News Briefs


Steak n Shake Adds New Way to Pay

Steak n Shake exterior in Indy

Steak n Shake will offer PopID Check In and PopPay on its self-ordering kiosks in select locations in the Orlando market, with plans to expand to more than 300 corporate locations. PopID Check In is an opt-in service that enables consumers to scan their face to automatically sign into their loyalty reward account and see their past orders, making the ordering process as convenient as possible. When a guest checks in with PopID, they also have the option to use PopPay to automatically complete their payment.

“Our partnership with PopID is a key part of our effort to provide guests with a fast and seamless ordering experience," said Keith Correia, Chief Information Officer. "When using PopID Check In, a guest does not need to use their phone or take out their wallet as part of the ordering process. They will automatically be checked in for loyalty rewards, and they can choose to make an automated payment with PopPay. A guest can even see their past orders and quickly reorder their favorite menu items. Ordering at Steak n Shake has never been easier or more convenient.”

In addition to enhancing the guest experience and improving order throughput, PopPay helps to reduce fraud and offers lower payment processing fees.


Olo Launches Card-Present Payment Processing via Kiosks

handshake partnership

Olo Inc. introduces 10 product enhancements across its three product suites: OrderPay, and Engage. One of the new enhancements marks the first availability of card-present payment processing through Olo Pay, now available when guests order in-store via a kiosk in partnership with Bite, a  provider of self-service kiosks for quick-service restaurants. Additional kiosk applications are expected to be deployed in the near future in collaboration with other providers.

Olo’s latest launch brings Olo Pay to self-service in-store kiosks, marking Olo Pay’s expansion into card-present payment processing through its partnership with Adyen. Building on top of Olo Pay's strong card-not-present foundation, self-service kiosks will help combat the burden restaurants face today as a result of ongoing labor costs and shortages. Olo Pay's ability to process card-present payments will unify payments management and ease processes like reconciliation, voiding, and refunding. This will also help brands to tie both in-store and online guest interactions into one guest data profile, helping restaurants better understand their guests and inform high-level business decisions.

Additionally, the enhancement brings the Olo Pay restaurant-centric checkout experience to kiosks, which marks Olo’s first in-store, guest-facing brand exposure. Guests can expect the same simplified experience Olo Pay offers in non-card present transactions, including the ability to pay with mobile wallets. Newk’s Eatery, a fast-casual restaurant chain, was the first to implement this payment technology in a test with Bite kiosk ordering software earlier this month.

“Having a streamlined in-store payment option for guests will advance and optimize our operations,” said Adam Karveller, Chief Technology Officer at Newk’s Eatery. “The implementation of card-present digital payments with Olo Pay in our test with Bite kiosk ordering software will simplify tasks that are inherent when it comes to restaurant transactions, and that frees up our team members to focus on higher-touch guest experiences. We’re thrilled to improve the team and guest experience across our corporate stores and offer the same compelling opportunity for our growing franchise system as we continue to scale nationwide.”

Bolstering its product suite further, Olo unveiled additional features this quarter to drive hospitality and operational efficiency including Borderless Loyalty Integrations and OrderReady AI. Unifying a seamless payment experience with guest rewards, the Olo Pay passwordless checkout feature Borderless now integrates with loyalty programs for all brands on its white-label interface Serve, providing the convenience of accelerated sign-in with the benefits of loyalty and rewards. Separately, Olo’s OrderReady AI leverages machine-learning to generate accurate ready times for both guests and third-party delivery providers, satisfying guest and partner expectations around timing, maintaining food quality, and optimizing restaurant operations.

Bite kiosk ordering software with Olo Pay card-present payment processing is available now, in addition to several new features driving efficiency and superior hospitality.  


Veggie Grill Updates Loyalty Program

Veggie Grill loyalty app

Veggie Grill  revealed  its new loyalty program and digital ordering experiences powered by Thanx. Veggie Grill upgraded to Thanx to deliver a more modern and experiential approach to loyalty while upgrading their app and digital ordering channels.

Veggie Grill selected Thanx to deliver a seamless loyalty transition from the Punchh platform. Over 300k members were transferred by Thanx without disruption to the guest experience. Upon launch, loyalty members see all previous rewards and account data, all automatically imported into the new program while the Veggie Grill app experience is refreshed overnight. Veggie Grill now offers loyalty members a more dynamic program, featuring a rich rewards marketplace of over seven items for guests to choose from. Veggie Grill program members can now earn one point for every dollar spent and are rewarded with $5 off their first order of $15+ just for enrolling in the program in addition to a free entree on their birthday.

