Jan 20, 2024 13 min read

The Rising

The Rising
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Friends of Branded!

Happy Saturday and I hope everyone had a great week!

This week, Team Branded saved on both airfare and the cost of lodging in connection with our conferences & events budget thanks to the NRF ‘24 (National Retail Federation), taking place, as it always does, in New York City, at the Jacob Javits Center.

Retail’s 2024 “Big Show” saw a surge in attendance and enthusiasm following a slowdown caused by the pandemic and the hangover that created. There’s more on NRF 2024 in the Shoutout section below, but one key and punch-in-the-face takeaway from the event, it seemed every vendor seemed to include at least some reference to the term “artificial intelligence” in their collateral and signage. If Schatz and I were playing our drinking game and took a sip of an adult libation every time the words artificial intelligence was uttered or the “AI” acronym was used, I don’t think we would have made it past the first section at the convention center. Just saying.

My theme of the Top of the Fold this week is “The Rising” or maybe more clearly stated, the rise of the native delivery platforms and the rise of operators reclaiming their guests. For this week, I’m specifically referring to NATIVE delivery, and ‘WHITE-LABEL’ delivery platforms and solutions. This battle between the delivery service platforms (“DSPs”) and native & white-label solutions was deemed to be over with the DSPs being crowned the winner. Was the award given prematurely? I think it was.

Joe Pendleton's death date, March 20, 2025, at 10:17am

This week, we saw a great deal of attention in the media and in other newsletters being given to the regulatory changes impacting the hospitality industry and legislation that affects and will have a direct impact on the restaurant industry. There’s a great deal writing available on this topic and on these changes and I’ve provided a couple of links below for those interested in learning more.

·        what-can-restaurants-expect-government-2024

·        here-is-what-s-on-the-regulatory-horizon-in-2024

·        the-bottom-line/managing-your-finances/rising-wage-regulations

As an operator-first investment platform and one that focuses on emerging technology & innovation that improves margins and create efficiencies for operators, I’m less focused on the legislation itself, but I’m obsessed with the consequences (intended or unintended) on our brothers & sisters across the industry that will need to adjust and react to these imposed changes in real-time. I’m not a passive person (or investor), but I’ve also learned that in many situations, you’re either the bug or the windshield. The key is for you to know which one you are in any given situation and act accordingly.

For the vast majority of the industry, and I’m again specifically referring to hospitality operators, when it comes to legislation, we’re the bug (I’m sorry, not sorry, but we’re the bug and I don’t spend a great deal of my time fighting city hall). You can choose to fight, complain or otherwise about the legislation that while well-intended (hopefully), is often being written and adopted by legislators who’s only experience in the industry is their dining experience as a guest.

Like Branded’s very own diligence process, where we leverage subject matter experts, my ask or at least hope, is that legislators take the time to engage and work with operators in order to understand the impact these regulatory changes have on our operations and specifically the costs of running our businesses.

But this Top of the Fold section is NOT about the legislation itself but rather is an attempt to highlight some of the industry changes that are hitting our industry and ways in which operators can position themselves to win in this very changing and dynamic environment.

Branded’s investment thesis calls for us to identify the challenges, problems, and opportunities that operators can address by leveraging technology & innovation. One of the key verticals we embraced at the onset of our investment platform was the growth and importance of off-premise business, which refers to the business that takes place outside the 4-walls of our restaurants.

Readers of the H^2 don’t need a history lesson here, but off-premise sales (delivery & takeaway) was historically limited to only a few types of restaurants and foods and for the rest of us, it represented a very small percentage of our sales. The delivery service platforms set the table (yes, I use restaurant ‘puns’ often) and the pandemic opened up the floodgates and created a surge of demand for off-premise dining.

A number of the regulatory changes will now represent meaningful headwinds NOT to the growing demand of off-premise dining itself (that genie is out of the bottle and guests continue to love & embrace delivery), but to where orders are placed and how they will be delivered or, wait for it, the importance of pick-up.

Several states, including my own, are obsessed with the wages of third-party delivery workers. Whether this represents government picking winners or maybe having a selection bias, is something I’ll leave to discussions around the watercooler, but changes to wages, whether it’s to the delivery drivers or to fast food workers, as witnessed in the great state of California, requires operators to respond and respond they will (or at least should).

