The intersection of hospitality and technology is evolving at a rapid pace. To keep a pulse on these trends, Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine launched a MRM #RestaurantTech column. To submit items, contact MRM Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at email@example.com.
RRT Goes 'Beyond Loyalty'
According to Restaurant Revolution Technologies, Inc. (RRT), its restaurant guest loyalty platform implemented with several national brand chains, has led to increases in guest return visits, engagement, number of guest transactions and incremental revenues for chains.
“Guest loyalty has increasingly become more important for restaurants to optimize operations and maximize profitability in the ever-changing restaurant guest experience. Yet not all loyalty programs are built equally and when implemented may often lead to mixed results inconsistent to their expectations,” said David Schofield, CEO at RRT. He adds, “Our restaurant clients appreciate innovation and desire to work with partners that offer an array of solutions and services that seamlessly integrate with their operations. Specifically, our guest loyalty solution ties together our client’s marketing programs and our own takeout solutions and places the control of localized campaigns back into the hands of the operator, and not the technology provider. As such, our guest loyalty platform creates a more comprehensive and flexible program for the restaurant operator and a better experience for their guests. That continues to be a big differentiator and win for us, and reinforces our ‘Beyond Takeout’ positioning within the restaurant industry. Guest loyalty programs should not be managed independently, but as a part of the whole off-premise marketing operation.”
The guest loyalty program, part of RRT’s suite of technology-based order management solutions, provides its clients with much more flexibility and control compared to the standard pre-packaged solutions typically available within the industry. Currently, RRT’s loyalty program supports in excess of 11 million consumers in less than two years of implementation. During 2016 alone, RRT’s Loyalty platform handled in excess of 7.5 million transactions, realizing an increase in the number of transactions in every month throughout the year.
Omnivore Launches App Marketplace
Omnivore has launched App Marketplace, an open online exchange that connects restaurants to technology solutions across a wide variety of spectrums. By providing restaurants and suppliers with quick and easy activation of those solutions, the App Marketplace is specifically designed to help brands grow and increase bottom line profits. Through the Marketplace, Omnivore is working with the best mobile apps in the industry, and presenting restaurants with valuable new opportunities to discover innovative technology solutions.
“Our Marketplace provides locations what they truly want: app optionality,” said Mike Coppola, chief business officer of Omnivore. “There’s an app ecosystem for just about every industry, but this opens up a new realm, specifically for the rapidly evolving hospitality sector, with emphasis on mobile payment, delivery, reservation, analytics and more. The industry is growing exponentially, embracing new technology and we’re committed to providing innovative solutions that ensure all parties capture that growth effectively.”
More than 25 app developers already signed on to join the platform as it rolls out. Those brands cover a wide variety of sectors in the restaurant and hospitality industries, from ordering and payment to gifting, seating, analytics and payroll. Influential industry names like Resy, DoorDash, EZ-Chow, Rooam, ItsOnMe, MenuPad, Zapper, SeatNinja and TABu are all already a part of the growing App Marketplace network.
“With the growth we're seeing, Omnivore plays a critical role in helping us scale our location connectivity seamlessly,” said David Leibner, chief executive officer and founder of popular gifting platform, ItsOnMe. “As locations start to use Omnivore's Marketplace to discover and activate key app solutions, we want our eGifting and marketing platform to be top of mind!”
As new brands continue to join the platform, each will be able to integrate its own apps with Omnivore’s superior API. The complementary solution gives restaurants access to every action and detail completed by their POS systems, including menu information, orders, payments, tips and other historical data. Additional benefits of the Marketplace include driving and diversifying revenues through access to new merchants and the latest technology and apps. The Marketplace is the latest step in Omnivore’s plan to connect retailers’ POS systems with new technologies and drive brand engagement throughout the full lifecycle of a consumers’ experience.
“By taking advantage of our proven universal API and new Marketplace together, restaurants will be able to respond quickly to new industry trends and opportunities, minimize resources to test and deploy these technologies and build new lines of revenue they have not previously had access to,” said Mike Wior, co-founder and chief executive officer of Omnivore. “Our revolutionary API is already shifting the entire restaurant technology landscape. Now, through our Marketplace, restaurants and hospitality brands around the world will be able to take that momentum to the next level.”
