Tech Team-Ups and El Pollo Loco Romance

This edition of MRM News Bites features NCR, Bloom Intelligence, The American Food Association, The Dinex Group, Performance Food Group Company, Appetize and Restaurant365, Snackpass, PAR Technology, Net Element, Sensory, GRIF, Picnic and El Pollo Loco.

NCR Acquires Zynstra

NCR Corporation acquired U.K.-based Zynstra, a provider of edge virtualization technology. NCR and Zynstra have worked together for several years, reflected in the launch of NCR Software Defined Store introduced in January 2019 and in use by companies like Pilot Flying J. NCR purchased Zynstra for approximately 100 Million British Pound Sterling.

“This acquisition is another demonstration of our strategy to acquire new companies to enhance product capabilities and extend our leadership in the vertical industries we serve,” said NCR President and Chief Executive Officer Michael D. Hayford. “The addition of Zynstra’s virtualization technology to our software stack gives NCR even more solutions to help our customers run their store or restaurant end-to-end.”

A recent Total Economic Impact™ study commissioned by NCR and conducted by Forrester Research of NCR Software Defined Store customers found that an average organization with approximately 750 retail stores could see a 164 percent return on investment through store virtualization.

“At Zynstra, we’ve built a world-class capability that we know can make a significant difference for our clients,” said Nick East, chief executive officer, Zynstra. “When we started to work with NCR, we realized that our combined strengths made for an unmatched service, with a global reach. I am personally very excited about what it means for our customers and our team and am looking forward to leading the acceleration of our vision for the market.”

“We’ve worked closely with the NCR and Zynstra teams and have first-hand experience of their complementary technology and ability to deliver together,” said Mike Rodgers, chief information officer, Pilot Flying J. “Software Defined Store is strategic for us, virtualizes all our in-store systems and is delivering a great return on investment. This combination makes sense and we’re excited about what’s coming.”

Bloom Intelligence Acquires Gazella WiFi

Bloom Intelligence announced its acquisition of Gazella WiFi, Inc., a WiFi marketing and analytics platform for digital agencies.

“The Gazella WiFi marketing platform is a powerful white-labeled service for marketing agencies and physical locations,” said Eric Burns, CEO and Co-Founder of Gazella WiFi, Inc. “This is an asset to Bloom Intelligence and together we can offer customers nationwide and worldwide the ability to improve their competitiveness. This partnership allows us to be well positioned to achieve long-term market dominance, while also benefiting from immediate growth. This is a strategic deal for Gazella and we’re excited for what the future brings as we align with Bloom Intelligence’s impressive team.”

“Gazella WiFi is compatible not just with our culture but more importantly with our vision,” said William R Wilson V, CEO of Bloom Intelligence. “By combining our technologies and teams, it amplifies Bloom Intelligence’s core principle of Kaizen. It is an honor to add Gazella WiFi to our team as we continue our tradition of being a leader in restaurant marketing and retail WiFi marketing with an unparalleled focus on our customers’ success.”

Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

Global Cuisine Winners

The American Food Association, the hosting organization for the Global Cuisine Awards (GCA), announced the final national winners of The 3rd GCAs. The 3rd GCAs recognizes excellent restaurants nationwide through this final round of voting who have dedicated to innovate, to practice, and to provide extraordinary gourmet to consumers.

The winners were generated again from winners in the five major gourmet cities, by a combination of voting from consumers on the official website (70%) and elections from the members of the American Food Association and the 3rd GCA Committee (30 percent). Please refer to the full list below or the GCA’s official website.

The 3rd Global Cuisine Awards National Winners Full List

Best Chinese Restaurant: Sichuan Impression (Los Angeles)

Best New American Restaurant: The Gage (Chicago)

Best Southeastern Restaurant: Thai Villa (NYC)

Best Steakhouse: Bavette's Peter Luger (NYC)

Best Korean Restaurant: Soowon Galbi KBBQ Restaurant (Los Angeles)

Best Japanese Restaurant: Ootoya (NYC)

Best Italian Restaurant: L’Artusi (NYC)

Best French Restaurant: Luke (New Orleans)

Best Seafood Restaurant: Fog Harbor Fish House (San Francisco)

Best Middle Eastern Restaurant: Cafe Mogador (NYC)

Restaurant of The Year: Amélie (NYC)

Restaurant of The Moment: Brenda’s French Soul Food (San Francisco)

Best Restaurant Design: Yamashiro (Los Angeles)

Dinex Adds CEO

The Dinex Group appointed Sebastien Silvestri as its first-ever Chief Executive Officer.  He brings more than 25 years of proven experience focused on development of bold marketing strategies, effective partnerships and branding tactics to Dinex.  In this newly formed position, his focus will be on defining the next era for The Dinex Group's entire collection of restaurants and brands and expanding the brand portfolio through strategic acquisitions.

