Dec 1, 2023 17 min read

I Know It When I See It

I Know It When I See It
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Friends of Branded:

Happy Saturday and I hope you all had a great week.

One the privileges I have in writing the Top of the Fold and Shoutout sections of the H^2 is that these contributions are written on Fridays, the (obvious) day before the distribution of Branded’s weekly newsletter.

I love that each week, good, bad, or otherwise, I get to take the work week that is coming to a close and share a few things that have caught my eye, attention and I believe (hope) will prove to be interesting to the readers of the H^2.

These newsletters are intended to serve at least a few purposes: a weekend 'read' that dives into the foodservice & hospitality industry that will prove to be insightful; interesting; worthy of your time; and maybe even a little entertaining.

The Branded Team subscribes to the idea or maybe 'questions' why one should walk when they can run, and why communicate with an audience without trying to bring out a smile or some joy (at least whenever possible and appropriate).

Inspiration comes from many sources and to be nothing less than crystal clear, the word "inspiration" can be most closely linked with the word "motivation," which drives us both mentally and physically to do something creative.

Inspiration is truly unique and personal and again, it comes from a variety of sources.

I didn’t expect or maybe EVER believe that I would derive inspiration from Merrian-Webster, America’s most trusted dictionary, but like the slogan made most famous by the New York Lotto, “hey, you never know.”

Each year Merrian-Webster (“MB”) announces its “word of the year” and after the 2022 award was bestowed upon the word “gaslighting,” b/c it had become ubiquitous with the term “age of misinformation,” my expectation of giving even a 'you know what' about MB’s "word of the year" was nothing less than incredibly low.

That was, until I saw the 2023 "word of the year" selection – AUTHENTIC.

Well played, MB, well played. You not only provided me with an uplifting moment, a reason to continue to care about this annual Academy Awards for Dictionary enthusiasts, but you even inspired this week’s H^2.

AUTHENTIC is a truly awesome word, but also one that has lost a great deal of its meaning mainly b/c of how over-used it is. In a world of artificial intelligence and misinformation (see MB’s 2022 Word of the Year), I don’t think MB could have done any better with its selection for 2023.

For me personally, I almost feel I needed this and it’s brought a great deal of energy and joy to Branded and me this week.

Friends, peers, leaders, what could possibly be more important than being AUTHENTIC?

Being real, genuine, original, actual, true, bona fide, veritable, sterling, attested, undisputed, rightful, legitimate and valid is important and awesome. Yes, I used an online thesaurus to produce that quick list (come on friends, life is open book and open notes)! 😊

Please don’t get me wrong, being AUTHENTIC is no easy or small thing. In a world where everything seems to be online and enshrined in permanent ink, it’s completely understandable why people would choose to hide one’s true self or wear a proverbial ‘mask’ in order to protect themselves or to impress others.

Being AUTHENTIC is hard and risky b/c it requires you to put yourself out there and that opens and dramatically increases the chances of receiving criticism (constructive or otherwise) and being wrong publicly or failing publicly.

As Branded's "Finance Guy," I’d like to say (without any acceptable quantification) that at least 99.99% of the time you’re not going to be present to hear or know about the constructive (or otherwise) criticism, or opinions being expressed about you from others.

At Least a few authentic leaders

The word itself, AUTHENTIC, made me think of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart who wrote a most famous phrase (and therefore selected as the title of this week’s edition), “I know it when I see it.”

Yes, I’m about to digress, but stay with me friends, it will be (relatively) quick.

The phrase appears in Justice Stewart’s concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio, a pornography case decided by the Court in 1964. This phrase has been heavily debated and appropriated by people much smarter than I am, but to provide a little context, Jacobellis v. Ohio involved a theatre owner who had been convicted for showing the film The Lovers, directed by French filmmaker Louis Malle and the claim that the film was obscene.

By a vote of 6-3, the Supreme Court reversed the Jacobellis conviction, but the court was utterly fragmented, and seven separate opinions were submitted with no majority opinion among them.

It was Justice Stewart in his concurring opinion that wrote “under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to hard-core pornography. I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.”

The phrase, “I know it when I see it” is really unremarkable and yet, it was startling and shocking when it appeared in a Supreme Court opinion. The phrase is universally understood and embraced and yes, while it took me a while to get here (after that brief moment in Constitutional Law history), this is exactly what I thought about when I saw MB’s word of the year – AUTHENTIC.

It would be difficult for me to put an equation or formula around the definition of the word AUTHENTIC in order to make absolute, but “I know when it when I see it,” like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and it’s something you see in a person, or you don’t.

For those who may be confused by my (almost) obsession of the word AUTHENTIC, below please find a photo of the entrance to the doors of Branded’s HQ and our co-working space, B Works. This word (among others) is foundational to our investment, solutions, and media platform.

We didn’t launch our platform to be like everyone else or do things the way others have always done them. Right or wrong, following the herd is just not us.

For the past almost five years, I’ve (understandably) continued to be challenged to explain or define Branded and the different things we do. As I’ve written before, we’ve been called too narrowly focused and too unfocused for what appears to be the exact same reason or justification.

