News Briefs


Smashburger synchronizes online orders with kitchen via AI


A fast-casual burger chain is optimizing digital order processing and kitchen operations with artificial intelligence (AI).

Smashburger is deploying the AI-based Curbit order processing solution to dynamically adjust order promise times through continuous real-time analysis of actual kitchen capabilities. The Curbit solution seamlessly integrates with kitchen display systems and online ordering systems, forming a closed loop between the ordering and fulfillment process. 

Utilizing advanced AI, these real-time integrations are intended to facilitate dynamic order throttling, kitchen intelligence, and automated customer communication, with the goal of narrowing the gap between estimated and actual ticket times.

After a successsful initial test period in 60 locations, Smashburger rolled out the Curbit software in 129 corporate stores nationwide on Oct. 16, 2023. Pilot results included 84% Improvement in time to pickup and 22% increase in repeat rate.

"With digital ordering, you have one opportunity to impress a first-time customer and very little room for error with returning customer,” said Veronica Luna, senior director of digital engagement of Jollibee Group North America, Smashburger’s parent company. “After witnessing the impressive results in our test markets, the decision to implement the Curbit system across all company-owned locations was a straightforward one.”

"Curbit's collaboration with Smashburger and Jollibee Food Corp. stands as a prime illustration of a technology-driven brand dedicated to embracing digital transformation, and it has clearly yielded the benefits of AI-driven kitchen intelligence," said Scott Siegel, co-founder and chief revenue officer of Curbit. 

[Read more: Exclusive Q&A: Smashburger transforms drive-thru with next-gen tech]

Founded in 2007 in Denver, Smashburger has 245 corporate and franchise restaurants operating in 34 states and seven countries.  


Little Caesars to grow Chicago, Boston footprints

Little Caesars

Detroit-based pizza chain Little Caesars has announced plans to grow its footprint of stores in two major markets.

The third largest pizza chain in the world has signed franchise development agreements that will add 15 new Little Caesars locations in Boston and Chicago. Franchisees Pritpal Bains and Haranchal Bains, who have operated Little Caesars restaurants in California since 1999, plan to establish five new locations throughout Boston by 2027. 

Karim Khowaja and Sanjeev Khatau, who have more than 40 years of combined experience in restaurant franchising, are acquiring two existing Little Caesars locations in Chicago with plans to open ten additional restaurants in the city. The couple operates nearly 100 quick-service concepts in Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and California.

"As our expansion gains momentum nationwide, we are eager to build upon our partnerships with experienced multi-unit operators like Pritpal and Haranchal while developing new relationships with industry veterans like Karim and Sanjeev," said Little Caesars chief development officer Jeremy Vitaro. "I'm confident in their enthusiasm for Little Caesars and their passion for their respective communities in Boston and Chicago. We look forward to supporting each group as they build their new restaurants."

Famous for its Hot-N-Ready pizzas, Little Caesars says it is amplifying its expansion into major cities, including its recent commitment to establish 100 new locations in New York City and the Tri-State region. The company added that multi-unit franchising opportunities remain in regions across the U.S., including the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.


Jungle Scout: Amazon prices stabilized in 2023

Amazon box

With the holidays around the corner, Amazon product prices have been less volatile and lower than previous years, according to a new report from Jungle Scout.

The company’s first-ever Amazon Product Pricing Report detailed 6.3 million data points from Jungle Scout’s Amazon product database, and tracked the product price changes over time. Factors that influence pricing include basic economic factors like supply and demand and supply chain challenges, as well as retail holidays and shopping events, algorithmic pricing, seasonality, trends and more.

“Among our sample selection of 150 of the most frequently purchased products on Amazon, 46% increased in average price over the 12-month period between Sept. 1, 2022, and Aug. 31, 2023, while 44% decreased in price and 9% saw no change,” said Jungle Scout. “A detailed look at a cross-section of the products included in this analysis from Amazon’s most popular categories follow.”

Categories with the largest increase in average product price include patio, lawn & garden, Kindle store, home & kitchen, handmade products and video games. Categories with the largest decrease in average product price include music, electronics, appliances, office supplies and toys & games.

Category highlights from the Jungle Scout report include the following:

  • Beauty & personal care prices declined by an average of 4%.
  • Best sellers in the clothing, shoes & jewelry category saw a small price increase of less than 1%.
  • Pet supplies prices increased about 2% during the period.
  • The average product price decreased in 19 of the 29 categories.

