Forty-year hospitality industry technologist Neil Schubert has joined Canada-based Hotel Communication Network (HCN) as Chief Product Officer. With 20 of those years spent spearheading the technology initiatives for Marriott International, Schubert brings to HCN a wealth of knowledge in application development, product management, systems integration, financial systems management, infrastructure, IT architecture, and field service. His goal is to strategically transform HCN into a global hospitality communications brand. HCN’s Navigator tablets are quickly gaining traction in hotels as a two-way communication device that easily and efficiently replaces in-room phones, alarm clocks, voice assistants and other electronics. Schubert will perform this role from his office in Wilmington, N.C.
“Neil has a keen understanding of hotel technology and how to balance the bleeding edge with a leading edge approach for effective adoption of new and emerging solutions,” said Kevin Bidner, HCN president. “We first met Neil while still with Marriott, as we installed our tablet and DineIN solutions at a 1,500 room Marriott property which was a great success. When Neil left Marriott, he joined HCN’s Advisory Board. We were always impressed with his passion for innovation and we feel greatly honored that he has decided to join us to provide his visionary leadership to the HCN guest communication platform. Driving ADR and reaching new heights in guest satisfaction are the missions we know Neil can help us evolve in our continuing quest to be the industry's innovation leader."
Serving Those who Serve
Serving on Advisory Boards is not new to Schubert. He has been recruited by several universities and leading hospitality associations to lend his expertise. Advisory posts include president of the University of Delaware Technology Advisory Committee, a member of the Penn State University Technology Advisory Committee, Advisory Board member of Hotel Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP), and workgroup and forum chairman for Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG). Schubert also served as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Delaware educating graduate students on hotel technologies.
Prior to joining Marriott — where he held such prestigious titles as Vice President IT Business Partnership & Planning, Vice President IT Strategy,Western Regional Vice President (IR Global Field Services),Senior Director (International Financial Systems), and IT Director— Schubert served as Senior Director of Renaissance Hotels International, responsible for managing all IT functions at the company inception when it spun off from Ramada International. His hospitality career began in 1986 where he served as a Systems Manager for Sheraton Hotels. Immediately following his exit from Marriott, Schubert worked as Senior Vice President Global Product Management, Exceptional Innovation. More recently, he served as Senior Vice President of Product Management and Development for Cloud5 Hospitality. Prior to joining HCN, Schubert and his wife, Anna, took a year-long RV trip visiting 43 states across 33,000 miles spanning the U.S. and Alaska.
Turning Tech Noise into a Symphony
“One thing hoteliers are challenged with today is giving travelers a digital experience equal to – or better than – what they experience at home,” Schubert said. “Unfortunately, operators are getting hit with too much technology noise; I’m talking about spot solutions and micro applications that are taking over the guestroom. HCN’s Navigator tablets don’t just turn down the noise, they turn it into a symphony. Their tablets with audio docking stations replace most peripheral solutions and does it with an ROI that is not capital intensive. More importantly, it’s affordable for luxury brands and economy properties alike. Navigator not only transforms how guests interact with the hotel, the city, and their room, but it’s an interactive in-room two-way communication platform allowing guests to send and receive information, make purchases, order room service, report problems, and control their room with just a touch or voice command.
“Wi-Fi has matured to a point where hotels have a reliable wireless footprint today,” he said. “That was not always the case; wireless in rooms started out with very spotty coverage and made it nearly impossible for tablet providers to connect guests to the hotel. Those early adopters did not have the digital platform adeptness that HCN is putting into rooms today. Navigator is supporting brands’ desires to drive guests to their own apps using personalized marketing. Quick messages to guests via the tablet is proving to be a strong business case for improving the guest experience. HCN’s innovative approach to tablet technology and their team’s ability to look at applications through a unique lens is what made me eager to join the company. I look forward to helping them grow.”
Carats & Cake announced the launch of ROH, a purpose-built revenue optimization platform for hospitality groups. Developed by industry experts, ROH’s software solutions drive revenue growth, margin expansion, and operational efficiencies for the largest asset owners, hotel groups, and property operators. Further the platform provides visibility across an organization and multiple assets. Sales and finance teams benefit from intuitive, real-time dashboards from which they can manage contracts, invoicing, payments, and more. The data accessible via ROH enables hospitality brands to take informed actions that materially impact the bottom line.
