Wednesday, July 31, 2013

5 Reasons Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Fresh Prepared Food is Booming.

Companies targeting the grocerant niche developing a platform that allows meal co-creation in the car, at the office, or at home are winning the hearts and minds of today’s retail food consumer.  The grocerant niche comprised of the ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food is driving the success of the retail foodservice today.

Each sector has or had innovators; Restaurants started with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), now have Chipotle Mexican Grill, Panera Bread, Domino’s Pizza, MCD, BK and a whole lot more.

Grocery stores started with Wegmans, Metropolitan Market, Whole Food’s and now fast charging HEB and its Central Market stores.  Convenience Stores have Sheetz, Wawa, with fast charging Rutter’s, Casey’s General stores and 7 & Eleven. Top 5 reasons for ready-2-eat growth are:

Placement: Visceral presentation, Freshness based on how it looks and is presented.

Product: Individualized portions, power to select quality and quantity of items viewed.

Price:  Food Quality and Convenience vs. time and cooking skill set.

Packaging: Ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food provides Time Saving vs. cook from scratch.

Portability: empowering choice eat in or take home / office

Success does leave clues and many retail food operators are now adopting Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of Food Marketing: Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price.

Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Foodservice Solutions® at the Intersection of Consumers and Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Food.

The success of ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food has been documented, talked about and written about for one reason of late. It is driving top line sales and bottom line profits within existing points of distribution and more importantly at non-traditional points of fresh food distribution garnering share from legacy food retailers.
Is your food company prepared to succeed in 2014, 2015 … 2020? Here are some of the advantages to entering or expanding your business within the grocerant niche:
Exposure to more customers and all Sides of the Food Business
Most large food retailers, big companies, have a narrow focus. That has worked for 50 years. They have honed their brand and supply chain. They have set and defined boundaries, and it is difficult to get outside of them. Time and technology have redefined the consumer playing field. Your brand must become dynamic again or risk losing consumer relevance. There is a huge opportunity for share of market if you elect to evolve you brand with migrating fresh food consumers in take-out and take-way options.
People Reward Potential
Large food retailers typically pay more at the C-level, and are seen as stable employment currencies (not-taking risk). However the grocerant niche when vertically integrated into an existing brand creates a new level of excitement within the entire company. When sales grow, the opportunity for advancement expands, building team momentum, excitement explodes like a wildfire. Customers can feel the proactive positive buzz from employees. Doing nothing Boring Doing Something Soaring.
Proactive Change is Exposure to Success
Change is incredibly dynamic, consumer focused changed is contagious. Change evolves and will go through a bell curve, and you see the whole thing step by step when you vertically integrate change into brand and consumer values. If not integrated you do not really get to escape the velocity of the event, but change is exciting nonetheless and customers will still follow.
Impacting Consumer Relevance Means Thriving not Simply Staying Alive
Are you going to tangibly impact your company or maintain the status quo? Today like never before companies have the ability to evolving a brand at a speed not seen since your company was a start-up. What impact are you going to have on your company? There is a difference between the work you do and the impact you have. Fresh Food retailing is evolving at break neck speed, evidenced by the Dollar Store formats selling more foods and Walgreens selling fresh foods and doing it well as you can see from this video of a Walgreens in San Francisco. Is your brand evolving fast?
Spin Out, Spin Off or Springboard to more Profitability
If you do nothing but wait, watch or blame the economy you are very likely to simply spin out of control. Redefining your brand with consumer relevance will position you too either create a positive spin off or springboard to the next level. Legacy organizations need to be mindful that springboards do great things for your organization, your team and your shareholders.
Success Does Leave Clues and Foodservice Solutions® is clue # 1
LTO's (Limited Time Offers) can drive top line sales and bottom line profits while taking you in a new direction. Are your LTO's leading your brand, testing your brand or simply copy-cat marketing tactics absent strategy?

Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® a Tacoma, WA based retail foodservice consultancy has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche 253-759-7869. For product or brand positioning assistance contact:, the Grocerant LinkedIn page or on Facebook at Steven Johnson, BING / GOOGLE: Steven Johnson Grocerants or Grocerant on Twitter

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Retail Food Formats Driven by the Evolving Consumer

Trader Joe's was recently chosen as consumer’s favorite grocer. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s both have created ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food items with qualitative differentiation as an entity with identity that has help propel them into ready-2-eat fresh prepared food leadership.
Recent research shows that both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are each known for high quality (restaurant quality) ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat foods with distinctive offerings. Most important each is leading with innovative products and package size that create value and have positioned each as a food shopping destination for meal components customized and personalized for immediate consumption or mix and matched for a meal time at home. In short they are stealing restaurant customers.
Walgreens fresh prepared food is restaurant quality and priced less than Panera Bread or Corner Bakery CAFE. Both Panera Bread and Corner Bakery CAFE thrive in urban locations. Walgreens is now growing price, quality and speed of service advantages over legacy retailers. Legacy restaurant chains must reconsider the speed at which they evolve and adapt or non-traditional outlets will capture profits margins as well.
Traditional views of meals and mealtime can pretty much be discarded. Legacy retailers waiting for the "next big thing" to copy simply might be out of luck this time. Legacy food retailers may not like to be first movers very much but it may prove that waiting too long will not work this time.
Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price are Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of food marketing driving top line sales and bottom line profits. Have you integrated the five P’s? Foodservice Solutions® can help.
The retail food world is evolving at an ever increasing pace filled with innovation in food, portion size, points of distribution, and quality fresh prepared meal solutions. The price, value, service equilibrium is resetting in retail foodservice. In order to edify the brand and reinforce consumer relevance restaurateurs must leverage Foodservice Solutions® 5P's of food marketing. 
Many legacy food retailers continue to practice brand protectionism, stifle the brand while diminishing consumer relevance. The consumer is dynamic not static. Brands must be dynamic, evolving with the consumer. Four more years of watching other retail sectors thrive should be long enough. Success in the restaurant world is no longer simply about what happens within your 4 walls.

