Dec 8, 2023 15 min read

Gotta See the Baby

Gotta See the Baby
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday and I hope you had a great week!

The holiday season is in full swing and at least according to the bookings at our restaurants in NYC, it appears people are enthusiastically going out and looking to enjoy F&B with co-workers, friends, family and otherwise.

For hospitality operators across the globe, I wish you a most successful and spirited holiday season. We all need and deserve it! My mom would often say, “take joy where you can find it.” Nothing is easy out there in ‘restaurant-land,’ so if this holiday season you find your guests spending and enjoying with a little extra level of enthusiasm, cheers!

At Branded's holiday event this week, Tech the Halls, based on the energy at our party (as well as the clean-up the following morning), it looks like everyone fully enjoyed themselves!

By the way, if anyone left behind a Gucci 'Ophidia GG Medium Tote Bag,' we didn’t find it and any suggestion that it appears extremely coincidental that Mrs. Schatzberg has only become in possession of such a bag this week, it’s just that, completely coincidental. 😊

NOT Mrs. Schatzberg, maybe

Our own holiday function was something I expect many will not remember but was enjoyed together with people they will never forget.

While my Top of the Fold will now appropriately move on from Tech the Halls, I will not do so before expressing tremendous gratitude and appreciation to the folks who rallied to our little gathering to raise a glass with us this week at our offices, including the many who traveled to NYC in order to be part of the festivities.

When you mention only a few, I know you run the risk of disappointing many, but I want to give a special shoutout to the crew from Bbot, part of Branded’s OG portfolio, b/c they showed up with tremendous energy for a 'Bbot reunion night' and that was a highlight for me personally.

Other companies that came in hot were our long-standing friends and partners from AWS, who have proven so incredibly helpful to our portfolio of emerging tech companies.

The Elliot Group, our friends and partners who make every gathering better and are themselves the most genuine and prolific hosts.

Our friends and partners (and Branded's very first investment), PourMyBeer, who showed off our very own self-pour beverage system (and may or may not have fully enjoyed the libations that the system provided as they demoed the system to so many interested guests).

And of course, our partners from Lavit who got to show off the newest version of their industry leading countertop beverage solutionWATERBAR by Lavit! Was Tech the Halls the official launch of WATERBAR by Lavit, well…actually no…that happened a few months ago at the National Automatic Merchandising Association Show, but let’s all agree this was the NYC launch party for WarerBar! 😊

Wait a second?!? PourMyBeer’s self-serve solution and Lavit’s WaterBar system were BOTH featured and presented at Tech the Halls 2023?

Is this a 'tell' of a Branded Beverage Solutions strategy brewing (pun intended)? IYKYK!

As mentioned in my toast at the party, which by the way, according to Brandon Barton, a friend and the CEO at Bite (one of the world’s leading kiosk companies) was thankfully the shortest toast I’ve ever given before, Branded Hospitality values this community that we feel so fortunate to part of and always looking to expand with good people.

Specifically, I said, and continue to believe, that if together we take care of hospitality operators and help them optimize margins and address the many challenges and pain points, THEY'RE facing, good things will happen for ALL OF US in this industry!

My friends, and industry leaders, if we help operators take care of THEIR guests and THEIR employees & teams, we will all win!

Now, the title and photo of this week’s Top of the Fold, “Gotta Come See the Baby,” was absolutely not click-bait (okay, maybe just a little)!

If you know Branded and specifically the Founders, you know our love of the show Seinfeld and in the spirt of Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer, I must personally own the fact that there have been a few times when I’ve been pushed the envelope and used the expression “you’ve got an ugly baby.” But this was ONLY when I felt it was absolutely necessary to make the full extent of our disinterest in a particular investment opportunity crystal clear.

Now please allow me to clarify, as I’m not the heartless SOB that such a statement suggests that I am. First of all, I’ve NEVER said that line outside of a professional environment (at this point I know you’re asking yourself in what ‘professional’ environment is such a line ever appropriate?).

Lucy, let me do some splainin to you.

Branded is an operator-first investment platform. We look at technology & innovation from the perspective of the operators and the users of ResTech.

Product, market, fit are not simply words to Branded. These words, along with friction, prioritization and the near-term or even immediate impact for the benefit of operators are the fundamental drivers of what gets our attention and more importantly, our capital.

Every investment firm, of course, has its own investment thesis, and Branded's obsession with identifying, vetting, validating, and delivering (pun intended) technology & innovation that will create value for operators, is ours.

