What Travelers Want in F&B and US Foods Scholars

This edition of MRM News Bites features SevenRooms, Miso Robotics , PARTech, Delaware North, Illes Foods, Tablelist and Discotech and US Foods.

What’s Important to Travelers

SevenRooms released its “Checking In For F&B” report, which uncovered the most important things to today’s traveler when it comes to food and beverage at hotels. According to the data, 65 percent of Americans would choose one hotel over another if that hotel stay includes complimentary breakfast, and 51 percent would be more inclined to book a hotel room that includes a complimentary drink or meal upon arrival.

The study, conducted with third-party research firm YouGov, examined people’s preferences around hotel restaurants and bars, uncovering that F&B holds quite a bit of weight. In fact, nearly one in three (31 percent) Americans think hotels with great restaurants are more memorable than those without.

Knowing that food and beverage can be an incredible asset for hotel brands, setting them apart in a sea of options available to today’s savvy traveler, SevenRooms set out to uncover which elements would encourage travelers to stay at a certain hotel.

Americans selected what F&B factors would sway them to a hotel either for the first time, or for a return visit, and aside from a complimentary meal or drink, the data found some of the top selections to be:

  • A variety of food options for all dietary preferences and restrictions: More than 1 in 3 (34 percent)
  • Loyalty rewards for their restaurants and bars: Almost 1 in 3 (32 percent)
  • The hotel sent a personalized offer to book again based on previous dining and stay history: More than 1 in 5 (23 percent)
  • The hotel asked for dietary preferences/restrictions prior to the stay, making the trip more tailored and seamless: Almost 1 in 5 (19 percent)
  • The mini bar is personalized to snack/drink preferences based on previous stays or allergies: More than 1 in 7 (14 percent)
  • And when asked what would make them choose one hotel over another, many of the same factors held true:
  • Multiple options for sit down meals (41 percent)
  • A restaurant open late (38 percent)
  • Third-party reviews that note exceptional service at their restaurant (21 percent)

“When you think about hospitality, hotels are regularly the first thing that comes to mind. But what many don’t consider is that it’s not only a well-appointed room and a knowledgeable concierge that guests remember – it’s often the experience they had at the on-site restaurant or bar,” said Joel Montaniel, CEO of SevenRooms. “Hotel brands, especially those with locations in various cities around the world, have a unique opportunity to build loyalty with customers through their F&B offerings. By listening to what makes a guest experience exceptional, and using technology to help deliver that experience, they can develop long-lasting relationships with their guests, creating a brand-loyal traveler for life.”

Building Loyalty

Hotels with multiple properties in a variety of cities may have the biggest opportunity to build loyalty with guests. So what do hotel guests look for to truly elevate the experience, when they’re staying brand-loyal with one hotel?

Perks for Free Food or Drinks: 36 percent are more likely to book with one hotel across multiple cities if their loyalty program made it easier to earn rewards outside of hotel room nights

Ensuring Variety: 34 percent indicate liking the convenience that comes with staying at the same hotel brand in different cities, but expect there to be variety with food and drink at each location

Seamless Communication Between Properties: When staying at a hotel with multiple properties, 29 percent expect their preferences and guest profile to be easily communicated between properties

Great Service: 26 percent admit that if one of the hotel’s locations had poor service in their restaurant or bar, they’d reconsider continuing to book with that brand

The Local Influence 

Hotels also have an opportunity to capitalize on their city’s roots since guests are craving curated local experiences, whether it be to spend the night or to grab a quick drink. Even further, once they travel home, hotels have a chance to continue guest relationships – over a quarter (26 percent) of Americans think hotels have an opportunity to engage with more locals through their bars and restaurants. In order to create a brand-loyal, returning guest, operators should focus on offering locals:

Unique and diverse food and beverage options: 24 percent of Americans agree that if a hotel in their area has unique and diverse food and beverage options, they’re more likely to consider booking with the same brand when traveling

