Nov 24, 2023 19 min read

New Kids on the Block

New Kids on the Block
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and I hope you’re having a lovely holiday.

As I watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with my daughter, the experience brought back memories of Thanksgiving Days past, including the parade along Central Park West, and the night before Thanksgiving with the reunions and the inflating of the balloons all around the Museum of Natural History.

The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving is a legendary reunion night all across the country and for me personally, it was the night before Thanksgiving 1990, that helped bring me back to the hospitality industry.

I wanted to throw a reunion party, as so many collegiates and alumni do on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. There was a bar on the Upper East Side, let's call it Martell's, where my high school friends and I may or may not have enjoyed an adult libations t during our high school years and therefore may have been some underage drinking if we were in fact served (which I will neither confirm nor deny here). The bar had burned down and was closed for most of the time I was away at college but re-opened (under new management) my first year after college.

I approached the venue and asked to speak with the manager about my reunion party idea. The person I was connected with wasn’t the manager, he was the owner. I expressed my love and the nostalgia my friends and I had for his joint and our history with it.

The owner, let’s call him Mr. Smith, made it clear that his pub, no longer served under-age kids. I expressed proudly that my friends and I were now age appropriate (we were the ripe old age of 22) and that it was my idea to host a reunion party at Martell's, but that I didn’t want to bring a crew to his restaurant without my speaking with the management first.

Mr. Smith asked me “what I wanted” in exchange for doing this event at his bar. I replied he needed to do nothing, except to let me know that rallying folks to his pub for food & drinks would be acceptable to him. Based on his question, I imagine he expected me to want to some form of compensation or discount in exchange for my rallying friends to his joint, but I wanted no such thing.

The party was a resounding success and I’d say well over 200 people rallied to Martell's at one point of the night or the other for this pre-Turkey day evening.

Mr. Smith was very pleased. His joint was full, people were having fun and staff seemed to enjoy the festivities and the money being spent. At the end of the night, Mr. Smith gave me his business card.  He invited me to have dinner on him and on back of his business card, he wrote, “I owe you a favor.”

When I left my investment banking job about 2 years later and was heading off to business school, I needed a part-time job, so I returned to the bar and inquired about my becoming a bartender for him. Mr. Smith asked if I had ever tended bar before and I admitted that my only experience was pouring beers at college parties, and therefore my answer to his question was “no,” I had never been a real bartender before. He asked why he should hire a first-time bartender, so I handed him his business card and said “b/c you owe me a favor.”

I started working for Mr. Smith that Saturday night at Martell's and continued working for him there during graduate school. I then worked for him out at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse when he & his partners acquired the joint and then back again at Martell’s until it was becoming too intrusive on my full-time job in finance.

The Wednesday night before Thanksgiving! One of the great reunion nights of all time and a night that helped get me re-engaged with the restaurant industry.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I was thinking about the Branded portfolio and the newest emerging technology & innovation companies to join our growing community.

As we're in the process of bringing 2023 to a successful close, I want to highlight these New Kids on the Block (with the “kids” being our newest portfolio companies and the "block" being out portfolio aka, The Branded Bunch).

When we first launched our investment business; the playing field was wide open for Branded, and it was really a matter of our finding the most operator-centric technology and innovation companies we could identity to help bring efficiencies to our own restaurants.

With a few years under our belt and now over 45 investments later, adding portfolio companies has become a little more bespoke and maybe akin to the process of building a puzzle and the specific role each company plays within the industry as well as within our existing portfolio.

Our first investments weren’t better or worse than our most recent ones, but knowledge is cumulative, and education is expensive, so I’d like to think the Branded investment team is only getting better and stronger as we continue along this journey that is the digital transformation of the hospitality industry.

So who are the new kids on Branded's block? Let's get it on!

I’ve been looking forward to sharing this announcement about Ripples as I feel this company uniquely and clearly reflects Branded’s operator-first investment thesis. We aspire to identify emerging companies that will deliver an almost immediate impact and value for restaurant owners & operators. With that in mind, please take a look at Ripples, an innovation company that will surprise and delight your guests with an unforgettable drink experience. Does this innovation promise to cure cancer, boil oceans, and bring civilization to Mars? No, no it doesn’t. Does Ripples grab your guest’s attention and create memorable & shareable moments and increase revenues? Yes, yes it does.

Restaurant operators fully understand the importance of Instagram and that it’s one of the most influential marketing tools a business can use. For many guests, Instagram is the first page they check out to understand what your restaurant is all about (and yes, they do that even BEFORE they go to your website). Ripples will super-charge your social media presence and create a special engagement with your guests (and this will happen the first moment you activate and engage the machine).

