News Briefs


Joe Tenczar Joins Sky Zone as CIO

Joe Tenczar

Indoor active entertainment company Sky Zone added three executives to its leadership team, including Joe Tenczar as Chief Information Officer. The appointment of Debbie Dizon Lauber as Chief People Officer and General Counsel, Eric Taylor as Chief Development Officer, along with Tenczar, will support Sky Zone's ongoing expansion and continued success.

"Sky Zone has grown rapidly over the past eighteen months, and we are excited to have Debbie, Joe and Eric join our leadership team," said Elizabeth Blair, CEO of Sky Zone. "Each of them brings decades of multi-unit operating experience to Sky Zone, which will further accelerate both our owned and franchised park growth."

  • Tenczar, a member of HT's Advisory Board and Restaurant Technology Network's (RTN)'s Board of Governors, will oversee Sky Zone's distributed technology team, focusing on the strategic alignment of technology with the business to support the progress and ongoing success of the company's innovative systems. Having spent the last several decades leading the IT function at multi-unit brands such as Hard Rock International, Ripley's Entertainment, Marriott Vacation Club and Sonny's BBQ, Tenczar was a founding partner of Restaurant CIOs, one of the top restaurant technology advisory firms in the U.S.  Tenczar and Brian Pearson, from Mendocino Market, shared their years of expertise during the MURTEC session, POS Software Trends: A Buyer's Guide.
  • As General Counsel and Chief People Officer, Lauber will focus on optimizing organizational performance, building out the legal, people and enterprise risk management teams' infrastructure and expanding these critical business enabling functions to best support the continued growth of Sky Zone. 
  • For Sky Zone, Taylor, who has over 20 years of experience in real estate and franchise development, will be responsible for concept development, leasing, design, construction and facilities, as well as franchisee real estate support. In this role, he will spearhead Sky Zone's growth into new markets as well as strengthen the brand's presence in key U.S. cities. Taylor previously served as VP of Real Estate and Development at Tijuana Flats Tex-Mex, with over 120 locations.

New Executives Join the Red Robin Team

Red Robin exterior of Glendale AZ location

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. has added some new faces to its Executive Leadership Team. This includes the appointment of Kevin Mayer to Chief Marketing Officer and Mark Simpson as Interim Chief People Officer. In addition, Jason Rusk has been promoted to Chief Business Development Officer.

Industry Vets Tapped to Fill CMO, Interim CPO Roles

As CMO of Red Robin, Mayer will be responsible for brand development, marketing, digital, innovation and menu development. He brings a wealth of global marketing, sales and brand building experience and has successfully BJ’s Restaurants, Volkswagen, Subaru and Chevrolet. As EVP, Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Growth Officer at BJ’s Restaurants he oversaw cross-functional innovation, marketing, product development, off-premise, digital and earned media, and local marketing.  Mayer and his team played a crucial role in transforming the BJ’s Restaurants brand, driving it from a regional casual dining player to a nationally recognized lifestyle brand. Their efforts resulted in numerous successful product launches, one of the best retention programs in the industry and record levels of familiarity and brand love contributing to nine straight quarters of same-store traffic growth over the category.

Mark Simpson, a 35-year human resources and hospitality industry veteran, joins Red Robin May 1 in the role of Interim Chief People Officer, with incumbent Wayne Davis’ recent departure to pursue other personal and career interests. Simpson recently retired from Texas Roadhouse, where he served as Vice President of Legendary People for many years and assisted in guiding the success of the company’s growth and award-winning culture, including administering its Operations-focused market & managing partner program, executive and senior-level staffing, benefits & compensation, field HR and employee relations, HR administration and more. Simpson will provide senior leadership on key People initiatives during this transition and assist in the search for Red Robin’s permanent CPO.

In addition, Jason Rusk has been promoted to Chief Business Development Officer. Most recently serving as SVP of Transformation & Business Development, Rusk has played a leadership role in a number of key initiatives impacting operations, franchise, marketing and branding during his 25 years with Red Robin. In his expanded role, he will continue to spearhead business transformation initiatives including franchise development, culinary upgrades, off-premise channel growth, supply chain, in-restaurant guest experience, real estate and new restaurant growth as well as deepening key brand partnerships with Donatos and others.


