Wendy's and Google Cloud announced an expanded partnership to pilot an artificial intelligence (AI) solution,Wendy's FreshAI. The technology has the potential to transform Wendy's drive-thru food ordering experience with Google Cloud's generative AI and large language models (LLMs) technology.
Demand for Drive-Thru
With 75 to 80 percent of Wendy's customers choosing the drive-thru as their preferred ordering channel, delivering a seamless ordering experience using AI automation can be difficult due to the complexities of menu options, special requests, and ambient noise. For example, because customers can fully customize their orders and food is prepared when ordered at Wendy's, this presents billions of possible order combinations available on the Wendy's menu, leaving room for miscommunication or incorrect orders. Google Cloud's generative AI capabilities can now bring a new automated ordering experience to the drive-thru that is intended to enhance the experience that customers, employees and franchisees expect from Wendy's. As HT reported last month, one Wendy's franchise, Wenspoke, is expanding its use of AI in the drive-thrus.
"Wendy's introduced the first modern pick-up window in the industry more than 50 years ago, and we're thrilled to continue our work with Google Cloud to bring a new wave of innovation to the drive-thru experience," said Todd Penegor, President and CEO of the Dublin, Ohio-based QSR. "Google Cloud's generative AI technology creates a huge opportunity for us to deliver a truly differentiated, faster and frictionless experience for our customers, and allows our employees to continue focusing on making great food and building relationships with fans that keep them coming back time and again."
Pilot Near HQ
In June, Wendy's plans to launch its first pilot of Google Cloud's AI technology in a Columbus, Ohio-area, Company-operated restaurant, using those learnings to inform future expansions to more Wendy's drive-thrus. The pilot will include new generative AI offerings, such as Vertex AI and more, to have conversations with customers, the ability to understand made-to-order requests and generate responses to frequently asked questions.
This will all be powered by Google's foundational LLMs that have the data from Wendy's menu, established business rules and logic for conversation guardrails, and integration with restaurant hardware and the Point of Sale system. By leveraging generative AI, Wendy's seeks to take the complexity out of the ordering process so employees can focus on serving up fast, fresh-made, quality food and exceptional service.
Today's update builds upon Google Cloud's and Wendy's long standing partnership to enhance the Wendy's restaurant experience. Since 2021, Wendy's has leveraged Google Cloud's data analytics, AI, machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud tools to make it faster, easier, and more convenient for customers to access the brand.
Denny's Launches Series of National Wellness, Mental Health Summits
As part of a national effort to raise awareness and offer expert insights, Denny's is kicking off a series of summits focused on how companies and individuals can better manage and improve their mental health and wellness.
The first summit is taking place on April 22 at the HPAC Theater in Spartanburg, S.C. The summit will be free to the public and attendees can participate in-person or virtually.
"Denny's has always been committed to feeding people's bodies, minds, and souls, and this summit series perfectly aligns with our holistic approach to wellness," said Kelli Valade, CEO of Denny's. "The COVID-19 pandemic has placed the topics of mental health and personal well-being front and center. Now is the time to think about how we can bring our whole selves to all facets of our lives, including the workplace."
The summit keynote speaker is Dr. Daniel E. Dawes, Senior Vice President for Global Health and Executive Director of the Institute of Global Health Equity at Meharry Medical College. Dawes will discuss the importance of addressing mental health equity and the path forward to achieving a healthier society. Other nationally recognized panelists include:
Dr. Shaneeta Johnson, a surgeon, clinician, educator, and researcher at Morehouse School of Medicine and Senior Fellow in Global Health Equity at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute
Dr. Monique May, a board-certified and licensed family physician best known as the "Physician in the Kitchen"
Dr. Bennie L. Harris, Chancellor of the University of South Carolina Upstate
Sharon Lykins, Denny's Vice President of Product Innovation
"Mental health and wellness significantly impact the quality of life of individuals, families, and communities across the Upstate region and beyond," said USC Upstate Chancellor, Bennie L. Harris, Ph.D. "We are thrilled to join forces with a global leader like Denny's to address one of the most critical public health issues of our time."
Journalist Roland S. Martin will moderate two panels, "Mindful Eating," which will address the connection between food and wellness, and "Wellness at the Workplace," which focuses on mental health at work.
A second mental health summit will be offered on October 10 in Nashville, Tennessee.
AI Startup BeCause Advances Tourism Sustainability Practices with Strong Support from Angel Investors
BeCause, a startup transforming how the hospitality, travel, and tourism industries manage their sustainability data, has announced a significant early investment from renowned Danish entrepreneurs-turned-investors Carsten Mahler and Daniel Heskia. The $450,000 investment provides important financial backing for the Danish company’s next phase and brings valuable strategic guidance and advice from seasoned investors known for identifying successful enterprises and generating significant returns.
