Sep 9, 2023 14 min read

Come Out & Play

Come Out & Play
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday and I hope everyone had a good week.

I’m not even going to try to guess what you may be thinking. Superheroes and the Marvel Universe last week and The Warriors this week in the Top of the Fold?

What can I say, “I call ‘em [write them] as I sees ‘em.”

Given the frequency in which some variation of that expression (call ‘em, like I see ‘em) is used, I’ll share that the origin of this most famous quote is not entirely clear. I found references to it dating back to as early as 1910 and some as late as 1960. As a lifelong Yankees fan, I’ll acknowledge that the great Casey Stengel is deemed to be part of the origin when he charged home plate to argue against a called 3rd strike. According to this story, the umpire responded in a clear Brooklyn accent of the period: "I calls 'em as I sees 'em." While I believe these words were first uttered much earleir than during Casey’s time as manager of the NY Yankees (1949 – 1960), I love the image that accompanied this story.

I’ll digress, as I almost always do, and simply pass along an old and SHORT story about three baseball umpires discussing how they make calls. The first said, "I call them as I see them." The second said, "I call them as they are." The third said, "They ain't nothin' until I call 'em." I find this story to be interesting as it’s about objectivity and perspective.

The reference to this story about baseball umpires affords me the unique opportunity to share an image, for the VERY first time in the history of the H^2, of a Norman Rockwell painting. Was this too forced? You be the judge. 😊

Now back to The Warriors, an action thriller film from 1979, that to this day, ranks on the shortlist of movies that’s quoted most often by the friends I went to school with in the late 70s and early 80s. This movie and specifically one of the key storylines is the theme of this week’s Top of the Fold section. Can you dig it?!? (IYKYK).

This American cult classic is based on the 400 BC event called the Anabasis (The Persian Expedition), but you’re on your own for any more information about that.

The Warriors have been on my mind for the past few weeks b/c a key part of the story was the need of our heroes to get back home to Coney Island, NY. If they could just get home to Coney Island, all would be good again and the vast majority of the film is about the journey (and not about the destination).

On Tuesday this week, I sent a note to my team that read "September 23rd is the official end of Summer 2023, but that today, (Tuesday, September 4th) is the official start of our sprint to year-end."

I think people who know me and maybe (hopefully) readers of the H^2 might assume that I’m a pretty high energy person on almost any day of the week, but on this day, September 4th, my energy was notably higher (and I dare say it’s been that way all week). I expect it will remain elevated through the end of the year.

Why? B/c I love the work and the industry I'm fortunate to be part of. It's challenging, interesting, and at times, even stressful, but it's also fun. My work allows me to maintain a steep learning curve as I'm exposed to new and interesting technology & innovation companies and a growing community that drive them as well as the hospitality operators that may benefit from them.

This is why we play the sports we play, and yes, I consider the work I do at Branded to be a cerebral sport that I feel so lucky to get to play every day.

I love the summer season and what’s not to love?  Even in NYC, there’s a more laidback attitude in the summertime. There are all sorts of weekend (and long-weekend) breaks and getaways. These summer months are filled with additional family-time, trips to places like the Adirondacks (and Brant Lake!), Long Island and elsewhere. There's a great deal going on including BBQs, picnics and all sorts of summer activities in and around The City (that’s once again for you JB).

DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince got it right, summertime is an amazing time to “sit back and unwind.” Listen for yourself: Summertime Live 8 2005

Now, being high energy and passionate about so many things, including my work, I admit that relaxing and taking it easy, well, isn’t so easy for me.

And that’s why I love the day after Labor Day! This week NYC was crowded! Kids going back to school (which always makes me think of my favorite Staples commercial of all-time), subways busting, sidewalks congested, traffic a challenge and I loved all of it!

The calendar says summer officially ends on September 23rd, but the lift in energy, not only in and around NYC, but also all over the country seemed to be happening this week. Maybe it’s b/c the NFL season kicks off this weekend. Maybe it’s b/c so many companies are bringing people back to the office. It’s hard to say, but already this week, the out-of-office auto responses were few and far between, people seemed more engaged, and I experienced a genuine desire from our community and network to make the next few months as productive as possible.

This week, among the many things Branded worked on, was our preparation for Winsight’s FSTEC 2023 conference taking place in Big D (Dallas) next week from Wednesday, Sept 13th to Friday, Sept 15th (more on that conference below in the Shoutouts section).