Please understand, any such comments and feedback are always welcomed and appreciated (and I NEVER shoot messengers b/c if you ever do, people will just stop giving you messages). 😊

We launched Branded Hospitality Group b/c we LOVE this industry, the people & community that make this industry so special and believe there’s a place for an AUTHENTIC group comprised of experienced restaurant operators, hospitality experts, venture capitalists, strategic investors, advisors and corporates to come together with a simple, yet important objective.

Branded’s mission is to create value for all stakeholders by connecting the dots and bridging the gap among hospitality, foodservice, technology, innovation, and capital.

With over 50 current investments across our diversified funds, co-directs and separately managed accounts on behalf of some families and corporates, we want to not only have a seat at the table that is driving the digital transformation of this industry we love, but we’d like to earn a pretty darn good seat at this special table.

Does any of this make Branded AUTHENTIC? Do our combining businesses that are focused on investments, solutions, and media make us AUTHENTIC?

I honestly don’t know the answer to such questions and as I wrote above, that is in the eye of the beholder. But Branded is a team that works hard and plays hard. We’re team that cares and will go to the mattresses for our friends, partners, and portfolio companies. We will do the right thing, even if we do things differently. We will be honest and that includes telling some emerging companies that we don’t see the value in what they’re doing (but we will give you feedback, and we will still cheer for you). We will highlight, boast and support people we see doing good thing for this industry and that includes platforms that some may believe are our competitors b/c they don’t know what Branded and our competitors know – that we’ll all go farther together by bringing more awareness to this transforming, massive, fragmented and emerging & alternative asset class.

Yes, I guess I am obsessed with the word AUTHENTIC, and I strive to operate that way, every single day.

I don’t profess that Branded will always get it right and I hope the confidence & conviction I have in our business, our platform and our ability to create & capture value has never come across as hubris or in any way suggest that I feel that we have this all figured out.

If anything, I like to walk with a small stick and have the humility to admit and own when we’re wrong. Our goal will always be to outperform, add-value and exceed whatever expectations are placed on us. That is a commitment I’m absolutely comfortable making.

As we’re now in the final month of 2023, I’m feeling tremendous gratitude to my team and partners, to our many clients, advisors, friends and of course, our awesome portfolio companies and their respective teams that are operator-centric and committed to being a part of a most successful digital transformation and the democratization of our industry.

For those I get to see between now and the ball dropping in Times Square (an event I have never been to and will never go to), I look forward to raising a glass with you and I value & appreciate your engagement with Branded.

There is nothing easy when an industry the size of and as fragmented as the hospitality & foodservice industry is undergoing a transformation. That is an incredible challenge and opportunity. How lucky am I to be part of an industry that is advancing with such a meaningful and important transformation.

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 week's episode of the Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “The Finance Guy” are joined by Josh Kern, CEO of SPB Hospitality.

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

Last week I made a big deal out a few of Branded's newest portfolio companies (New Kids on the Block) and also gave a few shoutouts to some of our portfolio companies making things happen in the industry.

So, while I’m NOT remotely drawing any comparison of myself to the legendary professional baseball pitcher Mariano Rivera (a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee), but let's be honest and admit that "The Sandman" essentially had a single pitch, and he kept throwing it b/c it worked.

Therefore, thus, I’m again going to use this week’s Shoutout section to recognize some of our portfolio companies and share one most personal shoutout at the very end.

This picture is for you JB!

First up, our friends and partners at Curbit, a personalized air-traffic controller for kitchens! This company utilizes predictive ticket times to optimize kitchen output and balances efficiency without overstraining operations.

What did Curbit do to make it into this week’s Shoutout section? It must have been something I read: Smashburger-launches-Curbits-order-throttling-software

Curbit is now improving over 1.2mm Customer Engagements per month. To do this, Curbit is analyzing over 66mm kitchen events per month across its restaurant partners, making real-time adjustments for order promise times and sharing information that supports better operational decisions and efficiencies. Curbit sends and receives almost .75mm SMS messages on behalf of its restaurant partners to facilitate accurate handoffs.

How are Curbit and Smashburger doing together? Fantastic question.

I’m Branded’s “Finance Guy,” so let’s go to the tape! The embracement of Curbit has increased the timeliness of Smashburger’s digital business by 84%; led to a 22% increase in repeat rate and an 11% improvement in Google review ratings.

Do you like apples? You know my answer to that question. 😊

One last thing here, a little public service announcement for the benefit of the DSPs (delivery service platforms) - Curbit has the potential to do the same for you!!! My friends at DoorDash, Uber Eats, Grubhub, call me!

Next up, our friends & partners at Chowly, the all-in-one ordering platform and digital storefront for the SMB market. 

Yes, I know there are MANY readers who have been hearing from me about Chowly recently and for good reason! This company is a tremendous run, and to the friends I've specifically been reaching out to about opportunities with Chowly, please note, I wouldn’t be making this outreach, post-Thanksgiving, and during the holiday season, if I didn’t believe it was worthy of your attention. IYKYK!

But my inside baseball knowledge is NOT the reason Chowly earned a spot in this week’s Shoutout section (or is it? 😊).