Cafe X Technologies Unveils Robotic Café
Cafe X Technologies unveiled its first robotic café in the U.S. by combining machine learning and robotics, aiming to eliminate the variabilities that bog down today’s coffee experience. CWorking closely with local coffee roaster partners, Cafe X can consistently serve its customers in seconds with a focus on delivering beverages that taste exactly how the coffee roaster intended. The inaugural machine is located in downtown San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center, a highly trafficked area that will be the blueprint for future Cafe X locations.
In partnership with WMF (the leading international manufacturer of fully automatic coffee machines), Cafe X Technologies has developed a fully automated robotic café that integrates hardware and software which blend the functionality of baristas and specialty coffee preparation methods. Cafe X sets itself apart by removing the on-site wait time, the potential for preparation error, and the unexpected variability, setting a new standard for automation technology and the specialty coffee service industry.
“I’ve long been a big coffee consumer and there’s never a guaranteed seamless experience,” says founder and CEO Henry Hu. “In today’s world, you have two options for getting a cup of coffee: you’re either in and out with something subpar or you’re waiting in a 15-minute line for a great cappuccino. I started Cafe X to eliminate that inherent compromise and give people access to a tasty cup of coffee consistently and conveniently.”
Customers can order customized espresso-based beverages on the spot at the ordering kiosk or they can download the Cafe X app onto their mobile device to order in advance. Once the beverage is ready, customers use the touch screens on the robotic café to type in a four-digit order number which is either sent via text message or displayed on the Cafe X mobile app for iOS and Android. The Mitsubishi robot arm will then identify the customer’s drink from the waiting stations and deliver it to the customer within seconds.
“This won’t replace baristas or the coffee shop experience that so many people have come to love - we don’t aim to do that,“ says Hu. “What we’re offering is the best possible experience for people who are looking for consistent specialty coffee to-go”
Cafe X has formed unique partnerships with local roasters who share similar values of delivering premium coffee the way they intended. It works with its roasters to source specific premium ingredients and create unique drinks that are programed into the automated coffee systems within the robotic café.
Cafe X currently works with the following coffee roasters:
- AKA Coffee: Based in Oakland, California and specializing in a range of delicate and vibrant single origins along with a spectrum of blends thoughtfully roasted to develop each of their intended flavor profiles.
- Verve Coffee Roasters : Critically acclaimed and based in Santa Cruz, Verve is bridging the gap in the coffee experience from seed to cup.
- Peet’s Coffee : A Berkeley based specialty coffee roaster and retailer. “There’s an entire segment of the consumer population that’s not buying coffee because it doesn’t fit into their present moment,” says John Laird CEO of AKA Roasters, “We’re truly excited to partner with the Cafe X team to expand to those customers we might not otherwise reach.”
Based in San Francisco, Cafe X Technologies is a privately backed company with funding from Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and The Thiel Foundation.
CIA Gets Robotic
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded $80 million to a national public-private partnership in which The Culinary Institute of America is a collaborating member. The Advanced Robotics Manufacturing (ARM) Innovation Hub is receiving the five-year grant to further the development of robotics. The CIA is among the 40 academic partners working with industry, government, and non-profit organizations as part of the Carnegie Mellon University-based ARM Institute.
Supported by the DoD, the ARM Institute is a collective effort to help revitalize American manufacturing and provide companies with a reason to invest in new technology. The CIA became involved when the college submitted a proposal to ARM focused around the further development of foodservice automation and manufacturing through advancements in smart robotics solutions.
“We are hopeful that our project in collaboration with ARM will be selected for development, considering its unique nature and ability to disrupt the foodservice industry,” says CIA President Dr. Tim Ryan. “Specifically, we believe the development of these technologies will cut down on food waste and increase efficiency and consistency.”
According to the January DoD announcement, “Robotics are increasingly necessary to achieve the level of precision required for defense and other industrial manufacturing needs, but the capital cost and complexity of use often limits small to mid-size manufacturers from utilizing the technology. The ARM Institute’s mission therefore is to create and then deploy robotic technology by integrating the diverse collection of industry practices and institutional knowledge across many disciplines.”
Other higher education institutions that are part of the ARM Institute include Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MIT, University of Connecticut, Rochester Institute of Technology, Yale, and Purdue.