Sebastien Silvestri (left) is the new Chief Executive Officer of Chef Daniel Boulud's award-winning restaurant group, The Dinex Group. Photo credit: Bill Milne

Silvestri comes from Disruptive Group (a division of sbe), where he served as Chief Operating Officer, overseeing all of the food and beverage operations for venues across the sbe portfolio globally, including culinary concepts, nightlife venues and Umami Burger.  Prior to joining sbe, he was the Vice President of Food & Beverage at The Venetian and The Palazzo Casino Hotel and Resort in Las Vegas. It was there that he met and worked with world renowned chefs including Thomas Keller, Wolfgang Puck, Charlie Trotter, Emeril Lagasse and Daniel Boulud.

Boulud and Silvestri have long had professional admiration for each other, and a friendship over many years. 

Said Boulud of the appointment, "With the opening of our new dining concept as well as our fourth Épicerie Boulud both at One Vanderbilt in Fall 2020, the multiple opportunities that have been presented to us for consideration in other parts of the world, our existing portfolio of 19 locations globally and a successful catering business, the time was right to engage the expertise of a veteran industry executive to help both fuel and manage our growth, as well as to ensure the level of excellence within our existing operation. Sebastien has a tremendous track record for assisting some of the most revered hospitality businesses' experience remarkable growth, and I could not be more thrilled to have him by my side as we begin an exciting new era of Daniel Boulud restaurants."

Said Silvestri, "Daniel Boulud is considered a true a pioneer of the revolution and evolution of fine dining and to nurturing emerging talents, and despite the many additions to the list of most celebrated fine dining chefs we see today, Daniel remains one of the most highly-awarded and recognized chefs in America and the world. I am honored to now be working with him so closely. As we look to the future for the group of brands that fall under The Dinex Group, and finalize our plans to move forward with several new hospitality projects with developers in Asia, the Middle East and on the West Coast, we are also looking closely at what's most important to the new generation of gourmands today and determining how that will inform our approach to both our existing dining experiences and new concepts."

PFG Wins FTC Approval

Performance Food Group Company received approval from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to acquire Reinhart Foodservice, L.L.C. (Reinhart). PFG now expects to close the transaction on or about December 30, 2019, subject to the satisfaction or waiver of the remaining closing conditions.

“We are pleased to receive FTC approval to move forward with our acquisition of Reinhart Foodservice,” said George Holm, PFG Chairman, President & CEO. “This transaction builds upon our strong distribution platform and will provide us with greater overall scale and a diverse customer base, including independent customers. We expect this transaction to enhance our ability to help our customers thrive and believe the attractive financial characteristics will create long-term shareholder value."

Appetize Partners with Restaurant365

Appetize®, the Enterprise Cloud Point of Sale (POS) and management platform, today announced a partnership with cloud-based accounting and back office management platform Restaurant365®. The integration allows restaurant operators to combine and automate their ordering systems, operations management, and accounting, for an efficient and powerful solution that enhances guest experience, controls costs, optimizes labor, and increases revenues.

“Restaurants today are looking for a way to integrate their disparate systems for an automated, real-time front and back office experience,” said Jason Pratts, chief information officer at Appetize. “We’re thrilled that Appetize and Restaurant365, two leaders in cloud-based restaurant solutions, have partnered to deliver a single streamlined POS, accounting, and operations platform for restaurants to maximize revenues.”

Through the integration, Appetize consolidates all ordering and feeds transaction data in real-time into Restaurant365, to integrate with back office functions like accounting, staff management, reporting, and analysis. Features and benefits include:

  • Live, Detailed Data Directly from POS: Appetize POS data is available in Restaurant365 in real-time, including sales, discounts, coupons and payment types. This gives restaurants a real-time representation of their performance.
  • Ability to Act on the Data and Analysis: Restaurant365 includes financial and operational reporting, which drives valuable insights in sales performance, menu engineering, recipe costing, labor details, and enhanced business analytics. Appetize allows restaurants to act on this data and analysis quickly and effectively by making immediate or scheduled updates to menus, pricing, promotions, and other areas.
  • No Costly or Time-Consuming Customizations: Appetize and Restaurant365 offer a true POS integration, which creates complete compatibility with Appetize POS functionality as one part of an entire cloud-based ordering, accounting, and operations solution.

