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.
Intuitive AI Launches Generative AI to Help QSRs Recycle
Intuitive AI launched Oscar Pocket to help make the recycling of popular brands accessible and intuitive. With this announcement, Intuitive AI has launched the beta version of Oscar Pocket for consumers and is inviting brands to collaborate so they can start making an immediate impact on global waste reduction.
The global waste management market was valued at $1.6 trillion in 2020, and Intuitive estimates that it costs global enterprises $300 billion largely due to ever-changing regulations, packaging materials, and lack of measurement tools to track how much is generated.
It also has arguably never been more confusing for consumers to know how to sort their trash properly. When someone visits a coffee shop, which bin should their empty cup go into? It's estimated that less than 30 percent of people actually sort it correctly since just over 2 percent of waste is being recycled globally in part due to wish-cycling, when people just chuck it in any of the bins, assuming someone else will eventually sort it to its proper place. This rarely happens, and it only makes waste management more difficult for the business.
Oscar Pocket builds on Intuitive AI's Oscar Platform by augmenting its real-time trash detection capabilities with generative AI that is capable of recognizing a product and providing a simple and creative answer on how to properly dispose of it. By clarifying how the trash should be sorted before the object is thrown away, Intuitive AI eliminates the guesswork. Intuitive will also be enabling a quick recognition feature so people can learn where an item goes just by using their phone's camera and Oscar Pocket would reward people the more they use it.
"Waste minimization extends to every stage of our operations – from what we purchase and serve to our overall dining and guest experience," said Hugo Henri, Head of International Technology Innovation at Aramark. "Thanks to our partnership with Intuitive AI, and their Oscar Platform, we're reducing our environmental footprint, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability while creating a fun and exciting experience for our clients across six countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America."
Intuitive AI was founded in 2019 by Murad and Vivek Vyas with the goal to tackle the global waste crisis. The company has since grown to have more than 80 Fortune 500 customers across multiple industries in North America, Europe, APAC, and LATAM.
Visit Oscar Pocket's website to get early access now. The company will launch the full version of the product in the coming weeks.
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.
CNW- Swiss Chalet is testing takeout ordering kiosks and a Chalet Valet Prepaid Pickup Lane at select locations.
The Canadian full-service restaurant is planning restaurant openings in the communities of Burlington, Newmarket, Don Mills, Brampton and Calgary/ns.
Along with new restaurants, many pre-existing locations are being renovated with a new design that includes comfortable dining rooms and a "Chalet Valet" prepaid pickup lane at select locations. Using the Swiss Chalet mobile app, guests notify the restaurant that they have arrived and can then drive through a designated lane where their order will be waiting for them.
Another new feature currently in test is takeout ordering kiosks that allow guests to skip the line and efficiently place and track their order, then grab and go from the pickup shelf.
Swiss Chalet was founded in 1954 with more than 200 locations across Canada under the operation of RECIPE Unlimited Corp.
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.
Highpointe Hotels Corp. is Calling its New BI and Accounting Tools ‘Outstanding’
Highpointe Hotel Corp., a full-service management and development company based in Gulf Breeze, Fla., has reaffirmed its commitment to Aptech through the recent adoption of its PVNG enterprise accounting software and NEW Execuvue Business Intelligence platform. Highpointe was investigating new capabilities to help them cut costs and maintain lean operations in today’s challenging economic environment and ultimately chose to remain partners with Aptech by investing in the company’s innovative and groundbreaking solutions.
“We are delighted to continue partnering with Aptech and migrate our accounting software to PVNG, one of the most effective and simple cloud-based accounting programs for hotels,” said Mark Pate, Assistant Controller/IT Director at Highpointe Hotel Corp. “Highpointe has been a partner with Aptech for 23 years, and we have no plans to look elsewhere. PVNG’s multi-property features allow us to set the same tasks and consolidate financials across our entire portfolio, saving our administration two to three hours of work daily. This technology would have been invaluable two years ago, but we are excited to put it to use today.”
Pate said PVNG is thoughtfully designed, especially the menu structure. He said other solutions the company considered came with a huge learning curve; but not PVNG. The solution features Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, General Ledger, Statistics, Financials, and Bank Reconciliation modules and seamless web browser navigation allowing hotels to upload their accounting data remotely. PVNG can be deployed as a hosted service and also offers OCR invoice processing, a myriad of payment options, drill-down capabilities in financial statements and reports, and the ability to handle single or multi-property accounting.
BI + AI = Smart Business
When it comes to business intelligence, Pate said Highpointe is excited to leverage IBM Cognos Analytics with AI capabilities – part of Aptech’s NEW Execuvue platform. He said the solution can easily pull data from PVNG into Execuvue and present data in an array of formats using simple AI commands.
“Business intelligence is a standard tool for most hotel management companies today,” Pate said. “Now that AI is becoming native to BI, it may soon be integrated with tools such as IBM Watson to ask analytical questions (such as ‘show me this or that’) and accounting teams can instantly present requested data in a visual format that is compelling, relevant, and easy-to-understand. Aptech is not bleeding-edge technology, but through its IBM Cognos partnership and AI tools, it is definitely leading edge.”
Execuvue features a dashboard that delivers stunning images of financial and operational data that hoteliers can act upon. The drag-and-drop environment creates striking visualizations based on data entered. Leveraging AI-powered analytics, Execuvue helps operators make smarter business decisions and respond to commands, such as “Show Me Room Revenues by State and by Property.” The AI tool links relevant data elements (number of rooms rented, ADR, RevPAR, occupancy, rooms out of order, etc.) with a list of properties or brands to analyze the information in visually compelling ways. It also configures data regionally, giving operators a performance snapshot portfolio wide, as well as by region, brand, and property. The scalability, flexibility, and integration capabilities of Execuvue sets Aptech apart from other BI providers.
“As we enter technology tradeshow season, people need to be careful when shopping for financial management tools,” said Pate, who also serves as the Global President of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®), producer of the Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference (HITEC®). “The integration piece is so important between back office tools and the hotel’s BI solution and a single database is key; numbers should all come from the same source. When visiting vendor booths, be mindful that salespeople will say their solutions can do just about anything. Before choosing a partner, talk to those on the support team, along with the product engineers. They are the people you will be dealing with on a regular basis, and it is they who will help determine if the software is a good fit. What happens after the sale is critical, and it is here that Aptech shines.
“In a word, Aptech’s accounting software, BI tools and customer support is ‘outstanding,’” he added. “The team is willing to do whatever we ask. We don’t make phone calls; we send them an email and the ticket is usually closed in less than an hour. Few companies have that fast response time. Over the years we’ve gotten to know the people on the other end of the phone. They get us, and the Highpointe way of doing things. We can’t wait to see everyone face to face at the Aptech annual dinner at HITEC.”
Cam Troutman, Aptech Vice President, had this to say: “Our relationship with Highpointe Hotels is a special one, and we are thrilled to continue providing support through our PVNG and Execuvue. Highpointe is growing. They currently manage 14 hotels and we expect they will be adding many more in the future. Aptech is proud to grow alongside them and assist them any way we can in preparation for economic changes in the future.”