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BUNNYFiSH: A Lesson in Collaboration

BUNNYFiSH: A Lesson in Collaboration

by David Klemt

A cartoon fish wearing bunny ears, hovering near the world-famous "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign

Honestly, I’ve seen stranger things than a floating fish wearing bunny ears while living in Las Vegas.

Architect Craig Sean Palacios, co-founder of BUNNYFiSH studio in Las Vegas, told a compelling story about professional relationships during HD Expo 2024.

Palacios and his business partner worked closely with former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh for a decade. Titled “Meaningful Collaboration: A Decade with Tony Hsieh,” the presentation was an interesting look into a unique client relationship.

When BUNNYFiSH studio first started, Palacios and Wichmann were working out of The Beat Coffeehouse. Interestingly, this space, located in Downtown Las Vegas, was an example of adaptive reuse architecture. The space was transformed from a quick-care medical center into a coffeehouse, with small exam rooms converted into small offices.

As Palacios recalls, he was wrapping up for the day about 14 years ago when someone popped their head into the BUNNYFiSH office. This person asked what Palacios was doing, and he answered that he was leaving for the day. Clarifying their question, the person inquired about BUNNYFiSH.

After explaining the studio’s overview and sharing some project details, Palacios was told the person would be back. Well, that person did return, and he had a few more people in tow. One of these people, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, was Hsieh.

Eventually, the group traveled from The Beat to the streets of Downtown Las Vegas, and through the doors of Hsieh’s apartment. Along with people milling about was a wall loaded with Post-It Notes. Written on these notes were words like “speakeasy” and “restaurant.” As an architect, Palacios instinctively began arranging the notes to create logical, cohesive concepts.

From there, Hsieh led Palacios to an empty lot, and asked what the architect would put there. Palacios saw a grocery store. Hsieh, a butterfly farm.

It was in that moment, said Palacios, that he began to understand Hsieh. After what was essentially an entire day with Hsieh, BUNNYFiSH studio, the Zappos CEO, and his team would go on to discuss architecture for several months.

Speaking the Same Language

During at least one conversation, Hsieh made the statement that he didn’t “speak architect.” And to this day, Palacios isn’t quite sure if that was a completely truthful claim.

However, he was told that no architect had ever really been able to make Hsieh happy up to that point. So, it appears that the two had found an effective method of communication, and Hsieh appeared happy to work with BUNNYFiSH studio.

That method did take time to develop, of course. Take, for instance, the transformation of a building in Downtown Las Vegas that Hsieh had acquired. When Palacios asked what Hsieh wanted, the latter told the former to “go to the W in Austin.”

That was the whole of the instruction.

So, with that as the entire brief, BUNNYFiSH went to the W in Austin. And, as Palacios explained, they did basically everything one could have done at the hotel at that time. Upon their return to Las Vegas, Palacios made the call to simply let Hsieh find him at The Beat when he was ready.

Sure enough, that’s what happened a few days later. Basically, Hsieh wanted BUNNYFiSH to transform his building into the W in Austin, in a way. When Inspire first opened, I visited the speakeasywhich required biometric access, I believe via a retinal scanand I would later watch Hey, Bartender in the space’s theater/TED Talk area, hosted by Dushan Zaric, co-founder of Employees Only.

Making Things Happen

Hsieh would go on to work with BUNNYFiSH on more projects, large and small. In doing so, they would all transform the Downtown Las Vegas landscape and culture.

To provide one large-scale example, BUNNYFiSH took on the Gold Spike’s metamorphosis from old-school, outdated casino to nightlife, social, and event space. This is another concept with which I’m familiar, having hosted an event there with the Bar & Restaurant Expo team when the event was still known as Nightclub & Bar.

There was also a small downtown motel conversion. Since “nobody needs parking in Las Vegas,” the parking lot was ripped out and a six-hole putt-putt course was installed. Of course, it wasn’t that simple; each hole was a version of a world-famous counterpart.

Anyone who has spent time in Downtown Las Vegas will be familiar with another BUNNYFiSH-Hsieh collaboration: Container Park. However, it’s a dog park project that really encapsulates the real message within Palacios’ story.

Per the Las Vegas native, Hsieh was a part of most of the meetings between his team and BUNNYFiSH. From time to time, he’d pop his head into a meeting with a question or idea, but that was about it.

Well, during one meeting, Hsieh popped up and asked if it was possible to build the world’s largest functional fire hydrant. By now several years into the relationship, Palacios knew the answer: “Yes.”

As he explained, he had learned to not say no to Hsieh. That may paint the entrepreneur in a tyrannical light. That isn’t, however, what Palacios meant.

Asking Why

While some clients can accept hearing “no” after they’ve asked a question, others need more. They require a why.

Sure, that’s sometimes because a client is, to put it diplomatically, “particular.” But as Palacios learned over the course of a decade-long collaborative relationship with Hsieh, sometimes “why” is a tool.