“What we’ve learned over the past decade working with thousands of the most innovative properties is that there is a massive opportunity to provide them with standardization and transparency. Today, many properties under the banners of leading hospitality brands are actually operated by incredible groups or asset owners. This industry evolution creates unique needs for software that enables operational efficiencies and increases conversion and revenue across multi-property portfolios. Meeting the needs of the hospitality industry is a fundamentally larger business for us that warrants being center stage,” said Jess Conroy, Founder and CEO, ROH. “ROH’s end-to-end revenue optimization platform is now positioned to address the needs of asset owners and property operators as they seek efficiencies across marketing, sales, and finance as well as access to real-time intelligence to rapidly improve conversion rates. We’re grateful to the brand we’ve built in Carats & Cake and will continue to engage its 100 million strong audience as a marketing channel for businesses that serve the events industry at large.”
Coinciding with the announcement of ROH, the company is expanding its multi-team platform offerings to include a new finance-specific dashboard that, for the first time, gives finance team members real-time reconciliation capabilities. In one place, finance team members can see invoice status details including if invoices have been opened, payment due dates, paid or unpaid details, and a proprietary invoices-at-risk analysis. Additionally, ROH’s platform provides details on any issues around refunds and disputes as well as manages those infrequent occurrences. These real-time analytics enable finance to identify and collaborate with the sales teams on any potential problems before they occur, versus waiting until the end of each month to retroactively assess issues and begin the manual process of chasing payments in collaboration with sales.
The ROH revenue optimization platform is feature-rich including:
Invoice creation & scheduling
Real-time payment & contract notifications
Mobile-friendly, branded invoicing & payments
Payment type optimization (Credit Card / ACH / e-check)
PCI DSS Level 1 compliance with card on file functionality
Standardization across all small & large group sales
Streamlined integration with Property Management Solutions (PMS)
Custom performance dashboards for finance & sales
Initial deployments of the ROH revenue optimization platform have already delivered impressive results:
Average 15% increase in event revenue
81% of payments convert faster
"1Sharpe Ventures invested in Jess and her team due to their expertise in identifying and solving pain points in world-renowned properties with industry-specific digital solutions. With successful adoption among leading asset owners, the team has expanded beyond the events market,” said Gregor Watson, Co-Founder, 1Sharpe Ventures. “ROH, the latest project from Jess, aims to address a massive opportunity in the hospitality industry. We're thrilled to support the platform's growth into these rapidly expanding brands with tailored digital solutions."
Charlestowne Hotels, a hospitality management company known for its customized, owner-centric approach, closed out 2022 with significant additions to its portfolio and a new leadership structure to support the company’s strategic growth plan.
“In 2022, we expanded our reach into three new markets, including California, Connecticut, and Maine. We also continued to hone our expertise in managing unique assets with the takeover of Hotel Marcel, which is expected to be the country’s first sustainable net-zero hotel,” says Kyle Hughey, CEO of Charlestowne Hotels. “It was a year of major firsts for us as well, thanks to the opening of Gingerline, Charlestowne’s first standalone restaurant concept, and the takeover of the Inn at Aspen, our first ski-in, ski-out property.”
Charlestowne Hotels recorded its second consecutive banner year, a major milestone in the company’s 40 year history. While many hospitality markets sought to return to 2019 revenue numbers, Charlestowne set out to improve against 2021, and achieved a 20% portfolio wide RevPAR increase. The management company’s RevPAR is up 26% to 2019, more than double the national average (8.1%) over the same time period. This success was supported by Charlestowne’s strategic revenue management & marketing tactics, a growing number of properties located in sought-after leisure markets, and the steady return of corporate business travel.
To accommodate portfolio growth and provide advancement opportunities for team members, Charlestowne introduced nine new Vice President and Director roles to the corporate office, established a new food and beverage support team, and added three operational roles to provide direct guidance to hotels at the property level.
“Over the last year, we focused on resource realignment, market diversity, and team member growth,” Hughey continues. We’re proud of the leadership opportunities we’ve created for our team members and the advancements we’ve made to fully support every hotel in our portfolio.”
HOTEL OPENINGS, TAKEOVERS AND NEW DEVELOPMENT
In 2022, Charlestowne Hotels opened or took over six hotel properties and five corresponding dining outlets. The management company has also announced two new development projects for the year ahead, with more to be shared in the coming months.
Lockwood Hotel (Waterville, ME): Charlestowne’s eleventh opening in a collegiate market, which includes overseeing the property’s 53 rooms & suites and on-site restaurant, Front & Main.