Local talent: 23 percent of Americans love when hotels host/showcase local talent at their F&B venues

Excellent Service: 17 percent expect hotel restaurants and bars to have a higher level of service than other restaurants and bars in their area

Miso Robotics Crowdfunding

Miso Robotics – the inventors’ behind Flippy – secure funding with a unique twist angled at bringing AI to robots for commercial kitchen deployment. In collaboration with SeedInvest (by Circle), a leading equity crowdfunding platform, and Wavemaker Labs, Miso Robotics opens up reservations for a new series round of equity crowdfunding, targeting to raise up to $30 million.


With equity crowdfunding, Miso Robotics opens up investing opportunities for small-fund investors to capitalize on the future of the restaurant industry, becoming a driving force for adoption of kitchen assistants to overcome challenges facing the restaurant industry. 

“We are thrilled to provide a new window of access into an innovative world where artificial intelligence can assist kitchen staff in meeting the fast-paced demands of the changing food-service industry,” said Buck Jordan, CEO and Co-founder of Miso Robotics. “Since its debut, Flippy has become a household name, we’re excited to bring fans along on our next journey, and venture towards growth.”

Miso Robotics has already raised nearly $15 million in earlier rounds of funding from investors including Wavemaker Labs, MAG Ventures, and CaliGroup. The company successfully debuted “Flippy” at CaliBurger’s Pasadena location prompting a further investment of $11 million from its parent company, CaliGroup, to integrate “Flippy” into more than 50 CaliBurger locations worldwide – the second location (CaliBurger 2.0) was recently announced and is set to open in Fort Myers, Florida soon. The company also successfully deployed Flippy to work at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Chase Field in Phoenix.

ParTech to Acquire Restaurant Magic

ParTech, Inc. (PAR), entered into an interest purchase agreement to acquire AccSys, LLC (f/k/a AccSys, Inc. and otherwise known as Restaurant Magic ("Restaurant Magic")), a restaurant software company located in Tampa, FL and the developers of Data Central.  Data Central is a suite of cloud backoffice applications to help restaurants achieve operational and financial goals.  The purchase price of $42 million for Restaurant Magic will be financed primarily through cash and equity. The acquisition is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2019.

Savneet Singh, PAR Technology CEO & President commented, "I am very pleased to announce that PAR has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Restaurant Magic, a leader in backoffice subscription software for enterprise restaurants.  Restaurant Magic’s software leverages business intelligence and automation technologies to decrease food costs, manage labor and improve overall customer service. This announcement today marks another significant milestone in the rapid evolution of PAR Technology.  Our Company continues to transform itself as we build out our restaurant technology solutions, led by our Brink POS software, to be the leading cloud technology provider for enterprise restaurants.  I’m extremely excited to announce the merging of two powerful entities to create the premier restaurant technology company delivering the required and critical services that are fundamentally changing how restaurants operate around the world.  Combining Restaurant Management with our leading Brink POS software will alter how enterprise restaurants communicate, access data, conduct commerce and manage their businesses across rapidly converging tech platforms."

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with PAR Technology.  Our decision to become a part of PAR was based upon our belief that by combining our companies we will provide new and stronger opportunities to our clients and employees," said Drew Peloubet, CEO of Restaurant Magic. "The goal of our Company has always been to maintain continual growth for our Company to better meet the needs of our customers, while fiercely protecting the investment our end users have made in deploying our backoffice software applications.  Restaurant Magic’s suite of enterprise applications and services are an excellent fit with PAR Technology’s popular restaurant technology offerings, and together will provide customers throughout the restaurant industry with the most robust set of solutions in the marketplace. The combination of PAR and Restaurant Magic will immediately create an industry leading front to backend cloud technology solution for restaurants."

NOLA Cuisine at Airport

Delaware North and its joint-venture partner Chase Catering and Concessions LLC have opened more than a dozen new restaurants at the recently opened terminal at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. The restaurants encompass a variety of dining styles ranging from traditional quick-service and full-service concepts to market-style and grab-and-go choices.