Ripples allows your venue to print on top of any foamy drink and create a unique guest experience. Ripples is a pioneering bev-top media platform that helps Food & Beverage, Hospitality, and Event Management industries turn an ordinary drink into an innovation canvas by printing images and messages on foam. Ripples will delight your guests with a dynamic feed of customizable content and use your drinks to share beautiful image, promote an event or just say “hi.”

There are so many ways for your guests to embrace and celebrate with Ripples. This innovation safely goes into the low friction and immediate positive impact category! Below please find several “success stories” by users of Ripples. Branded isn’t just a stakeholder in Ripples, we’re also a proud costumer and love seeing how our guests engage with Ripples every day since we launched with them.

Hospitality Operators and Event Organizers, you’re going to want to check out some of these success stories below.

What happens when some BIG personalities finally join forces and come together? I guess that’s what we’re about to find out as our longstanding friends at Lunchbox and Branded have finally come together.

When Branded launched its emerging hospitality investment platform, the off-premise space was and remains one of the most important verticals we’re focused on. This was an area Branded has long been part of and that goes all the way back to our onboarding of a corporate accounting solutions platform for professional services firms in NYC.

For corporates with a staff that had the need for evening and weekend meals, feeding these workers had become chaotic, unruly, inefficient, and somewhat less than accountable. SeamlessWeb was launched by Jason Finger, Paul & Andy Appelbaum and Todd Arky in 1999 to provide companies with a web-based system for ordering food from restaurants and caterers.

The delivery service providers (“DSPs”) have grown to become something else entirely, as the days of self-delivery, the need for a fax machine and a 5% commission are long gone. The changes to the delivery landscape and specifically the dominance of the DSPs created the opportunity and need for native and white-label solutions to enter the market as a sort of counterbalance to the DSPs. There will be no DSP bashing here and there’s a most important role for these discovery platforms. However, there’s also a need for white-label solutions that offers great value for the operator from a cost, guest engagement and personalization perspective.

Branded is NOT new to this space and we’ve had successful exits with Bbot to DoorDash and GoParrot to Square. We re-loaded in the white-label space with our friends at Incentivio and have watched one of our earliest portfolio companies, Chowly, go from a leading middleware and online food integration platform to now being an all-in-one digital ordering platform serving the SMB market. The delivery and off-premise space continues to be a critically important segment of the market and that led to our embracement of Lunchbox, the all-in-one ENTERPRISE online ordering and engagement platform.

The importance of converting 3rd party customers to 1st party customers is a most critical one. I was once asked by a Branded LP why we’re so obsessed with this conversion and why don’t the restaurants all “just sign-up for Uber” and call it a day. I want to be clear; I LOVED this question when it was first asked and I still love it today. Long-term readers of the H^2 understand my obsession with the hospitality industry being among the most misunderstood asset classes b/c of how many people project their guest experience onto it! Reliance on a 3rd party delivery solutions means the loss of over 30% of YOUR revenues to the DSPs and 100% of customer data is gone too.

Branded and Lunchbox have been on our own respective journeys for some time, but we’ve now come together as we believe Lunchbox represents the type of all-in-one platform that will truly deliver (pun intended) for enterprise brands.

What makes Lunchbox the best solution for enterprise restaurant brands? Fantastic question and I’m glad you asked it! It’s the product suite and the value of getting 6 companies in a single platform: (i) Web Ordering; (ii) App Ordering; (iii) Catering Ordering; (iv) Order Aggregator; (v) Call Center; and (vi) Loyalty System.

And finally, has there EVER been a more operator-centric tech platform and conference organizer that likes to have fun than this crew? Please check this video out for yourself: Don't Stop Believing

So many great cameos in this video. Work hard / play hard!

And finally, I’ve been writing a little bit about this platform before but want to acknowledge that our friends and now partners at LiquidRails, an e-commerce SaaS for beverage Alcohol brands, have officially joined our Branded portfolio.

LiquidRails understands what alcohol brands want & need and is perfectly on-brand with Branded’s operator-centric investment strategy. We’ve partnered with LiquidRails b/c they’ve created a platform that supports the need for brands to succeed in the e-commerce landscape.

LiquiRails helps brands optimize and allow on-site compliant e-commerce sales. This includes compliant delivery and shipping within 24 to 48 hours in up to 46 states. It’s digital market platform creates campaigns to reach high intent audiences and helps brands retain and their own customer data. Full funnel marketing data plus demographics and shopping behavior is part of LiquidRails suite of services and allows brands to leverage its beverage alcohol e-commerce marketplace.