You all know the expression, “there’s no free lunch,” and that cliché most certainly applies here. If you raise the wages of workers at restaurants, the increased cost to the operator needs to be captured or provided for elsewhere. In the case of increasing the cost of delivery, the associated delivery fees charged to the customer will now be increased. One of my dad’s favorite qualities in people, after loyalty of course, is common sense. This dynamic of increased operational costs translating into increases in prices to the consumer is just that, common sense. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing throughout the states where regulatory changes have resulted in increased costs.

Food delivery will continue to be a most important part of the restaurant business and it screams of the importance of our meeting guests where and how they wish to dine.

But operators, this is your moment to take back and win back your guests! There are white-label and native delivery platforms that not only offer YOUR guests a strong user experience but will do so at a tremendous cost saving versus the DSPs.

Readers of the H^2 know that I don’t bash the DSPs and that’s not b/c I play nice in the sandbox (although I always aspire to play nice in the sandbox), but it’s b/c they play an important role in the discovery and building awareness of restaurants. That said, operators, you can’t give-up on the criticality of engaging directly with your guests and capturing this most important consumer preference data. As we roll into 2024, there are tools available for you operators to do just that.

No matter where you play along the restaurant unit scale spectrum (from independents, the SMBs (small & medium sized businesses) to enterprise, there’s a white-label delivery platform for you.

Shameless plug and the talking of my book now will now appear: Incentivio; Chowly; Lunchbox all represent operator-centric and operator-friendly platforms that will help you engage directly with your guests, know your guests and reduce the costs associated with your off-premise business. By the way, have I ever mentioned here in the H^2 that Chowly acquired Targetable at the very end of 2023? I did? Okay never mind. 😊

But operators, don’t stop here. Pick-up and takeaway (for my European friends & readers) represent the best value for your guests and therefore for you! Guests’ AWARENESS of the costs and the challenges associated with the delivery market are at a highpoint and that’s why you need to seize on and promote your white-label solutions and that very much includes improving upon your pick-up offering.

Make the pick-up experience worth the trip for your guests to come in for a visit and you already know exactly how to do that, by being your awesome and hospitable selves! In addition to your awesomeness, you can also leverage pick-up solutions such as Curbit and Minnow that will improve the guest experience and reduce the friction on your staff.

It wasn’t long ago that the super-vast majority of guests were NOT even aware of the differences and the costs to the operators between the DSPs and the Native / White-Label platforms, but that has changed. The silver-linings of all the news and attention generated from these regulatory changes? The guests now have a better understanding of the costs associated with delivery and how the take-rate by the DSPs has become more expensive.

Similar to what the airline and hotel industry experienced with the intermediaries (Expedia, Priceline, Booking, etc) as first movers, the intermediaries got ahead of the airlines and hotels with the online platforms and offerings and as a result were winning. The airlines and hotels ultimately responded with the own white-label and native online offerings and platforms. The airlines and hotels of course continue to use and work with the intermediaries, but the balance of power has most certainly shifted as the airlines and hotels reclaimed their customers and guests.

Operators, the delivery business and the importance of off-premise dining isn’t going away, and we don’t want it to go away. Your dining room has expanded exponentially thanks to the growth of off-premise dining, but this expansion and the associated work it puts on your operation is taxing. The opportunity for you to leverage the tools that have been designed for you and your business are now readily available. You want to get started? Branded is on your side and we’re here to help.

I’ve tried to eliminate the word “easy” from my vocabulary b/c I don’t find anything easy about operating restaurants or investing in this environment. However, there are tools and specifically operator-centric companies that are here to help, who understand the challenges, the workflows, the criticality of guest engagement and where improvements can be made to support operators. This is the community Branded feels so fortunate to be part of, and it’s the community we aspire to continue to build and cultivate for this industry we love.

As always, it takes a village.

Retail’s “Big Show,” or the NRF 2024 (National Retail Federation) is the annual gathering of thousands of retail brands from around the world coming together in New York City or as my friend JB would say, "the city so great, we named it twice" (okay, maybe my Boston-loving friend JB didn’t say that and maybe he hates it when I do). 😊

If you choose to read-up on all the action that took place over at the Javitz Center this week, you will see a myriad of major retail brands that got the top billing and that’s to be expected when the likes of John Furner, President & CEO of Walmart; Martha Stewart, Founder of Matha Stewart Living Omnichannel, Magic Johnson and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises and Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global are among the keynote speakers.

However, ResTech and FoodTech were NOT put in the corner and as long-time attendees of this show, it was not lost on Team Branded that the importance and presence of this emerging asset class was on full display at the Foodservice Innovation Zone.