The startup’s AI-powered sustainability hub simplifies, speeds up, and reduces costs for sustainability management in the tourism industry, freeing up resources and allowing for greater real-world impact. By eliminating 60% of the resources previously used for repetitive, error-prone manual administrative tasks, BeCause enables stakeholders to stay up to date with the latest sustainability improvements, resulting in a sixfold faster return on sustainability investments. This improvement ultimately leads to a significant increase in bottom-line profits, potentially amounting to millions of dollars for a typical hotel chain in the first year alone.
“Since our founding, we’ve already attracted some of the world’s leading travel and tourism brands, including Booking.com, GreenKey and other leading travel & tourism companies, all of whom believe in our platform’s ability to transform their approach to sustainability and are committed to providing sustainable options to travelers while improving how their companies manage their sustainability efforts more efficiently,” said says Frederik Rubens Steensgaard, CEO and Co-founder of BeCause.
Solving the $21 billion problem in sustainability management
The investment, secured ahead of the startup’s official seed round opening, enables BeCause to expand its commercial and product development efforts with added resources and runway. “Ineffective sustainability management is costing hotel and travel brands over $8 billion each year, in addition to missed revenues of at least $13 billion annually based on our industry estimations,” added Steensgaard. “This early investment addresses a significant need in the industry and helps support our mission of making sustainability management simpler, faster and cheaper so that tourism companies can make a tangible impact on people, the planet and their profits.”
BeCause is also participating in the Alchemist Accelerator, a global top-ten incubator for enterprise software startups whose Demo Day, scheduled for May 30, has historically attracted more than 400 investors seeking high-impact opportunities.
A shared vision for a sustainable future in travel, tourism and beyond
Investors Mahler and Heskia have a track record of founding successful companies, including FundConnect, which before its acquisition, provided data management and reporting solutions for the financial sector and is now Europe's preferred neutral fund data infrastructure. The investors' success with FundConnect, which manages financial data similarly to how BeCause handles sustainability data, highlights their expertise in creating and scaling digital ecosystems. It also points to the potential of future applications for BeCause’s sustainability data solutions beyond the travel and tourism sector.
The investment also comes at a time when the market for sustainability data solutions is maturing. Over the last 24 months, regulations and supply chain pressures have spurred demand for the solutions BeCause has developed – AI-enabled automation and streamlining of sustainability data and workflows across multiple stakeholders.
The startup’s technology framework connects certification entities such as Green Key and travel providers and distributors, enabling over 10,000 hotels and OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) to provide travelers with accurate and reliable sustainability data. These processes, traditionally handled via spreadsheets, emails and unconnected niche systems, are ripe for transformation, and the need to manage them efficiently to ensure compliance and competitive advantage is fueling BeCause’s growth.
Cross-sector expertise and guidance
“We see the potential impact of BeCause’s sustainability data management hub can have on businesses, and we believe in their unique approach to applying these principles to sustainability," says Carsten Mahler, former CEO of FundConnect and Danske Invest, one of the largest and oldest mutual funds in the Nordics. "We are excited to join Frederik and his team on this journey and provide guidance and support to help them achieve their profit with a purpose-driven goal. We have been impressed by the team.”
The investment was made through Prolab Holding, an entity held by Mahler and Heskia. Other investors in BeCause include Innovation Fund Denmark, Alchemist Accelerator, the Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship, Vækstfonden, and Corde Invest.
P3 Rolls Out Customized Booking Engine for Omni Hotels & Resorts
Hotel technology company P3 is projecting significant growth in North America, following the deployment of a new customized booking engine for Omni Hotels & Resorts.
The new booking engine elevates the guest’s online experience with an improved UX/UI design and ecommerce payment integrations, and enhanced online loyalty functionality for Select Guest. Loyalty members can now personalize their stay preferences, access to dashboards to view their progression towards free nights, and more easily book reward stays.
This is the first time that Omni Hotels & Resorts has partnered with a third-party supplier to develop its online booking engine— and the project has helped P3 to establish an increased presence in the United States. P3 recently relocated their CEO, Phelim Pekaar from Dublin to a new office in Boulder, CO, in order to continue the expansion of a US-based team, who will be responsible for overseeing the delivery and ongoing support of the new booking engine for Omni.
“P3 is very excited to be working with Omni Hotels & Resorts and hopes to use it as springboard for further growth in North America,” said Pekaar. “Omni has been an anchor client for P3 in the US and this project has allowed us to demonstrate our expertise in building customized booking journeys that integrate seamlessly with Oracle’s Opera property management systems.”