The alcohol industry is challenged with a longstanding and antiquated beverage alcohol regulations that makes selling DTC online complex and expensive for brands. There’s plenty of information online about this most challenging regulatory environment, but in short, the existing regulations make it difficult for brands to own their customer data, create a DTC customer experience and the three-tier system makes selling alcohol DTC online difficult.

LiquidRails has created a white-label e-commerce software platform that is integrated into the brands website to allow for DTC online sales and for brands to access the customer data for future marketing and sales growth. In the spirit of testimonials, here are two LiquidRails customers we want to highlight here.

Any readers of the H^2 that would like additional information on our newest portfolio companies should contact me directly. I’m biased of course, but that doesn’t change my confidence & conviction in the portfolio companies we’re supporting with both capital and the Branded flywheel are among the strongest emerging technology & innovation companies that are also allies to owners & operators.

As for the New Kids on the Block photo, please note, this band was part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade back in 1989 and yes, I was there, "tired" from a Wednesday night before Thanksgiving reunion, but at the parade nonetheless!

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.

LIVE from the CREATE conference in Palm Springs California, the Restaurant Guy and Finance Guy chat with emerging restaurant brand leadership on their growing concepts and path to expansion.

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

With Branded’s newest technology & innovation portfolio companies comprising this week’s Top of the Fold section above, I want to use the Shoutouts section to highlight our love of emerging brands. Am I writing more about emerging restaurants lately b/c Branded is advancing with our first emerging restaurant fund? Do you believe in coincidences?

First up, Mighty Quinns BBQ and this outstanding emerging brand and award-winning CPG company!

While Branded is very focused on emerging technology & innovation, we also love emerging restaurant brands and our first foray into this segment of the market was with our NYC friends at Mighty Quinn’s.

Under the leadership of CEO Micha Magid, the company has added both corporate and franchised units and is successfully expanding its consumer-packaged good line.

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, MQ’s has some irresistible LTOs including the Mighty Gobbler (Thanksgiving on a roll), the Smoked Gobbler Bowl (Thanksgiving in a bowl) as well its newly launched Chipotle BBQ Chicken (all cease & desist letters should be sent to Schatzy). These limited-time-offers will be here until the end of the year.

This BBQ powerhouse also created joy for Thanksgiving with its 20lbs smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving, but in case you missed it, these ‘birds’ will be back for Xmas and pre-orders will be live starting the first week of December.

As for MQ’s expansion plans, next year they will be opening in Maryland with a store coming first to Columbia and then followed by a unit Annapolis. 

What does Branded look for in an emerging restaurant brand? Well one of the key factoids is a strong leadership team and we also embrace ones that are leaning into the best-in-class technology that will help optimize margins.

We’re super proud to see our partners at MQ’s embrace one of the leading kiosk platforms and our partners at Bite. The early signs of this coming together of two Branded portfolio companies has been impressive as the MQ team loves the interface and added sales throughput during peak service periods.

We also love how MQ’s has embraced Branded portfolio company Ovation for actional guest feedback.

Embracement of Branded’s portfolio companies is NOT a requirement for investment consideration, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love it when our portfolio companies find areas of cooperation and collaboration together!

Branded is proud of the store count growth that the MQ team is advancing, but we also love the CPG success they’re having. Mighty Quinn’s Barbeque Sauce took the gold medal at the 2023 Specialty Food Association’s (SFA) sofi Awards in the BBQ sauce category. “The sofi Awards recognize the best, most innovative products in the Specialty Food Industry and the creative, passionate people who make them,” said SFA President Bill Lynch. “Winning a sofi Award can open doors to new markets and expanded business opportunities for the winners, which is central to the SFA’s work on behalf of its member makers and manufacturers,” Mr. Lynch added. The Branded Team supports and agrees with Mr. Bill Lynch.

Next up, our very own cookie concept - Schmackarys. Founded by Zachary Schmahl (Zachary + Schahl = Schmackary), this Nebraska-born actor had dreams of taking center stage in the Broadway productions he loved. He moved to NYC at age 24 and began baking wildly creative cookies out of his small studio apartment and within months, his side-hustle became a full-time production. After receiving rave reviews from every corner of the Bradway community, in 2012 Zachary opened his first store in the heart of NYC’s theatre district.

Schmackary’s has become the buzziest brand on Broadway and the undisputed favorite of NY’s rousing arts community. Their award-winning cookies are sold at shows and venues across New York City, delivered by the dozens to people and businesses around the country, and featured in some of the biggest television shows, media outlets and high-profile award lists, solidifying its status as the country’s most in-demand cookie company.

In 2023 and in partnership with Branded’s favorite franchising platform, Fransmart, a most meaningful relationship was formed between Schmackry's and Fransmart.