To create an authentic New Orleans dining experience for travelers, Delaware North partnered with renowned chefs and culinarians including Leah Chase and her family, John Folse and Michael Gulotta, as well as an array of iconic local restaurants such as Café Du Monde, Ye Olde College Inn and Angelo Brocato. 

“New Orleans is a special place with a very distinct culinary identity,” said Scott Socha, interim president for Delaware North’s travel division. “We had to make sure we found out what makes New Orleans cuisine unique and then find a way to showcase that in a way that meets travelers’ needs. That meant developing relationships with some of the city’s revered chefs and restaurateurs — many of whom are known all over the world — and creating concepts that will set a new bar for airport dining.”

Delaware North’s new restaurant offerings at MSY include:

Leah’s Kitchen: Classic Creole dishes inspired by the legendary Leah Chase, top photo

Folse Market: A New Orleans marketplace created with famed Chef John Folse and featuring seafood, po'boys, coffee and wine.

MoPho: Vietnamese fusion cuisine created by Chef Michael Gulotta.

Bar Sazerac/Dook’s Burgers: Cocktail bar gracefully embodying the grand history of drinking and socializing in New Orleans serving classics like the Sazerac, the official cocktail of New Orleans, alongside food from Dook’s Burgers.

Angelo Brocato: New Orleans’ famous Italian gelateria & pasticceria, serving Italian ice cream and desserts based on Sicilian family recipes from the early 1900s.

Ye Olde College Inn: New Orleans landmark since 1933, serving up award-winning New Orleans classics from their farm to your table.

Heritage School of Music Stage: Wine bar with live music produced in partnership with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation.

Café Du Monde: New Orleans institution serving its world-famous beignets and café au lait.

PJ’s Coffee: A New Orleans staple for over 40 years, offers 100 percent Arabica direct trade coffee, the finest espresso-based beverages, The Original Cold Brew™ iced coffee, as well as organic tea and a variety of food options.

Additional New Orleans-born eateries including: Midway Pizza and City Greens.

Delaware North has provided food and beverage services at the New Orleans airport since 1983. Overall, Delaware North’s travel division operates food, beverage and retail services in more than 30 airports and travel hubs across three continents, including some of the world’s busiest airports such as Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and London’s Heathrow Airport. The company’s 300 total airport outlets include more than 200 brands — a mix of award-winning proprietary concepts, local and national partnerships and franchises.

Illes Foods' Fourth Generation CEO

Custom seasoning, sauce, and beverage flavor manufacturer Illes Foods, a 92-year-old family-owned and operated company, announced the transition of leadership to its fourth-generation. The company announced internally on October 24, that Cristin Illes Kahale will be appointed Chief Executive Officer effective January 1, 2020.  Illes Foods has played a key role in the creation and development of highly successful menu items for national restaurant chains, protein processors, and retailers.

Cristin Illes Kahale

Rick Illes, current CEO and Principal Owner of Illes Foods, stated “I will remain active as Board Chair, working on special projects as well as in an advisory capacity.  I’m very proud of all the work Cristin has put in during this transition and I continue to be deeply impressed with her drive and involvement in our new strategic direction.  I have no doubt that Cristin’s passion for the business and her dedication to the mission and the team will usher in a very bright future for the company.”  Since taking over the family business in 1989, Mr. Illes has led the company to a 2,000 percent increase in revenue and has seen near double-digit growth annually.  

Kahale began working at Illes Foods in 2007 and has held several roles within the company. She most recently held the title of Vice President of Administration, leading the HR, Customer Service, and IT Teams.  “I love this company, and I am so excited for this opportunity to serve as CEO,” she said.  “Since I was young, I’ve watched my father’s entrepreneurial mindset build Illes Foods into a company that leads the industry in innovation, service, and quality.  Working with our talented leadership team, I am excited to build upon this incredible foundation and grow the family business by maintaining the highest standards and investing in our employees and customers’ long-term success.”