We had a closing for our 3rd emerging technology & innovation fund and are preparing for the launch of a most interesting and differentiated 4th fund (where Branded will be attacking the world of hospitality from a different angle with this strategy). We’re also aware of a wonderful announcement that will be made early next week about the success of one of our portfolio companies is having (I can’t wait for that to be made public so I can openly and truly share my love of this important company with the H^2 community). To my attorneys, I know there’s a line and I don’t believe anything I just wrote even comes close to crossing it. 😊

The consolidation I’ve been writing about is gaining speed and momentum and it will continue to be made clear that “best-in-suite” beats “best-in-class.” Among the drivers of this consolidation is the deep desire of hospitality operators to reduce the number of technology service providers they work with as the number of vendors is highly correlated to the issue of friction I wrote about last week.

Going back to The Warriors and their journey home, that’s my message today. The destination is of course important, but so too is the journey.

You don’t have to believe me when I write about the importance of the journey, but I think the American philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, got it right with his most famous quote on this topic. Enjoying the journey, 'the getting there', is every bit as important to me as arriving at the destination.

I’m not sharing and writing about the journey to offer a pick-up or attempt at self-help (although if that’s how you read, that’s AWESOME).

The professional journey I have the privilege of being on happens to coincide with the digital transformation taking place in the hospitality industry. Change is of course hard, but what we’re going to get on the other side is necessary and an important part of the democratization of our industry.

For the consumers and our guests, we’re seeing an array of emerging restaurant brands that are bringing us an expansion of menu offerings and ways in which we can experience F&B. Meeting our guests where they’re at isn’t just about the method for ordering or delivery, it’s also about a diversity of cuisines and the people that create these dishes and the places they come from.

I’ve always felt the hospitality industry is an incredible melting pot and a truly unique industry where the stories of people starting at the bottom and rising to the top are as frequent, or even more frequent an occurrence, than in any other.

At the Prosper Forum, we did our podcast, Hospitality Hangout, on the road at Amelia Island. Three of the C-suite guests we were so fortunate to have on our show, all started out as dishwashers (and if you want to talk about meaningful innovations, the dishwasher still ranks among the most important).

The speed in which this transformation is taking place, of course, will not be seamless, or without failures and pain. Embracing the journey means realizing and accepting that perfection can never be the goal, but we of course learn from our mistakes and that helps make us better, stronger, and more resilient.

There are so many people (particularly other investors) that are on the sidelines. Respect. Everyone needs to do what’s best for them.

Branded took a quiet period on the investment side of our house for a period and instead allocated time and attention to our existing portfolio companies. We focused on and worked with a number of our portfolio companies to strengthen their messaging, product-market-fit, and refining their ideal customer profile (or “ICP”). Our work in this area is not remotely done, but I like what we accomplished with our partners (aka: our portfolio companies).

Is this now the ideal moment to deploy capital in the emerging technology, innovation, and emerging restaurant brands space? Everyone needs to make that decision for themselves of course. Branded is LOVING the spike in the engagement we’re having with so many industry leaders and the many corporate entities that don’t just want to see the hospitality industry survive but want to see it THRIVE!

Even the lift in the level of engagement, just this week, and the forward-looking calendar of calls, meetings and otherwise is a strong signal of the active sprint to yearend we’re about to have.

To those who are or plan to remain on the sidelines, I’ll make this my last reference to The Warriors, and despite the fact that the line and the way it was delivered in the film still makes me shiver (at least a little), with only goodwill and good intentions, I invite you all to “come out and play-ay!”

It takes a village.

This week’s Shoutout section is for our friends and partners at Winsight and the FSTEC 2023 conference starting next Wednesday, September 13th.

This year will mark the 3rd year in a row that Branded Hospitality Ventures has had the privilege to be the lead sponsor of Innovation Alley at this tremendous industry event.

Once again, Branded playing this role would not be possible without the help and support of our corporate partners and co-sponsors and this year we're proud to be working with: Cargill - Digital Studio; Nestle Professional; and Open Kitchen by Middleby.

When Schatz and I approached Winsight with this idea over three years ago, we had a view that while there are many strong and interesting technology & innovation companies at the event, some of the most interesting ones were “emerging” and the real estate afforded to these companies was less than awesome.

That of course made sense b/c the model for securing real estate in exhibition halls and marketplaces is of course a matter of price. This is no different than the real estate market in general, which is driven by the 3 rules (location, location, location).

How can the emerging tech companies, which have the ability to add value and differentiate one event from another, be featured as opposed to being accommodated (with booths by the loading docks or restrooms)?

That’s where the idea of the Branded Innovation Alley was born and our taking down the most coveted real estate in the very center of the exhibition hall and present the best in emerging tech. Branded itself is an emerging fund management platform, so while we’re long on ideas, grit and hustle (and lengthy newsletters), we’re not the longest when it comes to the capital required to underwrite prime pieces of real estate at conferences. If you want to know how much we have to pay for this prime real estate at Winsight's event, its written on a Post-it that is placed under your seat (did I make anyone look?).