Tiered Rewards Program

With Thanx, Veggie Grill introduces a thoughtfully designed tiers program in addition to a points system, adding additional sophistication to the new program. Now, program members can earn access to three different unique tiers, all with a variety of exclusive perks and experiences.

  • The entry-level “Fan” tier rewards customers with enrollment perks and access to the brand’s rewards marketplace.
  • “Supporter” tier customers receive a free fountain drink with every order, a free cookie once a month, and 50 bonus points.
  • Super Veggie Grill fans in the “Ambassador” tier receive a free cookie with every order, a free starter or shared item once a month, early access to menu items, and 100 bonus points. 

“We are thrilled about the launch of our new loyalty program and upgraded digital ordering experiences. We selected Thanx to power more sophisticated marketing and both our casual guests and super fans are already enjoying the new app and tiers program. From the Operator’s perspective, the intuitive UI allows us easier segment/offer creation and streamlined access to actionable data. We are excited to deliver a fresh loyalty program while offering best-in-class digital experiences, ultimately bringing our delicious plant-based food to more guests,” says Robert Baek, VP of IT at Veggie Grill.


Palmer Digital Group Adds Audio Enclosure Option for Digital Menu Board Customers

digital menu board pdg

Palmer Digital Group, a full-service supplier and installer of indoor and outdoor digital kiosks, now offers optional speaker-microphone enclosures for its entire range of outdoor digital menu board systems, covering single, double and triple-display solutions for its pedestal and canopy structures. The protective enclosures eliminate the need for a separate foundation to support QSR drive-thru audio systems, reducing costs and infrastructure while also simplifying cable management and menu board maintenance.

Palmer Digital Group (PDG) innovated the design last year for its single-board solutions, becoming the first company to offer an optional speaker-mic enclosure design as part of a complete digital menu board structure. Now available for all structures, customers can request the option on an initial order or add the enclosure to the installed structure when needed. In-field upgrades require no special tools, with installations completed in less than one hour.

The enclosures were developed after speaking with customers who wanted to further streamline their outdoor ordering systems in accordance with drive-thru modernization strategies. Customers can choose side-mount or under-mount configurations, with each option offering the same operational benefits to QSRs.

To achieve this streamlined cable management, the speaker-mic-wire is fed into the pedestal from underneath and then run through PDG’s horizontal display support. From this point, the speaker-mic cable is fed into the enclosure, where the final connections are made. The side-mount speaker-mic enclosures have the added benefits of a 20-degree swivel, which allows installers to optimize the clarity of the speaker and mic, which most often comprise products from 3M (PAR), HME and/or Panasonic.

Custom colors are available for all outdoor menu boards and enclosures to align with a customer’s brand. 


Chipotle Adds Avocado-Processing Robot

chipotle avocado robot

Chipotle Mexican Grill  announced Autocado, an avocado processing cobotic prototype that cuts, cores, and peels avocados before they are hand mashed to create the restaurant’s guacamole. The prototype, developed in collaboration with Vebu, is currently being tested at the Chipotle Cultivate Center in Irvine, California. 

How It Works 

  1. A team member loads Autocado with a full case of ripe avocados and selects the size setting. Autocado can hold up to 25 lbs. of avocados at once.
  2. One at a time, avocados are vertically oriented, then transferred to the processing device.
  3. The avocados are sliced in half. Their cores and skin are automatically removed, and the waste is discarded. 
  4. The fruit is safely collected in a stainless-steel bowl in the bottom of the device. 
  5. A team member removes the bowl of avocado fruit and moves it to the counter where they add additional ingredients and hand mash the avocados to make Chipotle’s signature guacamole. 

Autocado’s Origin Story 

Vebu worked closely with Certified Training Managers from Chipotle’s restaurants to analyze the company’s preparation process and identify tasks that are time consuming and less favorable among crew members. Chipotle currently has individuals dedicated to cutting, coring, and scooping avocados. On average, it takes approximately 50 minutes to make a batch of guacamole. 