The Foodservice Innovation Zone was where Branded spent its time and where we had our own celebrities representing our industry including Robert Irvine, from Restaurant Impossible, Crystal Kung Minkoff, from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Jon Taffer from Taffer’s Tavern.

Several key Branded corporate partners also played a huge role in the Foodservice Innovation Zone including Middleby and its state-of-the-art ventless ovens; PepsiCo showcasing the “more convenient” convenience store; and NCR showing how to make ordering process easy and food preparation efficient their POS and kitchen display systems.

Unique to the NRF show this year was the immersive activations that were present throughout the Foodservice Innovation Zone. These immersive activations placed attendees in real-life environments so you could experience and interact with the technology that is changing the way retailers and operators deliver food to their guests.

The Branded team values and appreciates what the NRF does for our industry and the curating and cultivating of the innovation that is driving our industry.  We look forward to seeing what they do next at NRF 2025!

And FINALLY, just one additional, quick, and also VERY local shoutout. For those in and around the tri-state area this weekend, one of our restaurants, Isabelle's is hosting our first Sunday-Funday brunch party tomorrow (Sunday, Jan 21st).

For those interested in joining us for this DJ Brunch Party, please contact Isabelle’s directly at FOH@brandedrestaurants.com or checkout our partner company Tablz and take control your dining experience by choosing where to be seated using our virtual dining room (Branded didn't just invest in Tablz, we're also a customer).

For those that choose to rally for this event, I look forward to seeing you there on Sunday!

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 today’s episode of Hospitality Hangout, Michael Schatzberg “The Restaurant Guy” and Jimmy Frischling “The Finance Guy” are joined by Lance Trenary, President and CEO of Golden Corral Corporation, and Roy Gilad, Founder and CEO of Vitality Bowls.

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

This week's winner of the WITW is Branded contest goes to our friend and most loyal lover of all thing's pita bread that the Branded team knows, Mehdi Zarhloul, CEO at Crazy Pita Restaurant Group with his contribution below from Las Vegas, NV.

Not only do we love Medhi's restaurant company, his embracement of emerging technology, but we also love how he not only sent us a picture that included a necessary piece of Branded swag in the photo, but also a piece of swag from our friends and one of our portfolio companies, Ovation.

Medhi is a savvy operator and also knows how to get the attention of the judges of this weekly contest - he went with double-swag that is near & dear to Branded's heart!

Well played Mr. Zarhloul, well played!

Make your drinks go viral!

Craft personalized drinks for an unforgettable guest experience!

Drink Ripples


Illuminate Your Path: The Power of a Go-to-Market Game Plan

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

Embarking on the journey of starting a company or introducing a new product without a well-crafted go-to-market plan is akin to stumbling in the dark – a risky venture that often leads to unforeseen pitfalls. Let me shed light on why having a comprehensive go-to-market strategy is not just a good idea but a beacon you can follow to success.

Digital Restaurant Association 

We champion restaurants to thrive in a digital world

Join the DRA today


And, One Time At Band Camp…I Learned to Run a Restaurant!

By: Tj Schier, President at SMART Restaurant Group

Having spent 4 decades in the industry as a frontline hourly employee, manager, trainer, corporate support, multi-unit franchise owner, executive roles and two of those decades consulting with many leading hospitality brands, while I have not seen it all, I’ve seen just about everything…and the first two statements are misconceptions.


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

Learn More


BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS: P3 Mastermind Restaurant Marketing Summit

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

The P3 Mastermind Restaurant Marketing Summit just concluded in Columbia, SC and I am beside myself with gratitude.

This was a brand new event created by Chip Klose, an incredible restaurant coach. He and I co-hosted it along with a number of incredible thought leaders. Over the course of 2 days nearly 100 restaurant owners and leaders were exposed to strategies, tactics and frameworks in nearly every facet of restaurant marketing that will guide the growth of their business.

About ACG New York

Founded in 1954, ACG is the premier M&A deal-making community with a mission of driving middle-market growth. ACG’s global network operates within 61 local markets worldwide and comprises more than 100,000 middle market professionals who invest in, own and advise growing companies. ACG provides events, conferences, bespoke meetings, deal-sourcing forums, unique experiences, educational seminars, and numerous benefits to non-members and members alike.

Learn More


🔍 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
jimmy@brandedstrategic.com & js@brandedstrategic.com
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 January 2024

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