Hotel One75 (Hamilton, NY): The newly-refurbished 94-room hotel, located one mile from Colgate University’s campus, is Charlestowne’s second property in the Hamilton area and twelfth hotel in a collegiate market.
Hotel Marcel (New Haven, CT): Part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton, the hotel is an adaptive reuse project that opened in May 2022, and is expected to become the country’s first sustainable net-zero energy hotel. Charlestowne is overseeing the management of this 165-room distinctive property, along with its on-site restaurant, BLDG.
The Darling Hotel (Visalia, CA): Charlestowne’s first property in California is an adaptive reuse project that features 32 charming guest rooms and suites, along with Elderwood rooftop restaurant, which Charlestowne will also manage.
The Inn at Aspen (Aspen, CO):The only hotel at Buttermilk Mountain, and home of ESPN’s Iconic X Games, the 122-room condo hotel is Charlestowne’s first ski-in, ski-out resort and first in Aspen.
The Memphian (Memphis, TN): Part of the Tribute Portfolio by Marriott, the hotel is located in the city’s Overton Square. Charlestowne is proud to manage the 106-room property and its two eclectic dining concepts, Complicated Pilgrim and Tiger and Peacock.
Hotel Verdant (Racine, WI): An 80-room adaptive reuse project that will be a pillar of the Racine, WI community. The boutique hotel will feature two unique restaurants and a robust beverage program.
A Tapestry Collection Hotel by Hilton (Pensacola, FL): A stunning 144-room hotel in Pensacola, FL with a fantastic location in downtown Pensacola’s newest master planned mixed-use development project, The East Garden District. The property will feature four event spaces, two intriguing dining concepts and Charlestowne’s signature guest-facing creative programming.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Charlestowne solidified its place as a leader in the food and beverage space with the opening of its first standalone restaurant concept,Gingerline, in the summer of 2022. The Charleston, SC based restaurant features lively cocktails and coastal cuisine. Gingerline was fully conceptualized, opened and managed by Charlestowne Hotels, with the aim of filling a culinary gap in the downtown dining market.
In addition to Gingerline, Charlestowne opened or took over management of five new hotel restaurant concepts in markets ranging from Tennessee to California. The in-house food & beverage team is responsible for leading all front and back-of-house operations for every restaurant it manages, which has resulted in acclaim from local diners and hotel guests. For instance, since Charlestowne assumed management, Front & Main at Lockwood Hotel has become the #1 restaurant in the local market on Yelp and OpenTable.
Charlestowne’s individualized management style, which encompasses highly personalized operations, marketing, and revenue management strategies, has helped the company’s newest and longstanding assets secure the industry’s most notable accolades.
In 2022,The Loutrel was named the #2 Hotel in the U.S., the #20 Hotel in the World and the #1 Hotel in Charleston in Travel and Leisure’s World Best Awards.Deer Path Inn was voted the #1 Resort Hotel in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year and The Spectator Hotel was again voted one of the Top 10 Hotels in Charleston. Hotel Marcel was awarded the DOCOMOMO US Award of Excellence and Metropolis Positive Planet Award for its exceptional preservation practices.
LEADERSHIP SUPPORT STRUCTURE & LOOKING AHEAD
This past year, Charlestowne completed the final phase of a realignment plan for its corporate team. The company made 19 strategic new hires and introduced a new leadership structure to provide more property support and career advancement opportunities for internal team members.
“As we look ahead to 2023, we’re planning to focus on more advancements in the evolving hospitality tech space,” Hughey says. “To further cater to guest trends, we’re also inspiring our on-site teams to become even more creative with guest programming, packages, and amenities. We have the structure in place to continue our intentional growth plan and are primed for success in the year ahead at the corporate level as well as providing our owners financial success.”
For more information about Charlestowne Hotels and their innovative approach to management, visitCharlestowneHotels.com.
US Foods Adds Bear Robotics, 7shifts to CHECK Business Tools Program
Foodservice distributor US Foods Holding Corp. added two transformative technology offerings to its CHECK Business Tools program: Bear Robotics and 7shifts.
US Foods CHECK Business Tools program provides foodservice operators with a growing suite of technology solutions designed to help drive traffic, simplify staffing and reduce waste. Bear Robotics and 7shifts were selected to join the US Foods CHECK Business Tools line-up after participating in the company’s Innovative Partnerships incubator program with more than 20 restaurant technology companies vying for the opportunity.