Autocado’s Potential Impact
The Vebu team is aiming to improve the device’s processing speeds, which could ultimately reduce guacamole prep time by 50%, allowing Chipotle employees to focus on serving guests and providing great hospitality. In restaurants across the U.S., Canada, and Europe this year, the company is expected to use approximately 4.5 million cases of avocados, equivalent to more than 100 million pounds of fruit. In support of Chipotle’s sustainability initiatives and waste reduction efforts, Autocado also aims to increase avocado fruit yield through precision processing, which could lead to millions of dollars in annual food cost savings if the cobot is successfully developed and deployed widely.

“We are committed to exploring collaborative robotics to drive efficiencies and ease pain points for our employees,” said Curt Garner, Chief Customer and Technology Officer at Chipotle. “The intensive labor of cutting, coring, and scooping avocados could be relieved with Autocado, but we still maintain the essential culinary experience of hand mashing and hand preparing the guacamole to our exacting standards.” 

Integration of AI and Machine Learning  

Vebu is developing an artificial intelligence and machine learning stack to be connected to all its robotic solutions, where applicable. The goal is for future iterations of Autocado to use machine learning and sensor fusion to evaluate the quality of the avocados and quantify waste reduction as well as the efficiency of the cutting, coring, and peeling processes.

Cultivate Next 

Chipotle is investing in Vebu as part of Cultivate Next, the company’s $50 million venture fund that intends to make early-stage investments into strategically aligned companies that further its mission to Cultivate a Better World and help accelerate its aggressive growth plans. As a people-first company, Chipotle is seeking opportunities that will elevate the human experience for its teams as well as increase access and convenience for its guests. Investments may include innovations in farming and supply chain, advanced robotics, alternative proteins, and more.

Through Cultivate Next, Chipotle has previously invested in Hyphen, a foodservice platform designed to help restaurant owners, operators, and budding chefs move their business forward by automating kitchen operations. Hyphen’s first product, The Makeline, is being tested as a system that uses advanced software and robotics to automate meal production for all digital orders under the counter while allowing staff to assemble in-house orders from the top of the counter.


In addition to Autocado, Chipotle is currently testing Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant that integrates culinary traditions with artificial intelligence to make tortilla chips, in a Fountain Valley, Calif., restaurant. 


Next Generation of Hapi Solves for Hotel Data Integrations at Scale

hapi data integration aws

Hapi, a platform for fast and cost-effective connectivity between technology systems, is excited to announce new infrastructure in partnership with AWS that is providing hotel companies access to critical guest and transactional data in revolutionary ways.

Newly built in the Amazon AWS environment, the Hapi Data Platform can provide data from technology systems “at rest,” or in storage, that hotel companies can access quicker. Now, hotel brands can connect directly to a stream of data or consume the data on their terms. As part of its efforts, Hapi recently received the Travel and Hospitality ISV Partner Competency designation from AWS. 

“Proving data at rest is the modern way of connecting companies to their data,” says Luis Segredo, founder and CEO at Hapi. “It enables companies to employ modern data strategies, like those provided by Snowflake or Salesforce Data Cloud, quickly and efficiently.  It’s a natural evolution of Hapi’s mission to make data actionable and accelerate innovation.”

The Hapi Data Platform consumes event streams from the Hapi Integration Platform that has also been rebuilt from the ground up. This multimillion dollar investment builds upon the years of experience refining connectors and normalizers from disparate hotel technology systems. The new Integration Platform, also employing the latest technologies from AWS, is built to scale for hotel groups of any size.

Finally, a new feature within Hapi Guest CRM, Hapi’s off the shelf hospitality CRM solution built on Salesforce, empowers front office teams to provide more personalized guest check-in experiences. Hapi Guest Focus serves front-desk agents with above-property guest profile and preference information in a side-by-side window within their current PMS interface.

Today, leading hotel brands like Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Great Wolf Resorts, IHG and Sonesta Hotels & Resorts are relying on the Hapi Integration Platform to push and pull data from disparate Property Management Systems throughout their portfolio into one central data stream. Comprehensive APIs allow these hotel brands and more to learn more about their guests and the activity at the property level than they ever have before.

“More open integrations among tech providers and better partnerships with large scale data warehouses have led to improved data models within some hospitality organizations,” says SriHari Thotapalli, Head of Hapi Data Platform. “To truly catch up with the innovation happening in other industries, hoteliers should partner with companies experienced in building platforms that unlock hospitality data.”