Aggrigator Launches Farm to Shelf Marketplace
Aggrigator™ launched its Farm to Shelf Marketplace for small farmers to sell direct to restaurants, schools, grocery stores, and other commercial buyers of fresh produce. Aggrigator's core marketplace technology is built on aggregating small local farmers so commercial buyers can get the volume and consistency of local supply of fruits and vegetables from a single source. This allows for the convenience of online ordering with the freshness of local produce.
"We are pleased to introduce the Aggrigator Marketplace as a place for small farmers to sell their produce and restaurants and schools to buy their produce from the convenience of online," said Doug Peterson, President of Aggrigator. "The farmer profiles are shared on the Marketplace to connect the local farmers to buyers in their areas."
The Aggrigator Marketplace is a two-sided market with farmers listing their produce and commercial buyers ordering the produce from an easy to use web interface. It utilizes unique technology that is able to facilitate the logistics, inventory control, and certified food safety processes to improve the operations of small food hubs. The Marketplace also enables spot orders, future orders and crop planning to help farmers and buyers better plan for the coming seasons.
The launch of the Aggrigator Marketplace with ALBA Organics food hub will service over 50 schools, restaurants, cafes, grocery stores, meal delivery services, and other commercial buyers of both conventional and organic produce in the Bay area. This will bring a transformation to the buying and selling of fresh produce and the continued sustainability of the small farmer.
The company also announced the Aggrigator Farm to School program. Aggrigator has also been approved as a vendor for the USDA Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables Pilot Program (UFVPP). Through the ALBA Organics food hub, Aggrigator will bring the volume and consistency needed to supply California public school districts allowing them to buy from multiple small farmers at a single contact point and buy a variety of local fruits and vegetables through the Aggrigator Marketplace.
"The Aggrigator Farm to School program is an opportunity for Aggrigator to make the link between local food, culture, health, and environment," said Doug Peterson, President of Aggrigator, "We are excited to work with organizations like the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) and UFVPP to accelerate the adoption of our services by the school districts."
The Aggrigator Farm to School program will launch in March allowing school districts to purchase local produce through the UFVPP program and Aggrigator. The program also includes materials for schools to teach the benefits of local produce. These materials encourage healthy eating through interactive programs where students learn, taste, and grow vegetables as a way to connect to different types of local foods.
Dinova is Innovator, Adds Sullivan's Steakhouse
Dinova, Inc. was named a TAG Top 40 Innovative Technology Company by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) for Innovation and Contributions to the State's Technology Community.
TAG's Top 40 Awards recognize Georgia-based technology companies for their innovation, financial impact, and their efforts at spreading awareness ofGeorgia's technology initiatives throughout the U.S. and globally. TAG will recognize the Top 40 at the 2017 Georgia Technology Summit (GTS) on March 23, 2017, at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Ga.
"We could not be more thrilled and honored to be a TAG Top 40 Innovative Technology Company," said Vic Macchio, CEO and founder of Dinova. "This validates our success in defining a new market and our ability to grow our marketplace through our proprietary backend technology solution."
"The 2017 Top 40 finalists are an elite group of innovators who represent the very best of Georgia's Technology community," said Larry Williams, president & CEO of TAG. "The 2017 Top 40 finalists are shining examples of what makes our State such a hotbed for technology and we applaud them for standing out as leaders in Georgia's technology community."
"An extraordinary number of truly innovative technology companies participated in this year's Top 40 competition, demonstrating the depth and breadth of Georgia's technology community," said Dennis Zakas, managing partner of Zakas & Leonard, LLP, CEO of Zinc., and chairperson of the Top 40 Selection Committee. "In fact, based on the quality of the contestants, we could have had a 'Top 60' without losing a beat."
In other news, Sullivan's Steakhouse joined Dinova's business dining marketplace. The brand currently has 18 locations across the United States,
"We are excited to have Sullivan's Steakhouse join our business dining marketplace," said Vic Macchio, CEO and founder of Dinova. "Dinova's partnership with Sullivan's Steakhouse connects the restaurant with a new set of influential corporate diners and business travelers," said Brandon Coleman III, chief marketing officer for Del Frisco's Restaurant Group. "Introducing new guests to the Sullivan's dining experience is an opportunity to share the consistent service and quality cuisine we take pride in offering."
With the growth of its marketplace to $6 billion in dining spend influence, Dinova continues to add increasingly diverse restaurant concepts to its more than 14,000 locations nationwide. Sullivan's Steakhouse is the latest edition to the growing roster of national brands to join Dinova's business dining marketplace.