Aligned with the growing trend of automated solutions for addressing labor challenges, Bear Robotics offers “Servi,” a hospitality robot. Servi can run food, deliver drinks and bus dishes back to the kitchen, eliminating repetitive service needs so restaurant staff can focus on delivering superior service. Each robot is self-driving and equipped with multiple cameras and LiDar sensors for nimble navigation across any restaurant space.
7shifts is an all-in-one team management platform that can be used across mobile and desktop, designed specifically for restaurants. The platform provides restaurants with the team management tools they need to succeed, including scheduling, communication, tip management, tasks and more.
The US Foods incubator program was designed to help the company find the most innovative and proven technology solutions for their customers. The program takes applications twice a year. Current companies taking part in the next US Foods Innovative Partnerships program are:
InKind, a financing platform that provides restaurants with cash in exchange for food and beverage credits, sold to consumers through the inKind app.
Kickfin, a cashless tipping software for restaurants, bars and hotels that sends instant tip payouts directly to employees' bank of choice, 24/7, 365.
Tablz, a guest personalization tool that turns diner upgrades into new revenue for restaurants.
Food Tech Startup Leverages AI, Automation to Recreate Chefs' Recipes for Home Delivery
Dishes from the most iconic restaurants and chefs from around the world delivered to your doorstep is now a possibility, thanks to food technology startup CloudChef.
This food tech startup debuts its proprietary ‘recipe record and playback technology’ which recreates dishes, allowing consumers to enjoy their favorite dishes and recipes from anywhere in the world, home-delivered.
The company claims that in blind taste tests, Michelin-starred chefs could not detect the difference between their dishes and those created by CloudChef,
CloudChef was founded by Nikhil Abraham, Atish Aloor, and Mohit Shah, whose mission is to build the ‘Spotify for food’. This new wave of food innovation envisions chefs as creators and allows them to monetize their creations just like musicians do without the constraints of brick and mortar.
How CloudChef Works
Chefs come into a CloudChef kitchen and prepare their recipes once. Sensors monitor the cooking process non-intrusively and synthesize the recipe into a machine-readable file. This codifies the intuition of a chef and makes the recipe robust to ingredient and location variability. The recipes can be flawlessly recreated in any CloudChef-enabled kitchen in the world in a ‘co-botic’ fashion where all cooking intelligence is software-automated. Each step of bringing a recipe to life - from sourcing ingredients, preparation, heating, and even factoring in things like elevation or humidity - are automatically adjusted and adapted. Food operators are guided through tasks which they execute without context, all while CloudChef’s software takes care of all the cooking intelligence.
Each time a recipe is ordered, the creator receives a royalty.
“It was an eye-opening moment when I saw that CloudChef was able to replicate my recipes better than highly trained chefs,” said chef Srijith Girija Gopinath, whose recipes are on the CloudChef platform. “With CloudChef, I can bring my recipes to a larger audience without having to open additional brick-and-mortar restaurants, knowing they are perfectly recreated and prepared to my standards.”
Featured Chefs and Recipes Available Now
CloudChef has already attracted chefs from across the globe to license their signature dishes, including 2-Star Michelin Chef Srijith Girija Gopinath (Ettan), Thomas Zacharias (Locavore, former Bombay Canteen), and Manjit Gill (former Bukhara). Dishes from these chefs and many more are available for order and delivery. Currently, CloudChef features nearly 100 recipes with new dishes and recipes added almost every day.
Open in a public pilot program since October 2022, CloudChef boasts a 4.9/5 star rating on DoorDash and has quickly become a local favorite for local foodies and Indian diaspora alike. CloudChef now serves the Palo Alto, Calif., area. Consumers can order these chef’s creations through the CloudChef website and through select listings on third-party services like DoorDash, Shef, and EzCater.
CloudChef has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from celebrity chefs, including Tom Colicchio and Roy Yamaguchi, as well as technology titans like early Facebook investor Anand Rajaraman and former Stripe COO Claire Hughes Johnson.
Waverly Labs Launches Interpretation App Called Forum
Waverly Labs, pioneers of smart translation solutions, is expanding its mission to break down language barriers with the launch of Forum, a mobile and web-based app that helps unlimited numbers of people communicate with ease. Designed for use in lecturers, auditoriums, and theaters, as well as in-person and/or remote meetings (working alongside platforms such as Zoom, Google Chat, and Microsoft Teams), it facilitates communication in 20 languages and 42 dialects.