“Our goal at Restaurant365 is to deliver best-in-class restaurant management solutions to help restaurants grow,” said John Moody, co-founder and Chief Strategist at Restaurant365. “Our collaboration with Appetize offers a connected solution to help our customers optimize productivity and increase revenue. We’re looking forward to the impact of the integration.”

Snackpass Secures Funding

Snackpass, the app that allows anyone to order food ahead of time to pick up at local restaurants, raised $21 million in Series A funding. The round was led by Andreessen Horowitz with participation from First Round, General Catalyst, YCombinator and Inspired Capital, who join angel investors Nas, Larry Fitzgerald, and Michael Ovitz in their investment in the company. This round brings the company’s total funding to date to $23.7 million. 


“Eating is an inherently social experience, whether you’re grabbing a smoothie with a friend or checking out a new lunch spot a coworker recommended. On Snackpass, we don’t want our platform to be just about the utility of ordering food – we want to make it a magical, social experience for our users,” said Snackpass co-founder and CEO Kevin Tan. “One of our users once tweeted, ‘at Yale we don’t say I love you, we send each other gifts on Snackpass.’ We’ve been excited to see Snackpass take off fueled by organic growth, and this round of funding will help to scale and reach entirely new markets in the coming months.”

Snackpass works with local restaurants and franchise owners, allowing these small businesses to not only better manage the rush during peak hours and serve more customers, but also giving them access to marketing tools and analytics that allow them to reach and retain a highly engaged and loyal customer base, ultimately growing their businesses. Restaurants can also partner with Snackpass to offer special promotions or flash sales to attract new customers, and track their engagement with the establishment long-term. Compared with delivery services that take up to 40 percent of an online order, Snackpass takes a small fraction of every order, making it an affordable and effective marketing platform for the small local restaurants with which it works. 

"We've been using Snackpass for a year and a half, and the app has been a key ingredient in helping us grow," said Tony Lei, owner of Raretea in Berkeley, CA. "Every time we launch a new product, we're able to push discounts and promotions that help drive engagement from both repeat and new customers, and as we've opened new locations we're able to tap into Snackpass' community to help supercharge awareness and create a loyal customer base that keeps coming back."

“The Snackpass team has an intuitive sense for what resonates with their audience, and has frankly just made the app really fun to use. In doing so, they’ve created a user base that bypasses other apps to use Snackpass every day. And restaurants are noticing and seeing the results,” said Andrew Chen, General Partner at Andreessen Horowitz.

ParTech Completes Acquisition

ParTech, Inc. completed the acquisition of AccSys, LLC (“Restaurant Magic”), a rovider of back-office restaurant management software.

The acquisition price for Restaurant Magic, consisted of $13.0 million of cash, subject to purchase price adjustments, $27.0 million of PAR Technology restricted stock, a $2.0 million subordinated promissory note, and the opportunity to earn additional purchase price consideration subject to the achievement of post-closing revenue focused milestones. PAR Technology also assumed awards granted under Restaurant Magic’s long term incentive plan to employees and contractors for an aggregate of $2.0 million of restricted stock units covering shares of PAR’s common stock that vest over 3 years of continued service.

Aptito Lauches Self-Ordering Kiosk

Net Element, Inc.'s  subsidairy, Aptito, has entered the global online food delivery industry through the launch of its multi-restaurant self ordering kiosk solution. 

Touch screens with digital menus and attractive pictures function as a sales and marketing tool to generate take-out sales for participating restaurants at a fraction of the cost while reducing labour expenses. Aptito’s self-order kiosk solution doesn’t require the end user to have a smartphone. Anyone with a credit card can place an order and pay directly at the kiosk which can be  located in office and residential buildings, schools, universities and other high-traffic businesses without dining alternatives on premises.

Restaurant Benefits

  • Significant savings  
  • Direct marketing to local population 
  • Choice of delivery partners 
  • Customer Benefits
  • Lower prices 
  • Better order fulfillment 
  • Faster deliveries 

“Aptito’s multi-restaurant self order kiosk solution fills a gap in the global online food ordering industry by bringing restaurants and consumers together regardless of the consumer’s mobile phone, Internet access or technology skills while reducing restaurants’ cost to generate sales and gain direct marketing exposure to their local communities,” said Vlad Sadovskiy, president of integrated payments for Net Element.