With the technological revolution ramping up and touching all aspects of everyday life, restaurants are overdue for a universal digital upgrade that is transparent in the necessary information for diners with food allergies, intolerances, health concerns or those choosing healthier foods. #KnowWhatsInYourFood is not just a hashtag - it's a mantra to DineSafe Founders David Richard and Nick Caturano.
Steven Negri, owner of Mandy's Pizza in Pittsburgh, PA said, "It's amazing how the focus of food allergies or specialty diets has finally made a positive impact on the food industry. A mere seven years ago, it was viewed by most as a "fad" when in fact it's more about life, or potential death. Accommodating these special diets is a must and a huge benefit to a community that is loyal to those who choose to be loyal to them."
Executive Chef James Slattery of Big Fin Seafood in Orlando is amazed at how so many restaurants continue to be stuck in the past, relying on disclaimers on their menus rather than being proactive. "It's a matter of life or death for many- food allergies in our industry is serious business!" Slattery adds that he is disappointed by those who feel it necessary to fake food allergies to get special meals as it pollutes the process when they order the dessert containing allergens they were deathly avoiding for dinner. "It has the adverse effect - staff may let their guard down for those with true allergies."
"I am excited to see all of the allergy-friendly options that are becoming a part of DineSafe. It encourages me to look outside of our comfort zone. Having a son with multiple food allergies means dining out is not easy or frequent. DineSafeApp let's me research our dining options before we even leave the house. Nothing is better than being given more control of our foods and knowing there is an app that has our allergy interests at heart. My hope is that more restaurant owners will become a part of this and of part of our family as well," said Tracy Bush Nutrimom®-Food Allergy Advocate. She also recommends that dining patrons speak to their favorite allergy-friendly eateries to become a part of DineSafeApp to take pride in their allergy expertise. Nothing is better than to see the logo when searching through their favorite places to dine safely.
There are multiple food allergy laws in the UK, Europe and United Statesregarding allergens in the food industry. On May 5, a new law will enforce restaurant chains of 20 or more to display and have readily available menu nutritional information. Already prepared, DineSafe App has added the ability to host nutritional information with meals along with the existing allergens and dietary preferences (nutritional search matrix will be released March 2017).
DineSafe presently has 11 franchises and restaurants, adding up to 40,000+ menus currently uploaded in the app. Guests can find meals that meet their specific food needs through the easy, interactive menus while personalizing their dietary requirements.
"Restaurant staff assisting guests as well as guests themselves can find meals suited for them accurately in ways and speeds that typical menus and staff cannot keep up with," said Caturano. "It also helps to bring as many restaurants into one place as possible, creating centrality, simplicity, convenience and standard. Best of all, it's free for guests as well as restaurants to use."
SimpleDeal Partners with Chefs' Toys
SimpleDeal has partnered with food service equipment company Chefs' Toys to provide immediate reach for the SimpleDeal Mobile App to thousands of restaurants working with Chefs' Toys. Current customers of the food service equipment company will have the immediate opportunity to test drive the SimpleDeal Mobile App via their gold level platform, free of charge, for a 90 day period. Gold level access is valued at $119 and provides restaurants with the ability to:
- Schedule deals to help drive business when it matters most
- Send deal messages directly to fans and patrons who haven't been back to their restaurant for some period of time
- Access reporting to learn what the thousands of people right outside their door really want when making a dining decision.
"Foodservice operators have a myriad of operational challenges. Marketing is certainly one of them. They are always looking for ways to fill their seats cost-effectively," says Jim Wendt, Director of Marketing at Chefs' Toys. "The 1-to-1 interaction that SimpleDeal Mobile App offers has the potential to be a valuable business development tool for restaurants. It offers a positive way of interacting with customers, which could be a nice alternative to some of the online review sites out there where it can be exceptionally difficult to manage and control your restaurants messaging."
When searching for a restaurant to dine at, app users can simply point their phone at any restaurant of choice and simply tap a button to show that restaurant's deals and offerings at that very moment. If the users select a restaurant as their "fave" then restaurants can send them unique deals to lure them back for a visit. It is a free to use, one of a kind, on-the-go experience that easily converts everyday foot traffic for restaurant owners into immediate consumers without taking any share of their profits. Whether the restaurants deals include a percentage discount off, a two for one special, or even something more unique like having an entrée named after you, SimpleDeal provides access to all deals and offers that are being made to restaurant goers at that exact moment, at that exact location. The mobile app is currently available for both iOS and Android platforms.