Forum is extremely easy to download and use and allows users to either host or attend a session. Once a session is created, participants can join by simply scanning a QR code or entering a meeting code generated by the host. They then select which language they want to receive, and Forum provides text and audio translation direct to their device. At the end of the session, users have the option to receive a full transcript of the conversations.
Forum is a highly flexible platform that facilitates one-to-many, one-to-one, and many-to-many communications. It is suitable for a host of use cases, across multiple verticals and debuts with various tiered plans to suit all needs.
A number of companies have partnered with Waverly Labs to trial Forum to streamline meetings. The Japanese company Uniqlo uses Forum for in-person meetings within its New York office. In this use case, the host acts like a lecturer, communicating in their native tongue with participants dialing into their meetings and receiving translations on their devices while in the room together. Participants can follow along on text or audio using any earphones that can connect to their device.
With employees all over the globe, French powerhouse Chanel leverage Forum for international multi-person, multi-lingual meetings. Used alongside Google Chat, Forum is a great second-screen solution, allowing users to participate in video calls while receiving translations on their devices or web browsers.
“Forum is a powerful AI tool that enables hosts and audiences to stay connected with live transcription, translation, and interpretation for booked events. For hotels and event planners, the service is an excellent feature and complement when marketing their event spaces to clients,” says Andrew Ochoa, Waverly Founder & CEO.
“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” – Well, now Forum is back on Broadway! The Perfect Crime, the longest-running play on Broadway, relies on Forum to enhance the experience it can provide its international visitors. Audience members have the option to join a session during the play and hear translations on their devices connected to headphones.
Leveraged In Lectures
Forum is also a powerful tool for lectures, speaker presentations, and events. In this one-to-many use case, a speaker starts as a session that audience members can join. Translations in their chosen language are received directly on their device as text and audio. A session can be “broadcast” in multiple languages simultaneously.
"We are on a mission to bridge global communications by building a world without language barriers. Forum is an exciting addition to our portfolio and ideally placed to help achieve this goal," said Andrew Ochoa, Founder, and CEO of Waverly Labs. "Forum leverages our core translation technology that uses the latest speech recognition and machine translations in a compelling and easy-to-use app without the need for any hardware or equipment.”
Forum has free and tiered feature plans. It is always free for people to download, join sessions, and listen and stream translations (text) on their devices. Hosting sessions and sending communications for translation requires a plan. Plans vary based on the number of participants and languages they can support, the number of minutes of translation available per month, the number of sessions that can be hosted per month, and the ability to unlock additional features such as vocabulary preferences. Free, Personal, Professional, and Premium plans are available, ranging from $0 to $34.99 per month. Customized “Team Plans” are also available to individual companies to best suit their needs.
Forum joins the Waverly Labs portfolio of translation solutions that includes SUBTITLES, a two-sided customer service counter display facilitating safe in-person interactions, and the AMBASSADOR INTERPRETER, the over-the-ear device providing near-simultaneous audio and text translations. Its fast, fluid and fluent translations are highly accurate and made possible thanks to its patented translation technology that combines the latest speech recognition and machine translation.
Its core technology captures speech, processes it in the cloud, and delivers translations to various devices and solutions optimized for different use cases. It is so fast and accurate it can handle ongoing fluid conversations with people in a natural and unimpaired way. Highly sophisticated, it can translate conversations with multiple users, receiving different language translations simultaneously.
Waverly Labs offers audio and text translations in over 20 languages and 42 dialects, including English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, Hindi, Turkish, Polish, Chinese Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Hebrew, Thai, Vietnamese and Dutch.
Forum is currently available as an IOS and web-based app, with an Android version launching at the end of Q1. Its additional advanced features include:
Versatile speech recognition and transmission options
Hold-to-Talk: Hold the mic button to capture your voice and release it to translate.
Pause-to-Translate: Simply talk and following a 2- second pause in speaking, translations will be completed without the need to hold any mics or press any buttons.
Live Translation: In this mode, Forum translates as you speak in real-time.
Vocabulary Preferences: Providing great control over terminology and decency.
Profanity filter: Provides the option to block any words or phrases not wanted in a chat.
Custom Terms and Definitions: Add uncommon terms that are regularly used, such as names, acronyms, expressions, and slang, to personalize and increase the accuracy of your experience.
Transcripts: Past conversations are available as transcripts. You can see the messages displayed in all the participants' languages during the session.
Host Controls: The HOST speaker has complete control to mute the audience and lock the session so no other participant joins during the speech.