But no person is a failure who has friends and one thing Branded is blessed with, is a wonderful group of friends.

When it comes to the Innovation Alley, our friends are the folks at Winsight (and a special thank you to MV & CK) and these three corporates below who also believe in the importance of emerging technology and innovation. They responded to the call and made this happen. On behalf of the 20 fantastic emerging technology companies that comprise this year’s members of our innovation alley, I want to thank our friends and partners at Winsight, Cargill, Nestle, and Open Kitchen by Middleby.

You’re each a leader in your respective vertical in this industry we love, but much more than that, you’re really good people who care about this industry and the people in it. Your support has created the opportunity for these emerging companies to be included, in a most meaningful way, and in this event that truly brings together the restaurant and technology community like no other.

You want to talk about how it takes a village? The below image says it loud and proud!


Answer also revealed at the end of the newsletter


Can Restaurant Software Companies Get Past the Software Buyer Roller Coaster?

By: Seth Temko, Solutions Services Partner at Branded Hospitality Ventures

Roller coasters and software implementation can be exciting or terrifying. Or both. Anyone who has ever bought software knows what an emotionally and operationally bumpy ride it can be. Why is that? What can software makers do about it? Read More


Learn how the Hospitality Industry advisors from CohnReznick can put you at the forefront of advanced financial, operational, and risk management strategies.

Learn More


A Change in Student Loan Policy Might Significantly Impact Restaurant Financials

By: Noah Stern, Associate at Branded Hospitality Ventures

Early this week, the US government officially ended the three-year halt on student loan payment and interest, with interest loans accruing again and actual payments resuming on October 1st. In short, this means that the average consumer will have less disposable income, and therefore might be less willing to spend on dining out. Big chains are well aware of the shift coming their way. Read More

Restaurant Industry Movers in the Market

Data as of 9/8/23


What has 78 arms and legs, will teach you everything you need to know about the best restaurant marketing tactics and is supported by an organization whose mission is to help restaurants thrive in the digital world?

THE 2023 DRA Restaurant Marketing Summit

The original online event from July of 2023 was such a success that we are bringing it back for a one-day encore.

Join us September 20th for the Restaurant Marketing Summit Encore day! For 1 day only, you will get access to content from all the speakers for FREE!

The Digital Restaurant Association (DRA) Restaurant Marketing Summit is a free online summit showcasing the smartest and most innovative brands, thought leaders and solutions providers in the hospitality business sharing strategies, tactics, and playbooks that will help restaurants master their marketing to increase ROI and revenue immediately.

You get tips, tricks and tactics that will help you you advance the ball on:

  • Google search
  • TikTok
  • Loyalty
  • Video Content
  • 3rd Party Marketplaces
  • Dynamic Pricing
  • ChatGPT & AI

And a whole lot more!

Registration is free and also gives you free membership in the Digital Restaurant Association (DRA) for the 2023 calendar year. Your membership will not be automatically renewed, and there is no obligation to renew in 2024.

Register now so you don’t miss out! If you had previously registered for the Summit, no need to re-register. Login instructions will be emailed to you.

Want access to all the content RIGHT NOW?

Grab an All-Access VIP Pass and you can watch from right now all the way through October 25th. (This is the best option!)


Hospitality Tech and F&B Innovation IN THE NEWS:

We love to highlight Food Service & Hospitality news, especially when it’s Partners & Friends making it!

And in other News…please see some of the stories that caught our attention and that we’re paying attention to. This week was loaded with headlines and news!!

ANSWER: Arby's

On September 5th Arby's launched its new Big Game Burger Tuesday, tying into football season and carrying out the chain's longtime promise of "we got the meats."


🔍 Got Questions? We've Got Answers! 🌟

Satisfy your thirst for knowledge? Look no further! It's time to dive into our brand-new segment: "Ask The Headline"! 🎉

📅 We'll be answering YOUR questions every week. And here's the best part: you can choose to stay anonymous or receive a fabulous shout-out when we feature your question!

That’s it for today!

See you next week, (about the) same bat-time, same bat-channel.

It takes a village!

Jimmy Frisch & Julia Suchocki
Branded Hospitality Ventures &
235 Park Ave South, 4th Fl | New York, NY 10003

Branded Hospitality Ventures ("Branded") is an investment and advisory platform at the intersection of food service, technology, innovation and capital. As experienced hospitality owners and operators, Branded brings value to its portfolio companies through investment, strategic counsel, and its deep industry expertise and connections.

Learn more about Branded here: Branded At-A-Glance August 2023

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