QSR Automations Recognized for Excellence in Customer Service

QSR Automations customer service team

QSR Automations earned recognition for excellence in customer service and support.

At MURTEC, QSR Automations’ VP of Hardware Solutions and Support, Kathi Klein, received fHospitality Technology ’s 2023 Top Women in Technology Lifetime Achievement Award. 

During her more than 30 years in the restaurant technology industry – half of those at QSR Automations–Klein has amassed incomparable knowledge in understanding and troubleshooting kitchen display, front-of-house, and the associated hardware and networking platforms needed to run them. 

But what truly sets Klein apart is her natural ability to nurture relationships and foster talent, which has made her an effective leader in QSR Automations’ Support Services Team. During her long tenure at QSR Automations, Klein has built one of the industry’s strongest and most effective support teams. In fact, under Klein’s guidance, the team has received a 99 percent satisfaction rate from customers in 2021, and last year handled more than 16,000 inbound and outbound calls, which earned them a bronze award for Excellence in Customer Service from the 2022 Stevie Awards. 

This was the third bronze Stevie award for the team, as last fall, Klein accepted two additional bronze awards from the Stevie Women in Business Awards on behalf of QSR Automations–one for excellence in customer service, and the other for growth. QSR Automations was selected for these honors from more than 1,500 nominations from around the world.

“Just as our technology is the heart of a restaurant kitchen, our people are truly the heart of this business,” said Angela Leet, CEO of QSR Automations. “My colleagues are passionate about innovation both in and out of the office, and it’s immensely gratifying to see them recognized for these achievements.”

QSR Automations, headquartered in Louisville, Ky., with offices in the United Kingdom, is a global industry leader in kitchen automation and guest management services.


Knowland Releases Sales Leader Training Guide to Help Hotel Owners and Asset Managers Protect and Grow Investments

logo, company name

Knowland, a provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality, announced a Sales Leader Training Guide designed to provide sales leaders with tips for helping property-level sellers get the best results from the Knowland platform and in turn, drive new business. Potential customers gain an in-depth look at the nuances of the platform. Download the guide here.

Achieving sustained profitability requires sales strategies that start from the top down. Owners and asset managers are looking to protect their investments through targeted data analytics. To help them do so, the Guide includes key questions needed to gain insight into industry trends and property-level sales performance.

  • Best practices for property-level sellersand above-property managers – Short booking windows challenge leaders looking to simultaneously book in the year, for the year, and build a healthy base into future years. The Guide details top activities that lead to success for on-property sales leaders and enterprise best practices to help asset managers better manage their portfolios.
  • Fast, simple directions to better strategize and delegate – Fast, simple directions and next steps help sales teams leverage insights and realize results. Top-level steps ensure sales teams leverage all aspects of the platform, such as Market Snapshot to investigate market trends or Smart Search to research potential accounts.
  • Create a holistic approach to a successful sales program – Key features enable sales teams to drive results. At the same time, leaders and above-property management gain key insights into performance metrics and areas of opportunity. Feature sets help sales leaders keep tabs on competitors (Comp Set Calendar), delegate target accounts (Account Sets) and hold teams accountable (Usage Reports). Market Analytics aggregates the data to provide a holistic view of a portfolio’s performance.

Patricia Shea, SVP sales and customer success, Knowland, said: “Owners and asset managers ask us all the time, ‘What best practices should I be aware of at property level and what above property metrics should I keep an eye on?’ We set out to answer these questions in a fast, simple way. The Sales Leader Training Guide not only provides best practices when using the Knowland platform but also frames sales team discussions between owners and on-property sales teams.”


HotelIQ Launches Decision Cloud

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HotelIQ is proud to announce the official launch of Decision Cloud, a sophisticated analytics and business intelligence solution with a unique Decision Intelligence architecture. HotelIQ’s Decision Cloud, powered by its Decision Intelligence architecture, enables hoteliers to make better, faster business decisions, even across siloed operational departments and, as a result, increase revenue – all from $1 USD per room, per month, with unlimited users. By offering unlimited users at no extra cost, sales, marketing and revenue managers now have access to consistent, high-quality property data, via easy-to-use dashboards and comprehensive reports, making it possible for the teams to work together to identify new revenue opportunities – without leaving Decision Cloud’s digital workspace.

