For electric vehicle owners in British Columbia, Tim Hortons is now fueling road trips in more ways than one. The company has announced the expansion of its electric vehicle charging station pilot launched earlier this year in Oakville, Ontario, by unveiling six new charging stations at restaurants throughout British Columbia.
Tim Hortons announced the pilot in February in an effort to study the technology, its usage and opportunities.
"We have been thrilled with the results of the pilot so far. Usage of the charging station in Oakville has surpassed our expectations and we received many calls with requests to expand the pilot," said Paulo Ferreira, Senior Director, International Strategic Restaurant Design and Building Standards, Tim Hortons. "With more than 3,300 eligible restaurants across the country, we continue to look for opportunities to expand the pilot and contribute to the EV infrastructure."
The BC expansion, supported by the Province of BC's Community Charging Infrastructure Fund and Koben Systems Inc. (KSI), placed charging stations strategically in Nanaimo, Langford, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Abbotsford and Coquitlam to create paths within the province, allowing guests to travel from restaurant to restaurant strictly on electric power.
Tim Hortons offers charging stations as a courtesy to guests at six locations. As of March 31st, 2013, Tim Hortons had 4,288 system-wide restaurants, including 3,453 in Canada, 808 in the United States and 27 in the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Panda Express announces the launch of Panda Rewards, its first points-based national rewards program.
It utilizes a personalized points-based system that rewards members with ten Panda Points for every dollar spent on qualifying purchases. Once 200 Panda Points have been accumulated, guests can start redeeming their favorite Panda menu items. Each month, guests' first qualified purchase will unlock a surprise Good Fortune Gift ranging from bonus points to special discounts or even free food, along with a unique digital fortune cookie message to be collected. Panda Rewards members will also receive a birthday gift of their choice.
"Sharing good fortune is an important value at Panda, and we are delighted to launch our first rewards program nationwide as a heartfelt expression of gratitude towards our loyal guests for their continued support throughout the years," said Andrea Cherng, Chief Brand Officer at Panda Express. "We look forward to engaging our guests in a playful and meaningful journey of good fortune as they collect unique prizes offering exceptional value every time they dine at Panda."
The more Panda Points members accrue, the better the rewards options. The rewards range from a free upgrade to a premium entrée, a free drink of choice to even a free Family Meal. Guests have a personalized experience to choose their preferred reward from multiple options. What's more, Panda Points do not expire unless there are no qualifying purchases in 12 months.
Panda Rewards members can earn and redeem Panda Points when ordering through the Panda Express mobile app or the PandaExpress.com website, in-store, or the drive-thru. Those ordering online that have logged in as a Panda Rewards member will automatically receive Panda Points for their purchase. For in-store and drive-thru orders, guests can easily access and present a QR code in the mobile app for a Panda associate to scan. Alternatively, guests can also enter a unique rewards code found on their receipt from an in-store order that can be entered in their account up to seven days from purchase in the app or online to earn Panda Points on that purchase.
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.
Bill Introducing Competition in Credit Card Swipe Fees Could Save Operators Money
A bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress that, if passed, has potential to save U.S. businesses billions in credit card fees.
The bipartisan and bicameral Credit Card Competition Act of 2023, introduced today by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Reps. Lance Gooden (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) would inject competition into this process by prohibiting card issuers from forcing restaurants to use the issuer’s processing network. This change would drive down processing costs for both operators and diners alike, saving U.S. businesses and consumers an estimated $11 billion a year.
“Swipe fees are one of the most expensive costs restaurant operators have to manage – behind food and labor costs – and being able to accept credit cards is essential to running a restaurant,” said Sean Kennedy, executive vice president of Public Affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “The Credit Card Competition Act would empower restaurant owners to choose the most cost effective and secure network to route a credit card transaction. The impact of this would be significant – saving restaurant operators and consumers billions of dollars a year.”
According to the NRA statement, the two dominant credit card companies account for over 80% of all credit card transactions in the U.S. and those transactions can only be processed on their network. This means that restaurants that want to accept these credit cards do not have a choice but to pay the processing fee set by these companies. The lack of competition means these two companies can effectively price-fix how much it costs restaurants to run a credit card. In the past decade the cost of these fees has more than doubled – unchecked by market competition.
The Credit Card Competition Act would:
Require that credit cards issued by the nation’s largest banks – those with over $100 billion in assets – are able to be routed through at least two unaffiliated networks.
Require that those banks offer a non-dominant network choice, creating competition and allowing smaller companies to compete in the credit card processing marketplace. This “dual routing” requirement already exists for debit cards and has saved businesses and consumers an estimated $9 billion a year over the last decade.
The bill also strengthens national security by blocking networks that are “owned, operated, or sponsored by a foreign state entity,” like China Union Pay, from entering the U.S. credit card market.
xnPOS Partners with Craftable to Help Hotels Optimize Operations and Improve Guest Experience
Hotel point of sale vendor Xn Global Systems Inc. is delighted to announce the integration of xnPOS to Craftable, the profit management software for hospitality operators. This partnership brings together two powerful food & beverage applications to help hoteliers optimize their business operations and increase profits.
xnPOS provides an integration to Craftable’s three leading solutions, Bevager, Foodager and Analytics,giving hotel operators access to real-time data on product supplies, invoices and purchasing procurement at their fingertips. By using their POS data in combination with the Craftable suite of products, hoteliers can get crucial insights into how product cost increases, variances, and labor affect their bottom line.Using server clock-in and clock-out data from xnPOS in tandem with Craftable’s products, hotels can manage labor, forecast sales, and utilize a full procurement suite with vendor integrations and punchouts.
Phil Probert, Vice President of Growth for Craftable, commented
“We are thrilled to partner with leading point-of-sale provider xnPOS. Combining two best-in-class hospitality tech providers allows us to assist even more operators in the hotel space. By equipping hoteliers with real-time insights and visibility into their operations, we can help them streamline operations, manage inventory and labor, and optimize guest experiences.”
Emmanuel Clave, VP Product Management for xnPOS, commented
“xnPOS is excited to add Craftable to its growing F&B integration ecosystem - Adding Craftable’s suite of products to xnPOS’s powerful POS solution provides extensive F&B-focused analytical tools and helps hoteliers & restaurateurs to improve their profitability and efficiency. We look forward to working closely with the Craftable team.”
Hooters of America is launching a new virtual food court with multi-concept ordering functionality.
The virtual food hall is now live for customers in 196 markets nationwide. At launch, the first three virtual concepts being offered include Chase Elliott’s Chicken Tenders, Hootie’s Burger Bar with a full line of cheeseburgers and hamburgers with all the toppings and Hootie’s Bait & Tackle, a seafood eatery.
Powered by Olo, customers can order from a variety of meal options in one basket, one transaction at checkout through a single delivery service. The new on-demand technology solution also allows cost and efficiency controls that the restaurant concepts can pass along to customers.
“Partnering with Olo means we can offer our customers a quicker, easier and cost-saving virtual experience – plus it’s something for everyone in a family or friend group,” said Marc Butler, senior vice president of strategic planning / off premise, Hooters of America. “Building a digital marketplace is essential in today's restaurant world. This new platform allows us to give our virtual concepts life beyond the delivery apps. Customers can directly place online orders for carryout, or if they want the convenience of delivery, we can provide that without the hassle and added cost of going through the delivery apps.”
In the coming months, the portal will expand with the launch of a mobile app and additional concepts and more meal options.