Tablelist and Discotech Team

Tablelist and Discotech  have partnered to offer direct bookings and an enhanced consumer experience while driving venue sales. Rather than requiring customers to submit a reservation request to venues or visit external sites to purchase tickets, Discotech will now have access to Tablelist’s API to support direct-to-venue bookings, creating a more streamlined booking process for both parties.

“Tablelist and Discotech share a common goal: to make nightlife reservations as simple and convenient as possible for the customer,” said Ian Chen, Discotech CEO. “We’re thrilled to be joining forces with Tablelist to not only improve our customer experience with direct bookings, but also to offer increased visibility to Tablelist to drive more business. By integrating Tablelist’s API onto our platform, participating venues across the globe using Tablelist will benefit from cross-exposure on Discotech, opening their doors to thousands of potential new customers.”

Kyla Moore, CEO of Tablelist, explained, “Our affiliation with Discotech allows us to offer a significant value-add for TablelistPro venue customers. Through the integration with Discotech’s platform, participating Tablelist venues can reach a sizeable pool of new customers to drive ticket sales, guest lists and reservations, and seamlessly manage them on the backend using their existing TablelistPro accounts. We’re always looking for ways to better support our venue partners’ business operations, and are so excited to be able to offer this resource in collaboration with Discotech.”

US Foods Scholars

US Foods Holding Corp. released  the newest class of culinary students receiving US Foods Scholars awards. Eight students from cities across the country were each awarded a scholarship of up to $20,000 to help them pursue an education in the culinary arts and enter the restaurant industry. The new scholars will also receive learning and development opportunities with US Foods culinary professionals throughout the school year.

The US Foods Scholars program was developed to help tackle the ongoing talent shortage facing the restaurant industry by providing financial support and culinary training opportunities for deserving students who require assistance to complete the next step of their culinary journey.

“It’s been an honor to watch the program expand with ambitious and talented students,” said Debra Ceffalio, vice president of corporate communications, US Foods. “We know finding highly skilled talent is a challenge for independent restaurant operators, and that is why our support of the next generation of culinary talent is so important to our organization and our customers. US Foods Scholars are well-poised for success in the industry, and we are excited to support their achievements.”

The eight recipients are:

Christian Oliver, a first-year culinary arts and entrepreneurship student at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Destiny Barfield, a first-year culinary arts student at the Art Institute of Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga. 

Hometown: Atlanta, Ga.

Frauntashia Perry, a first-year baking and pastry arts student at the Art Institute of Atlanta in Atlanta, Ga. 

Hometown: Carson, Calif.

Grace Aguilar, a first-year culinary and pastry arts student at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. 

Hometown: New Orleans, La.

Hannah Smith, a first-year baking, pastry and culinary arts student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C. 

Hometown: Bear Creek, N.C.

Jessie Burns, a first-year baking, pastry, and hospitality and food service management student at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colo. 

Hometown: New Orleans, La.

Karla Jimenez, a first-year culinary arts student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, N.C. 

Hometown: Garner, N.C.

Nicolas Eberspacher, a first-year culinary arts, foodservice, and food and beverage management student at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colo. 

Hometown: New Orleans, La.

“It is such an honor, and I’m extremely thankful to be part of the US Foods Scholars program,” said Hannah Smith, 2019 US Foods Scholar and culinary student at Wake Technical Community College. “I had no idea that following a passion of mine could lead me to where it has today. This opportunity can open so many doors and will allow me to continue pursuing degrees in culinary, baking and pastry arts.”

All US Foods scholarship recipients are selected through an application process. Each applicant is evaluated based on several criteria, including academic performance, financial need and a personal essay. US Foods is proud to partner with two organizations, Careers through Culinary Arts Program and the American Culinary Federation, to help facilitate applications and select scholarship recipients.