Sensory Unveils Domain Specific Voice Assistant for Smart Appliances

Sensory released its domain specific assistant for smart appliances – a specialized model of TrulyNatural, the company’s large vocabulary speech recognition and natural language understanding platform, that has been designed for home appliances. This technology will help appliance manufacturers create a new wave of smart kitchen appliances that don’t relay voice requests to the cloud, top video.

“There are certain products where having a cloud-connected voice assistant capable of playing music, checking the weather and telling you a joke makes sense, but there are countless products where it would be unnecessary,” said Todd Mozer, CEO at Sensory. “TrulyNatural is the perfect solution for device makers that want to create powerful products capable of understanding and responding to spoken commands, but don’t need the added complexity, component costs and potential privacy risks associated with leveraging a cloud-based voice services platform.”

TrulyNatural provides a flexible voice UI that can be integrated into devices of all shapes and sizes. It delivers an ideal user experience for domain-specific applications, such as home/kitchen appliances, vehicle infotainment systems, set-top boxes, home automation, industrial and enterprise applications, mobile apps and more. Designed to run completely on an application processor, all TrulyNatural speech processing is done natively (at the edge), not in the cloud.It enables a safe, secure, consistent, reliable and easy to implement experience for the end-user, free of requiring any extra apps or WIFI to be setup or operational. It can also be paired with Sensory’s TrulyHandsfree wake word technology, giving device makers the ability to use their own desired wake words instead of having to use another company’s or potential competitor’s branded wake word. Sensory’s TrulySecure technology can also be integrated to provide biometric-based security and user control features, allowing homeowners to limit who can use the appliances and/or certain features based on whose speaking to the device.

Midea MCA is the first customer to adopt this technology into their products. 

“When it comes to scientific and technological innovation in the home appliances industry Midea is committed to play a leadership role. We firmly believe in ‘consumer-first technology’ and strive to maintain a technological advantage through teamwork and innovation. By teaming up with Sensory we are able to not only modernize the consumer experience offered by our products but do so in a way that addresses the increasingly alarming privacy issue that concerns many consumers worldwide,” said Dr. Scott Sun, Deputy Director of Midea MCA.

GRIF Adds Launchbox Platform

A dedicated platform will be added to the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF)  2020 programme, Launchbox, for restaurant related start-ups to seek investment for growth, sponsored by innovative property solutions, LXA.

GRIF 2020  is the flagship, annual three-day conference in Amsterdam, taking place from 11 – 13 February. Showcasing innovative concepts for its culinary tours, inspiring speakers, and an insightful programme that includes pioneering workshops. The 7th annual Global Restaurant Investment Forum, themed ‘Evolve’, will give industry innovators a platform to discuss and debate the upcoming restaurant trends.

Launchbox will aim to bridge the gap between operational and digital, creating a forward-thinking platform that invites exciting new concepts to showcase their business and secure investment. The dedicated platform is looking for innovative restaurant startups that have a unique proposal, large growth potential and ready to take on investment. Restaurants must already have seed funding and a proven business concept on the market.  Ten startups will be chosen to participate in the Launchbox initiative during GRIF 2020, showcasing their concepts to the attendees. GRIF will support the candidates on their bid to pitch to potential investors. 

LXA – innovative property experts that help bring global projects to life – will be the headline sponsor for GRIF’s Launchbox and have an exciting proposition for the Launchbox winner. Along with an induction session and a half-day workshop, the winning concept will also receive professional consultation that will help materialise their aspirations and goals into a set of results and shape their brand with the help of three experts from F&B Concept & Operations, Interior Design and Brand Identity. This will be followed by LXA presenting the workshop findings in an analysis feedback document for the winning concept.

Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, GRIF co-founder, stated: “GRIF 2020 is all about innovation, and the announcement of Launchbox is a testament to that. The industry is looking to be inspired by the next F&B breakthrough, and by providing this platform to new start-ups we can offer tangible opportunities to investors and provide restaurant concepts with potential funding and connect them to mentors who can take their concept to the next stage. Launchbox is an exciting new addition to the 2020 programme and we are looking for unique concepts to apply and showcase their concept.”

Sarah-Jane Grant, Director of LXA, commented: “We are thrilled to be supporting GRIF’s brand new Launchbox concept for 2020. At LXA, we’ve been delivering innovative design solutions for leading global brands for over 20 years. Our team of highly experienced consultants and practitioners are the perfect partners for the Launchbox winners; ready to make a significant difference to their project. For us, it’s not "one size fits all", it’s about understanding the objective, then connecting the LXA services that bring a project to life with the greatest impact. We are very much looking forward to seeing the new concepts presented for Launchbox.”