HotelIQ’s Decision Intelligence helps hoteliers to understand and use data to make better, more informed decisions and then collaborate interdepartmentally to execute actions, based upon the intelligence gathered, more quickly and accurately, than you could with a traditional BI solution. Decision Intelligence results from a combination of four key pillars within Decision Cloud’s architecture: data management, analytics (traditional BI functionality), planning (predictive modeling to develop more accurate forecasts) and collaboration (enabling seamless collaboration within the solution). 

Decision Cloud gives hotels access to a wealth of data about their property, including performance metrics (i.e., occupancy, ADR, RevPAR, TRevPAR, etc.), pickup and pace, market segments, booking channels, geographic feeder markets and more, in an easy-to-use, app-based dashboard. Decision Cloud makes it possible for hoteliers to better understand their property’s key performance metrics, manage forecasting and budgeting more effectively and identify opportunities to increase bookings and revenue, while eliminating time-consuming manual data analysis. Decision Cloud also offers in-depth reporting functionality, with customizable reports in multiple formats, which can provide insights to a rate code level of granularity.

“By learning to read and respond to the data behind a property’s performance, heads of sales and revenue management can create more accurate forecasts, set achievable goals and optimize the processes that slow down effective decision-making,” said Apo Demirtas, CEO of Intelligent Hospitality, HotelIQ’s parent company. “As such, Decision Cloud is an operational imperative for hoteliers who are looking for an affordable, effective way to get a 360-degree view of their business, while empowering all operational departments to make better, data-based decisions that will boost bookings and revenue.”

Data democratization is a guiding philosophy for HotelIQ and Decision Cloud was designed with usability and clarity as guiding principles. In addition to making the solution easy to use, HotelIQ ensured that cost was not a potential barrier to entry; by offering Decision Cloud from only $1 USD per room, per month, with unlimited users, HotelIQ is providing all hotels with access to the property data that they need to improve their forecasting ability, identify low-performance areas and pinpoint key sales levers to drive revenue decisions.

“With the current uncertainty and dynamism in the travel market, hoteliers are looking for ways to be more competitive and earn as many bookings as possible,” said Sameer Umar, Chief Operating Officer of Intelligent Hospitality. “When you have a detailed understanding of how your property is positioned, you are better able to identify potential opportunities to outsell the competition and boost revenue; that’s where Decision Cloud comes in, as it was designed to facilitate the discovery of your property’s most important data, making maximizing revenue opportunities simple.”


More than 40 Percent of Consumers Say They’ll Share More Data to Get Personalized Brand Interactions

2023 vibes mobile consumer trends report

Vibes, a mobile engagement platform, announced the final results of its comprehensive 2023 Consumer Trends survey. Vibes surveyed a broad range of over 1,000 mobile-centric consumers with the intention of understanding what the relationship with their smartphones looks like today, how they interact with brands on their phones, and how often.

Among the core findings were that younger consumers say they now prefer SMS (32%) over email (26%) as their primary channel of communication from brands, and that 28% of consumers under age 40 actually cited a frequency of too few messages as a reason to stop receiving communication from a brand. More than 40% of smartphone users say the information they're willing to give a brand in exchange for better personalization includes their zip code, their name, their mobile phone number and zero-party survey data.

The survey also found that Mobile Wallet, i.e. a wallet on the smartphone that allows consumers to pay for items online or at the register, is taking off in popularity, particularly among younger consumers aged 25-54. 54% of this group say they're either already using or are interested in using Mobile Wallet to store items such as digital offers and loyalty cards – a terrific opportunity for brands looking to bridge the engagement gap between high-reach, low-engagement channels like email and low-reach, high-engagement channels like a brand’s own mobile app. 

More than 70% of smartphone users even said they are likely to save and redeem personalized mobile wallet offers or coupons that are enhanced with their name, and that are tailored to their personal shopping preferences.

“Consumers are telling us that they’ll gladly interact with brands on their smartphones, as long as offers are personal, timely and relevant, and if they allow them to take the next step to using a mobile wallet”, said Jay Hinman, Vibes’ VP of Marketing. “Nearly 70% of consumers already receive text messages and push notifications from brands on their phones, and younger consumers in particular are saying that they love it, with many saying they want even more.” 


Vibes has made the full report available for download here.