That three-letter question can spark creativity. Creativity in getting around but not running afoul of building codes, creativity in material or site selection, creativity in bringing an idea into the physical world.

While “no” is, indeed, a complete sentence, in the context of developing a restaurant, bar, hotel, etc., it can be a project killer.

Further, once one side of a business relationship comes to understand how the other interprets a why, communication grows stronger. Instead of just a conversation-halting “no,” collaborators learn to anticipate. So, that “no” starts out as a, “No, we can’t/shouldn’t do it that way, here’s why, here’s our solution.”

That’s a far stronger and healthier way to communicate and work together.

Real-world Example

Let’s look at a BUNNYFiSH project in Reno, Nevada. Traditionally, a guest room has a desk. And, traditionally, you’d be told by a hotel executive that the desk is so guests can write letters.

Well…which guests are actually doing this? Why are hotels still putting the same desk designs in their rooms?

Those two questions led to a room design featuring a reinvented desk. The BUNNYFiSH desk design is now the standard for the hotel group.

However, that desk design update pales in comparison to another change Palacios suggested.

Why, Palacios asked, did this hotel need a conference space? And why not transform the space that would traditionally be a conference space into…a bocce bar. A very large bocce bar, at that.

As Palacios explained the moment he posed those questions to hotel executives (a.k.a. major BUNNYFiSH clients), he was first met with silence. But that silence eventually turned to belief in Palacios and BUNNYFiSH, and there is in fact a bocce bar where one would expect a conference space.

According to Palacios, the bar is generating more revenue than the client projected they’d see from the conference area.


Too many people forget that “relationship” is the operative word in “business relationship.”

Had BUNNYFiSH seen their burgeoning relationship with Hsieh as solely transactional, they would likely have been relegated to the same pile of architects that hadn’t managed to satisfy Hsieh.

However, all parties developed an understanding of one another. They learned how to communicate with one another, and the results were incredible.

Further, Palacios and BUNNYFiSH learned to adapt that communication style for future clients, again to wonderful results.

Hospitality is a people business. As some people like to say, most problems are people problems. Going further, people problems are often communication problems.

Learning how to communicate and collaborate can solve a multitude of problems, and help develop long-term relationships.

Image: Shutterstock. Disclaimer: This image was generated by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system.

Motel Hotel Resort Boutique Concept Development

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Announces Olo Partnership

SevenRooms Announces Olo Partnership

by David Klemt

Cheeseburgers and French fries in takeout containers on pass

SevenRooms continues to grow and develop innovative partnerships.

The platform’s newest partnership benefits the hospitality industry, operators, and consumers.

In joining forces with Olo, SevenRooms further helps restaurants, bars, and hotels position themselves to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

The Bleeding Edge

Olo, which literally stands for “Online Ordering,” predates the iPhone.

In fact, the company launched before smartphones were more than niche devices.

Upon its inception, Olo’s service consisted mainly of sending mobile coffee orders to restaurant printers via text message.

Like SevenRooms, Olo seeks to stay ahead of the consumer behavior curve:

  • 2005: Olo launches, anticipating coffee drinkers will eagerly embrace mobile ordering.
  • 2008: The company predicts fast-casual restaurants will become faster than fast food.
  • 2012: Olo envisions the redesigning of kitchen restaurants to include pickup windows.
  • 2015: The platform sees the future for foodservice is delivery.

Now, Olo is dedicated to making sure online ordering customers benefit from the industry’s digital transformation.

The Partnership

SevenRooms ensures clients who also use Olo can capture their off-premise customers’ information. That data then creates profiles for those customers automatically.

This partnership leverages SevenRooms CRM and marketing automation integration. Operators will be able to send post-order surveys to off-premise, online ordering customers automatically.

So, operators can learn what is and isn’t working off-premise; elevate the experience of off-premise customers to increase online order frequency; convert those customers to in-person guests; encourage repeat visits; and increase profitability.

Moving forward, SevenRooms and Olo users will get to know their off-premise customers better.

“To meet the ever-evolving needs of our hospitality clients, we’ve continued to seek out strategic partners who help us provide an even more comprehensive solution to operators,” says SevenRooms CEO and founder Joel Montaniel. “Our integration with Olo delivers on our promise of offering a 360-degree platform focused on helping operators build deeper, direct relationships across on- and off-premise experiences. This partnership facilitates better operational efficiency and online data capture, ultimately helping operators optimize the profitability of their delivery and takeout business while strengthening customer relationships. We are excited to welcome Olo to our partner network, and look forward to our continued collaboration to drive better, more streamlined solutions for the industry.”

Learn more about SevenRooms here. Click here to learn more about Olo.

Image: call me hangry 🇫🇷 on Unsplash

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SevenRooms Announces New Partnership

SevenRooms Announces Huge New Partnership

by David Klemt

Handshake emoji neon sign signifying partnership

SevenRooms announces today a major partnership that will change the game for operators in the UK, Australia, and across Europe.