"Chefs' Toys has been a valued service provider to the foodservice industry for over 28 years," stated James McKinney, Founder of SimpleDeal. "At the core of SimpleDeal we are about helping restaurants strengthen their 1-to-1 relationships with a direct to customer managed platform. It only made sense for us to partner with Chefs' Toys. As veterans within the restaurant and food service industry, they fully understand the importance of providing restaurants within their local communities the tools needed to be successful. Just as the right foodservice supplies are necessary for day-to-day success, strong and effective marketing platforms such as SimpleDeal strengthen long-term profits. For that reason, being seen as a value-added partner and ally to industry icon Chefs' Toys enables us to really be seen and validates our position within the restaurant space."
MP2 Selects Delaget
MP2 Enterprises, a Pizza Hut franchisee with 19 locations partnered with Delaget, LLC, the data analytics and business process outsourcing experts focused on the QSR industry.
MP2 will be utilizing several Delaget solutions, including:
- Delaget Guard, a loss prevention tool that scrutinizes restaurant data to help operators quickly and easily identify suspected employee theft, track suspicious employee behavior patterns, and take action with and train employees.
- Delaget Stats, a comprehensive reporting service that allows restaurant operators to quickly view, analyze, and react to performance metrics such as product mix, average ticket, and speed of service.
- Delaget Books, a time-saving restaurant payroll and accounting service that streamlines restaurant processes to improve profitability.
"Initially, we were only searching for an outsourced payroll and accounting solution. But when we discovered Delaget also had reporting and loss prevention capabilities, it made sense from a financial and business perspective to partner with one vendor and have Delaget be our one stop shop for payroll, cash verification, restaurant reporting, and loss prevention services," said Bryant Peterson, Co-Owner of MP2.
"Delaget's offerings will help us run our operation more effectively and efficiently. We will be able to focus more of our energy on growing the business. And it will allow us to do what we're good at – making and serving pizzas," he added.
"Our solutions are purpose-built to support restaurant franchisees like MP2. By outsourcing payroll and using software to identify loss and increase operational efficiencies, the team at MP2 can spend less time pulling and analyzing reports and more time on what's most important to them –helping guests in their restaurants. We're proud to partner with MP2 for their payroll, reporting, and loss prevention needs," said Jason Tober, CEO of Delaget.
Chipotle Completes Digital Rollout
Chipotle Mexican Grill completed the rollout of its “Smarter Pickup Times” technology to all its restaurants that offer digital ordering. The advanced technology allows customers who order digitally to benefit from shorter and more accurate pickup times and the ability to reserve a future pickup time. The technology enhances all forms of digital ordering including web ordering (order.chipotle.com) as well as the company’s ordering apps for iOS and Android. “Smarter Pickup Times” also improves the company’s ability to process more digital orders without disrupting service or throughput in its restaurants.
Chipotle has extensively tested the “Smarter Pickup Times” system in restaurants around the country. In tests, the company saw a reduction of wait times for digital orders by as much as 50%, and an increase in the total number of digital orders to record levels.
“Most people don’t know that nearly every Chipotle has an extra make-line in the back of the restaurant where orders can be prepared without disrupting service on the main line,” said Mark Crumpacker, chief marketing and development officer at Chipotle. “Smarter Pickup Times enhances this capability by dynamically scheduling orders and generating accurate wait times based on the current volume of orders. This allows us to prepare more digital orders while simultaneously improving the customer experience.”
Chipotle’s “Smarter Pickup Times” technology dynamically monitors digital order capacity to ensure that each restaurant can effectively manage the digital orders flowing into the second make-line. The company is also in the process of rolling out an enhanced version of this second make-line that will greatly improve ergonomics for the teams staffing the line, and allow for even greater order volume and accuracy.
“We have been evaluating all of our digital offerings with an eye toward removing friction,” explained Curt Garner, chief information officer at Chipotle. “That started with a redesign of our website to make it responsive to whatever device a customer is using – a computer, tablet or smart phone – followed by online catering and additional out of store payment options, and continues with the completion of our ‘Smarter Pickup Times’ initiative. With this change, we have reduced the wait time for digital orders and are able to keep our restaurants from being overwhelmed with digital orders, particularly at peak times.”