It's b/c our new besties at Voicify, which specializes in restaurant AI service BEYOND THE KIOSK has just partnered with Chowly to provide voice AI ordering to restaurants. How many restaurants does Chowly currently service? Please see the Access Hospitality link for that type of information.

Voicify is a market leader in conversational AI and this operator-centric technology company has now come together with Chowly to make Voicify available to Chowly’s customers.

By joining Chowly's strategic partner program, Chowly's restaurant customers will be able to field call-in customer questions and process voice orders placed at the drive thru, in-store kiosk, or over the phone with high speed and accuracy using Voicify's Artificial Intelligence. By automating customer service, Voicify's superior AI solutions for restaurants solve staffing and other top challenges facing today's restaurant operators. AI solutions from Voicify expand a restaurant's digital ordering footprint by learning a restaurant's menu and accepting guest orders quickly and accurately.

Through this partnership, all customer voice orders are transmitted to Chowly's platform, which integrates seamlessly with the restaurant's systems. Working together, Voicify and Chowly will empower thousands of restaurant locations to offload the more mundane, transactional steps involved in guest service such as taking orders and payment. This enables restaurants to solve staffing challenges and provide consistent customer service across guest touchpoints, despite reduced staffing levels.

Branded loves how Chowly continues to deliver (pun intended) enterprise tech-solutions to the SMB market and is playing such a key role in the digital transformation for this most fragmented segment of the market.

Final comment on Chowly for today. Will this be my very last shoutout about Chowly in 2023? What says you Magic 8 Ball?

The Magic 8 Ball is so good and insightful!

And finally (yes finally), one last, but still most important SHOUTOUT!

This goes out to our friend, our partner and Branded's CMO, Julie Zucker!

This week, The Women in Restaurant Leadership announced its "Together Summit" which will bring female leaders from around the industry together to connect, foster mentorship opportunities and gather career advice and tips.

Branded is excited about this initiative and this event that has correctly identified and included so many talented female leaders that represent the restaurant industry. We’re also incredibly proud that our partner, Julie Zucker was recognized among this group of outstanding industry leaders.

Julie has been and continues to be such a force at Branded and in the industry. Often (and I'd say too often), her work goes unnoticed b/c of the way she makes other people and companies the focus of her efforts, but today, thanks to Women in Restaurant Leadership and specifically WTWH Media, we get to make our friend Julie the feature of this story. Congratulations on this recognition Julie!

This week's winner of the WITW is Branded is our friend and partner Daniel Meth, CEO and a Co-Founder at

First, a quick shoutout to Ingest and the incredible value they're bringing to restaurants in order to leverage data and to help make operators smarter, reporting easier, and bring insights to operators that are actionable.

Yes, Branded is an investor in this company and yes, this is one of the most important and operator-centric companies we have in our portfolio. You will be hearing a great deal about Ingest from Branded and the way they help restaurant operators leverage and utilize their data.

But it's NOT Ingest or even our friend Dan Meth that really earned the WITW spot in the H^2 this week, it's the picture that Dan submitted of daughter Elle that earned the win!

Congrats Elle Meth, your pop knows that the judges of this contest have a MAJOR bias towards fabulous young woman, that we LOVE New Orleans and agree, why wear one piece of Branded swag when you can wear two. 😊

To participate in the contest: Email or contact your friend at Branded to submit a photo of yourself wearing a piece of Branded "swag" and let us know where in the world you are!


Answer also revealed at the end of the newsletter


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By: Julia Suchocki, Partner at Branded Hospitality Ventures

Major brands are embracing kiosks, highlighting the digital revolution in consumer interactions and underlining the pivotal role of digital platforms in shaping the contemporary retail landscape.

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Digital Restaurant Association 

We champion restaurants to thrive in a digital world

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In my experience, some customers - especially large or publicly held companies - are reluctant to participate in public relations or customer references. Reasons run the gamut, and busyness is just one. Giving up an hour or even a few minutes of their week may not be possible for your customer contacts. Even though it can be a difficult, uphill pursuit to get your customers to agree to serve as a reference, where there is a will there's a way. It may take time, but consider the rewards.

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Donate to CORE this Giving Tuesday

CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees needs your help this Giving Tuesday! Giving Tuesday is an internationally recognized day of giving, and we're asking you to participate by making a donation to CORE - a nonprofit that provides financial relief to food & beverage service employees with children when they face a life-altering medical crisis or natural disaster. Will you show your support for qualifying restaurant families this Giving Tuesday? Learn more and donate by clicking the button below!

Donate Now


The Rebirth of a Sleeping Giant – How One Franchise Model Plans to Revitalize a Forgotten Legacy Brand

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By: Rev Ciancio, Head of Revenue Marketing at Branded Hospitality Ventures

There are some foundational marketing moves that should be done even before you open and it’s incredibly common that many restaurants either don’t know, forget or blow it off. Don’t be those people. Be the restaurateur that sets their future business up for success.

Here are 4 foundational marketing moves that will pay off ....

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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

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: 30 ingredients


🔍 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 November 2023

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