Jungle Scout added that sellers should formulate pricing strategies that focus on improving their products’ branding to increase perceived value through product packaging, infographics, and product videos.


Walmart to offer permanent sensory-friendly shopping hours


Walmart is making its stores more inclusive for shoppers with sensory disabilities.

The retail giant said it it enacting sensory-friendly hours at all of its locations after a successful test program during the recent back-to-school shopping season. Beginning Nov. 10 at all Walmart U.S. and Puerto Rico locations, the retailer will offer sensory-friendly shopping seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. local time. Walmart’s sensory-friendly features include changing the TV walls to a static image, turning off the radio and lowering the lights where possible.

“During these hours, we hope our customers and associates will find the stores to be a little easier on the eyes and ears,” said Walmart in a corporate blog post. “These changes are thanks to those who shared their feedback on how their stores could help them feel like they belong.”

The sensory-friendly shopping hours are aimed at improving the shopping experience for those with sensory disabilities such as autism, ADHD and more. The is currently no end date for the new hours.

“I have a child on the autism spectrum, so sensory overload is a lived experience in our house,” said Naula O’Connor, senior VP and chief counsel of digital citizenship at Walmart. “ASD (autism spectrum disorder) and other forms of neurodiversity are often an invisible disability. It is meaningful to so many families that Walmart is implementing sensory-friendly hours.”

Headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., Walmart operates more than 10,500 stores and numerous e-commerce websites in 19 countries.


REI creates new technology executive position

REI has 181 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

REI Co-op is tapping a food industry veteran to fill a newly-created role overseeing technology supporting foundational business capabilities.

The national specialty outdoor retailer is naming Guillaume Ledieu as VP of  foundation technology. The role is focused on supporting the teams responsible for product flow, enterprise systems, technology management for product merchandising, and enterprise and domain architecture. 

Ledieu will also be responsible for helping to drive operational efficiencies and effectiveness of REI’s end-to-end value chain. He was most recently VP, business transformation at food manufacturing company McCormick & Company, where he led a global business transformation across enterprise functions including finance, order management, end-to-end supply chain, product lifecycle management and master data management. 

Prior to McCormick & Company, he held leadership roles at Glatfelter and Black & Decker. As a member of REI’s technology leadership, Ledieu will be part of its corporate officers.

“Guillaume’s experience in helping companies transform will support our foundation team’s effort to continue their excellent work and to scale up to meet our cumulative business needs. This will enable the co-op’s ability to deliver complex, process-oriented change in an increasingly demanding space,” said Dan Shull, REI senior VP, CTO.

[Read more: REI expansion continues into 2025]

Headquartered near Seattle and the nation’s largest consumer co-op, REI has more than 23 million members and operates 187 locations in 42 states and the District of Columbia, as well as, REI Outlet and the REI shopping app.


Foot Locker celebrates sneakers with NBA stars

Foot Locker with Anthony Edwards

Some of the biggest names in pro basketball, including Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, are helping Foot Locker launch a new marketing platform.

Foot Locker is introducing the platform, “The Heart of Sneakers,” in tandem with its 2023 holiday campaign. The Heart of Sneakers celebrates sneaker culture and places the retailer’s store associates, known as “Stripers,” as the connection between sneakers and customers.

The Heart of Sneakers is an ongoing platform that will feature in all of the retailer’s campaigns, online and in-store experiences, community events, and other activities moving forward.

In tandem with The Heart of Sneakers platform unveil, Foot Locker debuted its 2023 global holiday campaign. In the campaign, Foot Locker partners with the following NBA players and their sponsor athletic shoe companies: Kevin Durant with Nike, LaMelo Ball with Puma, Anthony Edwards with Adidas, and Steph Curry with Under Armour; as well as global musician, Enisa.

"For nearly 50 years, our authentic connection to sneaker culture and our Stripers have been the magic behind Foot Locker," said Kim Waldmann, Global chief customer officer at Foot Locker. "Through The Heart of Sneakers platform, created with our advertising agency of record, Preacher, we'll continue to put the heart of our company's DNA front and center in communities globally, creating an unrivaled experience only found at Foot Locker."

Consumers will see this campaign, promoting “hype for the holidays,” cross TV, digital out of home, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and other social channels throughout the holiday season. Foot Locker is launching the platform as it enacts its “Lace Up” plan,  which includes closing underperforming stores, shifting to off-mall locations and opening new formats.