Global Restaurant Investment Forum: will take place  February 11-13 2020, hosted by NH Collection Amsterdam

Picnic at CES

Seattle-based Picnic™, an innovator of food production technology and Robotics-as-a-Service (RaaS) solutions, announced today that its automated food assembly system has been selected by Centerplate, a leader in live event hospitality, to serve attendees of the world’s largest technology event, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), January 7-10, 2020, at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Centerplate will use and showcase Picnic’s robot, with capabilities of producing up to 300 12-inch customized pizzas an hour, on the CES show floor. Specific location details for Picnic’s robot and where to enjoy its pizza will be revealed at, prior to the start of CES 2020.

Executive Chef Taylor Park stands in front of the Picnic intelligent food assembly platform with pizzas in foreground. Picnic announced its partnership with Centerplate at Seattle's T-Mobile Park and the launch of its food assembly platform which enables high-volume, consistent, customizable pizzas and access to operational back-end data for food service providers.

“Picnic’s distinct culmination of food production customization and throughput, smart data and cloud analytics is quickly resonating with food service operators,” said Clayton Wood, CEO of Picnic. “Our continued relationship with Centerplate illustrates our ability to tailor our offerings to the specific needs of our partners and jointly transform the food experience for their consumers. This is one robot that won’t be a CES exhibitor only showing futuristic concepts; it is already in use in real-world kitchen settings and will only continue to grow its capabilities, as will be seen through Picnic’s delivery of mass customization food production and great-tasting pizza provided to CES attendees.”

Centerplate, providing live event hospitality for more than 115 million guests each year at hundreds of prominent sports, entertainment and convention venues, revealed, in October 2019, that Picnic’s successful pilot was operating at their T-Mobile Park location, home of the Seattle Mariners. In addition to today’s announcement, Centerplate is also using Picnic’s robot to provide all of the pizzas at Enchant® Christmas, the current winter wonderland holiday event, taking place at the stadium through December 29th.

“Picnic’s automated food assembly platform has shown an ability to enhance quality and speed of service for our kitchen operations,” said Steve Pangburn, CEO of Centerplate. “Our initial pilot with Picnic was very positive and their differentiated capabilities are proving beneficial. We look forward to introducing Picnic to the Las Vegas Convention Center in January and helping them scale their technology in an effective way.”

The Picnic platform is initially focused on the production of high-volume, customizable pizzas. However, the company’s technology is applicable to other food categories. “Bun, bowl, tortilla or plate – our automated assembly system is designed for and capable of improving the businesses of many food service segments,” added Wood.

Many U.S. and international food service providers are recognizing that Picnic’s platform offers unique capabilities to address common business-thwarting challenges and pain points. As part of the system’s intelligence, deep learning AI technology continually learns and helps to meet the changing needs of all types of food service operators, keeping them more competitive and protecting their brands.

“Picnic continues to experience increasing interest in our technology and solutions from large chains to ‘mom and pop’ storefronts, and emerging food service venues, such as virtual restaurants and ghost kitchens,” said Wood.

The compact, freestanding system integrates Picnic’s issued U.S. patent and other U.S. and international patent-pending modular, configurable equipment, with its software, cloud and deep learning technology. The platform only requires a small footprint and the modular, configurable equipment makes it flexible to slip into a wide array of stationary and mobile kitchen formats. It is extremely flexible and painless to set up. It’s safe to work around and only minimal training is required. Picnic will deliver, install and maintain the system, and provide platform and software updates for a monthly fee with no money upfront. The company can also provide custom design software solutions for operators to integrate with existing point-of-sale and ordering systems.

The Love Booth

A couple who first met in the dining room of an El Pollo Loco, fell in love and got engaged this week at the same restaurant on the anniversary of their chance meeting. 


Last year, on December 17, Andre Basket stopped at his local El Pollo Loco in San Bernardino, CA for wings and ended up leaving with the love of his life. Taken back by Candice Coward’s beauty, who was sitting in a nearby booth, Andre took a chance and asked her out on a date. While flattered, Candice told him she lived over 100 miles away but that didn’t deter Andre. Fast forward a year and the couple is in love and ready to take the next step.

This past Tuesday, on the one-year anniversary of their meeting, Andre surprised Candice with “La Propuesta Loca,” proposing to her at the exact booth their loved story began. She said yes!