Now back, just for a moment, to Tech the Halls. At one point in the night, I had the privilege of enjoying an adult libation and a private discussion with one of my favorite LPs. I’ll also add this LP is a smart, attractive, powerful and a most impressive person (I believe this preamble is absolutely necessary since it’s going to turn negative).

My friend and LP has identified a company that he believes is a GAME CHANGER for the hospitality industry (as well as a myriad of other industries). There will be no further information shared about this company, but my point here is this, while he and this company (along with the company's stakeholders) believe the opportunity for this company is GINORMOUS, at present, the company is struggling to get any traction whatsoever.

Okay friends, it took me a moment to get here (doesn’t always?), but we’re here.

Despite the intellectual discussion, debate and otherwise we were having about the company (as the Tech the Hall revelers were outside the conference room), the line I don’t use often, but feel is sometimes needed to draw upon (for emphasis and effect) came out – I told my friend "He had an ugly baby!" Yes, I said it.

I explained to my friend that the reason I know he has an ugly baby is b/c no one is engaging with the solution this company has identified for the market. This company has created a solution that is in SEARCH of challenge, problem or opportunity that hospitality operators care about as opposed to a solution that operators DO care about.

This doesn’t necessarily mean this is a bad idea or even a bad company (meaning that this baby will remain ugly forever).

The reasons for the lack of product, market, fit can be many. The timing could be off, or the solution might not rise to the level of importance or prioritization of other needs. The market may need further education or understanding about the value this company is offering. Again, the reasons can vary.

My point, Branded’s investment thesis, is the requirement for our army of operators to see the value in the solution being presented to them. If they don’t see the value or don’t engage with a company, we don’t engage with that company.

This investment discipline continues to embolden Branded’s relationship with operators (we tell each other the good, bad and ugly) and our obsession to deliver results for our LPs.

Companies can and will fail for many reasons, but Branded works hard to get the product, market, fit right and we do that in partnership with our operator network.

In the world of early-stage investing, “wrong and too early” are the same thing (or at least leads to the same results). Thank you, Mr. BP, for sharing that early-stage wisdom and advice with me on a number of opportunities we explored together.

If you find your company NOT getting the traction you desire, you can call the ‘market,’ ‘customers’ or ‘people’ that are not responding or engaging with your NEW TECH & INNOVATION any number of names you wish, but in the end, if you’re not getting the attention of hospitality operators, you’re not going to get Branded’s attention.

I’ll end this week’s Top of the Fold section with a quote from the Great Depression-era economist John Maynard Keynes who said, “markets can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent.”

This quote essentially means that no one is bigger than the market, and no matter how right you think you are about something, the market (customers, investors, etc) might not care. An additional reminder, in the short-run or even medium-run, markets (or people) can (and often do) do anything.

I wish you all a lovely weekend and a strong finish to the year. Only a few more editions of the Hospitality Headline before we close out 2023. The team and I will continue to work on ideas that will make the H^2 an interesting weekend “read” as we appreciate and value your engagement with us.

As always, it takes a village.

Readers of the Hospitality Headline, that are interested in learning more about Branded’s portfolio companies, investment strategies and future opportunities, are invited to explore becoming part of our Access Hospitality Network.

In this weeks episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “The Finance Guy” are joined by Troy Hooper, CEO of Hot Palette America, the parent company of Pepper Lunch Restaurants, as well as Elisia Flores, CEO at L&L Hawaiian Barbecue.

You can tune in on SpotifyAppleAmazoniHeart, or your favorite listening platform!

The Shoutout section of the H^2 is most definitely morphing into a Branded portfolio company shoutout section and that’s with good reason. We’re THRILLED with the momentum these operator-centric companies have created and are carrying into 2024!

As long as they keep doing good things for the industry, I’ll keep giving them these most well-deserved shout outs!

Hmmm…readers, what do you say about a Sunday edition of the H^2 dedicated to the Branded portfolio companies? (I literally just heard my own team spit out their coffee…never mind, we’ll kill that idea right now). 😊

In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye and my brother from another mother, Mr. Wolf, let’s get it on!

WaterBar by Lavit, you think I was done with this countertop drink dispensing company with my mention of them in the Top of the Fold? Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids!

WaterBar has refreshed (yes, you knew I would include a pun) everything about the traditional workplace beverage system and made one better: with easy in-line installation, space-saving design, delicious flavors, and intuitive information sharing.

The Branded team is THRILLED to share that, Lavit, has just launched its next-generation all-in-one countertop dispenser, the WaterBar.