The online reservation platform is entering a multi-year partnership with TheFork.

Fortunately, the hospitality industry, once slow to embrace new technology, is now adopting tech at a rapid pace.

This collaboration between SevenRooms and TheFork represents both a giant leap in tech innovation and support for our industry.


By now, there should be no question that SevenRooms is among the most powerful tools an operator can wield.

On the surface, SevenRooms is “just” a reservation platform. In reality, the platform offers a full suite of guest engagement and retention tools; automated marketing tools; front- and back-of-house management; direct and third-party delivery management; and much more.

Additionally, the company has long been supportive of the hospitality industry. The founders didn’t just assume their reservation and engagement solutions were effective.

Rather, they spent time in the trenches. They took reservations, checked coats, and hung out with hospitality teams when their shifts were over.

During the pandemic, the platform studied the impact of third-party delivery on operators. To that end, they developed a launched a direct delivery module to help operators protect their bottom lines.


Operating in more than 20 countries, TheFork is a TripAdvisor company.

Per TheFork, the company boasts more than 80,000 partner restaurants across the globe. Additionally, TheFork’s app has 28 million downloads and counting, and their site features over 22 million restaurant reviews.

In other words, TheFork enjoys a unique position in terms of connecting guests with restaurants.

The platform features a loyalty program; exclusive deals for guests who make reservations via TheFork; an “insider” feature that connects with guests with trendy and gourmet restaurants and entices them with a special offer; and more.

The Partnership

When one reviews how both platforms work, this partnership is a no-brainer. Going deeper, it appears the companies share similar values and commitment to the industry.

For example, SevenRooms subsidized more than $10 million in licensing fees to help operators during the pandemic. TheFork dedicated nearly $30 million to the industry within the 22 countries in which they operate.

This partnership is culminating in a two-way integration. Customers of SevenRooms will gain access to millions of diners who use TheFork to make reservations. In turn, TheFork now has access to SevenRooms’ marketing and venue management tools.

The result? Operators will be able to more easily and consistently fill their seats and attract new guests. The powerful tools that are at the disposal of SevenRooms customers will help to engage and retain those new guests, converting them to loyal regulars.

Hospitality seems to be steadily entering its Collaboration Era. Operators and platforms are seeking beneficial partnerships, all the while embracing more and more tech that enhances the guest experience and boosts the bottom line.

It will be exciting to see where we go from here.

Image: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Can Vending Machines Help Restaurants and Farmers Fight Food Waste and Generate Revenue?

Can Vending Machines Help Restaurants and Farmers Fight Food Waste and Generate Revenue?

by David Klemt

French farmers have found an innovative way to fight food waste, generate much-needed revenue, and provide fresh produce to the public: vending machines.

Last week, Barron’s, a publication dedicated to financial and investment news coverage, published an article about farmers in France finding more success selling produce via vending machines than their own farm stores.

All manner of items can be loaded into vending machines—fruits, vegetables, eggs and dairy products, for example—and famers are able to choose how many lockers their setups will include. For instance, one farmer invested in a 60-locker vending machine for €30,000, while another placed a machine with 88 lockers close to her farm.

Selling via vending machine was lauded by Barron’s as respectful of health and safety regulations since farmers and consumers aren’t interacting with one another directly.

This development begs the question: Would selling produce directly to consumers through vending machines prove viable in the United States and Canada?

The havoc afflicting the restaurant business doesn’t affect only the owners, operators and employees—it’s a shockwave ripping through other industries, such as farming and agriculture. For months, news coverage has included reports of farmers sharing stories of showing up to restaurants to deliver food only to find them closed, leaving farmers with surpluses of food destined to go to waste.

One option to make this work could include restaurant operators and local farmers partnering to set up vending machines (locker type, not the standard snack versions). This would help reduce the initial buy-in and both operators and farmers would have access: restaurants would use them for contactless meal and meal kit pickup, and farmers could accept direct-to-consumer orders of fresh produce fulfilled through the lockers.

In fact, creative operators may be able to build meal kits that combine their menu items with ingredients sourced from local farmers.

The partnership concept may prove more viable for connectivity reasons as well. In France, one major supplier of vending machines, according to Barron’s, indicated the machines required a reliable 4G connection, in part because they recommend only accepting credit card and online payments to reduce vandalism. Placing vending machines on-site should provide more stable connections and steadier consumer traffic.

Politicians continue to drag their feet and posture in regards to Covid-19 relief. It has been clear for months that the public and businesses without lobbying power are being left to fend for themselves. A partnership between restaurants and farmers could prove mutually beneficial for the survival of the restaurant, farming and agriculture industries.

When contacting their representatives to demand they help we the people and the restaurant industry, it could be wise to remind them that relief for restaurants is also relief for farmers, saving millions of jobs and thousands of farms at risk of permanent loss, along with avoiding literal tons of needless food waste.

Image: Alex Motoc on Unsplash