Omni has now become part of a community of other global hotel groups using Opera alongside P3, which gives them access to a continual development process shared across a larger like-minded client base.
“The target for P3 is now significant growth in the North American market,” continued Pekaar. “We’re looking forward to working with other hotel groups that see Opera as a platform where they can build their technological infrastructure to gain a competitive advantage. Omni wanted to further elevate their customers' user experience, and P3 helps achieve that goal, as well as provide better functionality for their guests, a better platform for their brand, and a better ecommerce journey tailored to their specific offering.”
The new Omni Hotels & Resorts booking engine went live across their portfolio of properties on April 26th.
Survey: 42% of IT Leaders Told to Keep Data Breaches Confidential
Data breaches can seriously threaten businesses, resulting in significant financial losses, legal ramifications, and reputational damage.
According to the data presented by the Atlas VPN team, 42% of IT leaders have been told to keep a data breach confidential. Furthermore, more than half of businesses admitted to experiencing a data breach in the last 12 months.
Nearly 30% of IT professionals had kept data breach a secret when they knew it should be reported. While these people should know better, they decided to side with the hackers and keep their crimes silent. In addition, customers whose information was stolen are also unaware that their data are in criminals’ hands.
When looking at the results by country, US businesses were the least responsible when dealing with data breaches. Over 70% of IT leaders were told to keep a data breach confidential, while 55% kept data theft a secret when they knew it should be reported.
Companies in Germany were the most responsible when dealing with data breaches. Of the IT leaders surveyed, 35% were advised to maintain confidentiality regarding a data breach, but only 15% kept it quiet. Furthermore, 54% neither were told nor kept a breach confidential.
Cybersecurity writer at Atlas VPN, Vilius Kardelis, shares his thoughts on data breach management:
“In an age where data breaches have become a grim reality, such practice undermines the fundamental principles of transparency, accountability, and proactive risk mitigation. Organizations must recognize that concealing data breaches erodes customers' trust and hinders the collective effort required to combat cyber threats.”
US businesses in trouble
To stay ahead in the face of technological advancements, businesses must recognize the gravity of the situation and adjust their security measures accordingly.
Overall 52% of companies have experienced a data breach in the last 12 months. However, when we take a closer look at country statistics, one of them stands out among the others.
About 3 out of 4 IT leaders in the US admitted that their company suffered a data breach in the last 12 months. This statistic seems even worse when combined with the fact that 55% of professionals stayed silent about data breaches. In the US, if the data breach affects more than 500 people, it is legally required to report it in 10 business days.
Meanwhile, 51% of businesses in the UK experienced a data breach in the last year. IT leaders working in Germany and Italy disclosed that nearly 50% of their businesses suffered a data incident. Data breaches also affected 44% of companies in Spain, while French businesses were the least likely to suffer such incidents, with only 42% experiencing data thefts.
To read the second part and the full article, head over to:
The Sandbox, a decentralized gaming virtual world and a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, announced a partnership with world-renowned hospitality company Cipriani to bring iconic Italian lifestyle and elegance to the metaverse.
The experience will allow players to walk the streets of Venice and discover the original Bellini, meet the Cipriani family, and take part in a relaxing and invigorating metaverse experience. The landmark Cipriani Wall Street Ballroom will also be recreated to host a masquerade ball, fashion shows, concerts, and other cultural events.
“We’re delighted to bring iconic Italian history into The Sandbox to further enrichen our players’ experiences,” said Sebastien Borget, COO and Co-Founder of The Sandbox. “In designing a metaverse for a such a diverse audience, we have the unique opportunity to represent nationalities and cultures from around the world, enabling us to connect with our players at a deeper level than traditional games.”
The Masquerade will be among the first events hosted on Cipriani’s LAND, where visitors will have a chance to dance and listen to great music, all while hidden behind amazing masks. It will be a place to meet new people and learn about the experiences that Cipriani provides.
Cipriani’s LAND will be located in the trendy new Galleria neighborhood in The Sandbox. Launched on 1 December, 2022 at 3pm UTC, this neighborhood is built around fashion, media, and hospitality brands. Its upscale sense of style makes it the perfect place to host memorable Cipriani experiences.
Players exploring Venice will be welcomed with a splash of time travel upon arriving at Harry’s Bar, the legendary 1930’s bar known for being a beloved place of gathering where writers, painters, artists, aristocrats, and royalty would meet to enjoy good company and drink a famous Bellini cocktail. The bar recently celebrated its 92nd anniversary on May 13th and will be featured in a new playable experience and accompanying NFT drop.