Chipotle is currently running a marketing campaign to drive digital orders that includes in-store promotions, social media advertising, search optimization, and digital advertising. Moving forward, nearly all of the company’s digital advertising will link customers directly to digital ordering.
Marco's Works on COG Tool
For a national pizza franchise, fluctuations in cheese costs could impact everything from menu prices to marketing promotions to overall financial performance. The same goes for other food commodities on its top-selling list of menu items. That’s why Marco’s Pizza jumped at the chance to work with the American Restaurant Association (ARA) to develop a tool that can take all the main products on the company’s menu and accurately predict store food costs in relation to commodity market forecasts month-by-month for the entire year ahead.
With food commodity costs accounting for roughly 30 percent of a restaurant’s revenue, access to the new technology is giving the nation’s fast-growing pizza company a competitive edge in the colossal pizza segment, benefitting both franchisees and customers.
“With this tool, we are able to forecast store food costs in a way that no one else in the industry has been able to up to this point,” said Marco's Vice President Don Vlcek, who spearheaded the project with the ARA. “It’s a game changer for our brand, and will revolutionize the way our industry operates. The ability to provide our stores with far-advanced notice of when they should market certain food items, and the price points at which they market them, gives us a competitive advantage, while still offering customers periodic special deals on the products that they love.”
With the right technology in place to more precisely predict commodity markets on a long-term scale, the ARA was in need of an actual restaurant concept to help co-design the functionality of the tool. Recognizing that advance access to commodities information would help franchisees plan ahead for marketing, discounting and menu specials, Marco’s Pizza stepped up to provide the ARA with a much needed restaurant perspective on features to enhance real-life application and overall effectiveness.
Franchisees, including Angelo Ialacci who owns eight stores in southeast Michigan, are looking forward to putting the tool in action as they make marketing plans for the coming year. According to Ialacci, the tool will allow him to offer product deals on popular menu items without having to embrace a major expense.
“We originally began developing the tool with the overall evaluation of the national supply chain in mind,” said David Maloni of the American Restaurant Association Inc. “Marco’s Pizza was able to take the technology we had created and transform it in a way that can positively impact their franchisees’ bottom line.”
Focusing on franchisee support, product quality and high regard for vendors and employees, Marco’s Pizza more than doubled in size in less than five years. With plans to open more than 100 new stores in 2017 (averaging one every three days), the company is on track to exceed 900 locations by year’s end.
“One of our company tenets is ‘we accelerate innovation,’” said Marco’s Pizza President Bryon Stephens. “We were a co-creator of a forecasting tool that will not only benefit Marco’s but potentially the industry. It’s exciting to be a part of something much larger than ourselves.”
Telepizza Acquires Pizza Blitz
Tele pizza acquired "Pizza Blitz", based in Switzerland. The additional 10 stores bring Telepizza's global network to an impressive 1,352 stores, supporting the brand's aggressive growth plans which aim to triple market share over the next 3 years.
Telepizza CEO and Chairman, Pablo Juantegui Azpilicueta, said, 'At Telepizza, we are proud of introducing our brand in new markets. For us,Switzerland represents an exciting step for the brand. We have taken into account Swiss people's distinctive features for adapting our recipes to their taste, always keeping our brand essence: the secret is in dough.'
President of International, Giorgio Minardi, added, 'We are delighted with this new acquisition as it marks another step towards achieving our ambitious expansion plans. Switzerland is an important market for us; we know our outstanding customer service and excellent product quality will appeal to Swiss consumers.'
Telepizza currently operates in more than 15 countries and recently posted €506 million in chain sales and €63.4 million in EBITDA.
Innit Acquires ShopWell
Food tech incubator Innit® acquired ShopWellTM Labs, Inc., a personalized food discovery platform. The ShopWell services will continue to operate, and will ultimately be integrated into the Innit connected food platform which is scheduled to launch later in 2017. The combined solution will empower consumers with advanced, personalized features spanning the entire food lifecycle, from meal planning, shopping and preparation, to automated cooking on smart appliances.
Based on the combined platform, Innit will offer connected food retail API services to provide personalized nutrition and cooking information to retailers and food brands that wish to enhance their consumer experience.