Friend and partner Dan Rowe specializes in “finding the next big thing in franchising” and we feel as the exclusive franchise development partner for Schmackary’s, this cookie brand is in excellent hands! We’re excited to be on this journey with Mr. Rowe and the Fransmart team. Readers of the H^2 know how we feel about coming togethers such as this. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

At the Global Restaurant Leadership Conference, Crumbl Founder, Jason McGowan, was one of the keynote speakers on the final day. It was super cool to listen to Mr. McGowen speak about his journey with Crumbl and specifically about the impressive Franchise AUV metric he shared with the audience. Upon hearing that number during the presentation, I quickly shot a text to Mr. Rowe about Schmackary’s AUV and was thrilled to learn that it was higher than Crumbl’s. Please note, I’m NOT here to throw shade or anything like that on the world’s leading cookie franchise, I just like the company we’re keeping and the journey we’re on together with Schmachary’s and Fransmart! 😊

This week the Branded team is thrilled to recognize Mr. Scott Taylor as this week's winner of WITW is Branded contest.

One of the great people in our industry and a key force behind the success of Baton Rouge, LA-based casual dining brand, Walk-On's Sports Bisteaux.

We see you Mr. Taylor and we appreciate you!

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


The Value of Customer Storytelling in Marketing

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

Telling your customer stories makes for better marketing. So, what makes a good customer story? 

Once upon a time, newspapers boosted sales by publishing sensationalist headlines with shallow stories. This tactic sold copies. But the day a competitor had a splashier, flashier headline, audiences bought that paper instead. Publishers ended up constantly trading audiences. 

They needed a better approach.

Continue Reading Here

Digital Restaurant Association 

We champion restaurants to thrive in a digital world

Join the DRA Today


The Celebrity Culinary Wave: How Restaurants Benefit from Star Power

By: Julia Suchocki, Partner at Branded Hospitality Ventures

In the unforgiving landscape of the restaurant industry, breaking through is no easy feat. Yet, a fascinating trend has emerged over the years, drawing an increasing number of celebrities into the culinary realm. Whether fueled by self-expression, a desire for new revenue streams, or the pursuit of culinary aspirations, the surge in celebrity-owned restaurants and partnerships has become impossible to ignore.

Continue Reading More

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


Once the Darling of Food Innovation, What Happened to Alternative Proteins?

By: Noah Stern, Associate, Branded Hospitality Venture

In 2019, the day Beyond Meat went public, it had one the highest growth IPO days for any American company over the last twenty years. Since then, marketing campaigns have quieted and public attention has diminished.

Continue Reading More

Restaurant Industry Movers in the Market

—Data as of 11/24/23


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

Learn More


5 Tactics to Drive Guest Acquisition, Retention AND Evangelism

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

Want 5 tactics to drive guest acquisition, 5 tactics to drive repeat visits from your guests and increase how much your guests love you?Check this out on LinkedIn OR YouTube.Want 48 hours worth of the best marketing tactics, tips and tricks? Attend the P3 Mastermind Marketing Summit in Columbia, SC this January.Its a live, in-person, full immersive master class in restaurant marketing being co-hosted by myself and the incredible Chip Klose along with a couple of hyper-intelligent special guests.And if you are going to be the action taker that I know you are, you'll book your ticket between RIGHT NOW and end of day this Sunday. We have a Black Friday deal that if I'm being honest, is a banger.The price of the P3 Mastermind Marketing Summit is being rolled back to the Early Bird Rate of just $297 (Reg. $497) and unlocking more than $782 IN BONUSES FOR FREE!Get all of these benefits below for just $297 when you register by Sunday, November 26th at 11:59pm ET:

  • Ticket to the 2024 P3 Mastermind Marketing Summit ($497 Value) 
  • Lifetime access to our online course, Restaurant Recharge($297 Value) 
  • 60-minute one-on-one marketing audit via Zoom with Chip Klose. ($250 Value)
  • Rev Ciancio’s TikTok growth guide for restaurants. ($35.99 Value) 

CLICK HERE to snag everything above for just $297! ($1079.99 VALUE)!

For just $297, you'll get an all-access pass to the P3 Mastermind Marketing Summit where you'll attend 5 different workshops over the course of two and a half days, PLUS three epic bonuses valued at $1079.99!

CLICK HERE to secure this killer deal before it's gone!We look forward to seeing you at the summit!If you're still not convinced, watch the videos above and you'll get a 1 hour version of the entire thing for free. If you don't walk away with 3 things you can start to do TODAY that will improve your marketing, I'll donate $50 to the charity of your choice. I'm serious.If you have any questions, or need help send me an email

- Rev Ciancio


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!!


65% of clients between the ages of 18 and 29 indicate that ordering food online is their preferred approach.


🔍 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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