Control Cost of Bookings

    hotelrez apaleo logos

    HotelREZ, a hotel representation company, and Apaleo, the API-first property management platform, have joined forces completing a direct two-way interface for the seamless exchange of data.

    Through the two-way API connection, hoteliers will have the capabilities to support a full 1-2-1 mapping of room types and rate types, this is designed for PMSs that have more sophisticated reporting and in some cases revenue management capabilities. The PMS will have full rate and yield control over information loaded in HotelREZ’s CRS, CentralREZ SynXIS CRS.

    The interface is based on HTNG specification and deploys features that are supported by HotelREZ’s CRS. The integration between Apaleo’s cloud-native hotel Property Management System (PMS) and CentralREZ, HotelREZ’s Central Reservation System (CRS) provides real time updates to manage inventory, rates, availability and bookings for distribution to the Global Distribution Systems (GDS), primarily used by travel agents, as well as to millions of other bookers using websites powered by the GDS worldwide.

    The seamless connectivity between both providers will ensure hoteliers receive real-time reservation delivery and availability updates from these channels, via the PMS, which is available to all existing and new Apaleo customers.

    Mark Lewis, CEO & Founder at HotelREZ, said “Hotels need simplicity in their tech stack to achieve more efficient operations. In the new interface between CentralREZ and Apaleo, hotels can save time and automate more processes - reducing pressure on staff while having access to more market opportunities. Hotels can ensure they effectively manage their GDS inventory while keeping their PMS updated in real-time to avoid errors or overbooking.”

    Ulrich Pillau, CEO & Founder of Apaleo, added: “HotelREZ has a strong presence in the independent hotels market and through our interface hoteliers can better maximise market potential. The GDS, alongside third party distribution channels, offers huge value to hoteliers to improve profitability and grow market share. Our partnership means that hotels now benefit from optimal revenue and yield capabilities.”

    Apaleo customers can also benefit from access to HotelREZ’s own network of preferred travel agencies and consortia partnerships, as well as its global demand programme, which includes corporate and MICE RFP generation. As market specialists, HotelREZ customers typically benefit from a significant growth of channel business via the GDS agency market as a result of strong account management, worldwide demand partners and optimising marketing and sales opportunities.

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