The ShopWell mobile app, which has been downloaded over 2.5 million times, provides consumers personalized nutrition recommendations, allergy alerts and detailed ingredient analysis for a wide variety of foods. Consumers can now let the food do the talking by scanning a product label, searching a database of over 400,000 products or connecting their store loyalty card to automatically track food purchases and receive curated recommendations. Location-based services tailor the ShopWell experience to the user’s preferred retailer and home environments.
“ShopWell has long been a leading authority on personalized nutrition. We’re integrating their unique capabilities into the Innit Platform to provide consumers with inspiration and confidence at every stage of selecting and preparing food,” said Eugenio Minvielle, president and founder of Innit. “Personalization of food and nutrition is at the forefront of our strategy and ShopWell brings powerful integration with retail and food information to help users eat and live better.”
“Together, ShopWell and Innit can empower consumers with personalized food information as they plan, shop, prepare and cook,” said ShopWell investor Chuck Templeton, managing partner of S2G Ventures and founder of OpenTable. “As the global food market becomes digitized, Innit’s platform is positioned to become the operating system for healthier and more convenient cooking.”
Kono USA Expands
Snack options in malls and local events are poised to take an unconventional spin with the rapid expansion of Kono USA’s “The Original” Kono Pizza and Kono To-Go – Fresh Eats, Treats & Sweets franchise brands. In the past two months, the franchisor has signed six multi-unit franchise deals with different entrepreneurial teams across the United States. All told, the multi-unit agreements call for 24 new units, bringing the brand’s total footprint to 80-plus mobile carts and mall kiosks open or in development nationwide.
- Arizona – seven units throughout the Phoenix-Tempe area with franchisee Pat Bhakta
- Texas – four units in the Corpus Christi market with franchisee Veronica Altamirano
- Virginia – four units in the Washington, D.C. – Virginia area with franchisee Daniel Brunn
- Massachusetts – one unit in Boston with Guarang Patel and Bhaumik Shah
- California – four units in San Francisco area with Niloo Dehghanian, as well as four additional units in San Francisco with franchisee Arshdeep Dhillon
A majority of these new units are expected to open by the end of the year.
The company expects to sign 50-75 additional franchise agreements this year in both existing, emerging and new markets nationwide.
Kono USA Co-Founder Carlo Ruggiero, said, “Our Kono franchises are rapidly expanding and leaders in the snack space are taking notice. We’re seeing an influx of inquiries from franchise investors of all types and regions of the U.S. who are looking to join our emerging brand, snag their market before it’s sold out and grow with us. "
"Consumers are more often looking for unique snack options they can’t make at home or easily find in a grocery store. That’s why our concept has taken off and is doing well in existing markets,” added Kono USA Co-Founder David Ragosa. “Kono menu options provide portability, customization, quick convenience and of course plenty of satisfying choices.”
SST Completes Solar for Pizza Guys
SunSystem Technology, LLC (SST) completed installation of a commercial photovoltaic (PV) solar system installation for Pizza Guys at their headquarters in Rancho Cordova, California. Pizza Guys is a franchise organization with 64 retail outlets across 3 western states. "We think renewable energy is the wave of the future and we decided to start with our corporate headquarters in Sacramento. We are looking to expand the use of renewable energy at each of our 64 locations throughout California, Nevada, and Oregon," said Shahriar Nejad, Director of Real Estate Development for Pizza Guys. "Pursuant to that mission, working with SST has been a smart business decision for us; our newly installed system is the first step in many steps of working together to reduce our carbon footprint," Mr. Nejad concluded.
SST installed a 68.8 kW rooftop PV solar system to the corporate headquarters. In addition to offices, the facility includes a training center for instructing franchisees in the company's proprietary recipes and cooking techniques to ensure customers receive the same premium quality pizza experience at each of their locations. The system is divided into two interconnections with 11kW feeding lighting requirements and the balance feeding the headquarters electrical needs. "Pizza Guys is a wonderful company," said Mehrad Saidi, CFO for SST. "While touring their operations I was provided a view into their company's dedication to excellence. Our companies share the same companywide commitment to quality that's reflected in our final products."
Pizza Guys' completed system was commissioned by SunSystem Technology on February 6. The system offsets 100 percent of their KWh usage, providing a dramatic reduction in their annual electrical expense.