The WaterBar’s debut has received a very strong reception, including a few nights ago at our Tech the Halls. With several pre-commercial prototypes now available (one currently in our office…you see the love we bring to B Works?), the WaterBar can deliver very cold still or carbonated filtered water as well as hot.

The new platform can serve very large (or small) offices, given its ability to both heat and cool quickly. The IOT and camera recognition will allow for data collection on capsule consumption, as well as maintenance reminders. WaterBar produces even stronger carbonation than the current Lavit dispenser and will be able to carry almost any brand of soda using its patented recyclable capsule technology. With the capability for liquid fill, Lavit plans to introduce premium coffees, hot chocolates, and teas.

To the entire Branded community, if you’d like to discuss WaterBar, please call me directly. There’s a lot going on with this company and it would be too long (and frowned upon by Branded's counsel) for me to say anymore.

Copia is making yet another appearance in the Shoutout section b/c they continue to do what Branded loves – drive economic value for restaurants and so many other segments of the hospitality industry, and they do it with a purpose, meaning and most importantly intentionality.

Copia’s technology allows businesses to safely donate their excess food, access enhanced tax deductions, and receive powerful data to inform food purchasing decisions.

Members of the Branded believe Copia made the Shoutout section b/c it’s CEO, Kimberly Smith, had to cancel her plans to be at our Tech the Halls for absolutely good reasons and that this is my way of letting her know 'we’re good.'

That's not true! Yes, I’m good with Ms. Smith's reasons for canceling her east coast trip, but Copia is making this week’s edition b/c of what they did with Safeway, a banner operated by Albertsons Companies and philanthropist and top digital creator, MrBeast, aka, Jimmy Donaldson.

This dynamic duo, Safeway & MrBeast, partnered on the show “Survive in a Grocery Store” where MrBeast challenges a contestant to see how many days they can live inside a Safeway grocery store.

Every day the contestant remains in the store, he wins $10,000 but there’s a catch, he must choose $10,000 worth of products to donate to local charities each day as well.

I love this storyline, but it’s all about execution and that required Safeway to find the ideal partner to identify and manage the donation opportunities from the store to local nonprofit organizations. Hello Copia!

Safeway, MrBeast and Copia working to donate more than $450K of necessities to local non-profits

Branded likes to have some fun and we certainly enjoy boasting (at least a little bit) about our portfolio companies. But in all seriousness, we’re always looking for hospitality operators to engage with us and join our Hospitality Network.

We NEVER charge our operating brothers and sisters for this engagement. We know firsthand what’s going on and the challenges operators are facing (remember, we’re also restaurant operators) and if we can be helpful to you and provide you with any insights, intel or otherwise, please connect with us.

This is a most fragmented industry, and our engagement with our Hospitality Network is never about our portfolio (that’s our investment business and we take that as seriously as cancer, but the companies we’ve invested in are not the right solution for all operators). We’ll always tell you the truth, what we think and that includes, as I wrote in the Top of the Fold, if we think a technology or innovation company is an ugly baby. Sorry, not sorry.

It takes a village. Yes, this is uniquely the second time "it takes a village" appeared in this week's edition of the H^2 and this second usage is dedicated to all the hospitality employees, team members, contractors, gig workers, drivers, and otherwise who are working the holidays so that our guests can have nothing less than awesome experiences for the 2023 holiday season.

We see you, we appreciate you and value everything you do!

This week's winner of the WITW is Branded is our friend Derek Canton, Founder & CEO at Paerpay. Mr. Canton is also a Forbes 30 Under 30, and Techstars NYC 2021.

The photo, yes, it's from this week's Tech the Halls and shows off the piece of Branded swag we gave as a gift for the holidays.

If you know Branded, you know we love swag and if you know me, you know I love hats. Derek is showing off a piece of our 'winter collection' and seriously, how good does he make this look!

Mr. Canton's company is focused on contactless payments, without switching POS systems. If you'd like to connect with Derel directly, please let me know.


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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

GoTab: Mastering Pricing Strategies for Your Eatertainment VenueYumpingo: The power of data analytics to deliver satisfaction growth for Seamore'sOvation: The Duality of Dining and Entertainment with Dale SchwartzChowly: Voicify and Chowly Partner to Provide Voice AI Ordering to RestaurantsLeasecake: The Value of Professional Lease Abstraction ServicesIncentivio: The Future of Customer Incentive Programs: Trends For Restaurants To Watch in 2024Incentivio: Restaurant Customer PsychologyPourMyBeer: How Technology Addresses Inventory Shrinkage to Maximize Profit Margins

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🔍 Got Questions? We've Got Answers! 🌟

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📅 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 December 2023

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