Steven Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions, with extensive experience as a multi-unit operator, consultant and brand/product positioning. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the leading Global Grocerant niche consultancy Contact Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Take-Away Fresh Food on the Rise

Hot Dog Carts once a novelty are quickly became an acceptable option for a hot meal, snack or on the go ready-2-eat fresh lunch option in urban centers.  Today hot dog carts are alive and well, but crowed out is some cities by taco carts, carts offering wraps and some focused on salads alone.

The take-away fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food aka the grocerant niche is expanding beyond carts to food trucks, C-stores, Grocery stores and retail drug stores all adding made to order foods. 
Walgreens is offering fresh prepared products from sushi, salads, wraps and sandwiches all made fresh in the stores is select urban markets while offering fresh prepared packaged options in many suburban locations. Gone are the days of roller grill hot food masked as fresh and better for you.

Consumers increasing are leveraging many platforms including restaurants, grocery stores, C-stores, food trucks, carts and C-stores for purchasing meal components that can be bundled into a family meal.  Fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food that is “better for you” will continue to drive retail sales as long as it continues to get closer and closer to the consumer. What new avenues of distribution is your food in?

Outside eyes can deliver top line sales and bottom line profits.  Invite Foodservice Solutions® to provide brand and product positioning assistance or a grocerant program assessment. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or

Saturday, July 27, 2013

2013 Pizza consumption remains at 9 % of meals consumed in the U.S.

What drives frequency within the Pizza Sector?  Consumer Edge Insight conducted a study this year to identify the most commonly-cited factors in determining which pizza take-out consumer like best and why.
Here are the finding as reported by David Decker President of Consumer Edge Insights:

  1. The restaurant patronized most often are good value (53%),
  2.  Convenient locations (44%),
  3.  Low prices (44%),
  4. Good discounts / Promotions
  5. Fast Service
 Decker found within that the survey included five of the largest pizza-takeout restaurant brands in the US: Cici’s Pizza, Domino’s Pizza, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Papa John’s Pizza, and Pizza Hut. Here is a list of who won the different attributes consumers value:

  1. The strongest perceptions for providing “good value” among past visitors were Little Caesar’s (45%) and Cici’s (43%).
  2. The top-scoring pizza-takeout brands for “convenient locations” were Pizza Hut (40%), and Domino’s and Little Caesar’s with 34% each.
  3. The top-scoring brands for “low prices” were Little Caesar’s (50%) and Cici’s (47%),
  4. The top-scoring brands for “good discounts/promotions” were Domino’s (39%) and Little Caesar’s (38%).
  5. Brands most likely to be perceived to offer “fast service” were Little Caesar’s (43%) and Cici’s (38%).
  6. When it comes to taste, Papa John’s was top-rated for having great-tasking” food by 44%

Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

Friday, July 26, 2013

7 Eleven Branded, Bundled, Building a Loyal Food Following

Harken back to 1965 when 7 Eleven introduced the iconic Slurpee. Since 1965 millions upon millions of consumers (mostly kids) around the world had delighted and cooled down on a hot July day with a 7 Eleven Slurpee that is branded, licensed and thriving. Don’t think for a moment 7 Eleven is not serious about food.

7 Eleven has branded food products with outstanding success.  Today 7 Eleven continues to introduce new consumer focused foods that are hot, perceived fresh and targeted for time starved economy stretched consumers. The latest new product offerings include small portioned items that can be mix and matched and bundled into a customized personal meal including: “corn dog bites, mozzarella sticks with a side of marinara sauce and chicken chipotle Go-Go Taquitos”.
These new items are targeted at a new set of consumers according to Kelly Buckley, 7 Eleven’s  VP of Fresh Food Innovation who said "Millennials and the generation coming behind them are snackers, and I don't see them returning to the traditional three-meals-a-day standard," …"They were busy as youngsters, and life has gotten no less hectic for them as young adults. Kids, teens and 20-somethings are the biggest snackers. As even meals become more snack-like, 7-Eleven is adding smaller portions, mini-sizes and bites, and the public is eating them up, so to speak."
QSR’s have some new competition from 7 Eleven who with these new bundled options offer price and positioning that is attractive to Millennials and parents of snackers.
  • Corn dog bites are wrapped in a rich cornmeal batter, cooked to a golden crisp and served warm at a suggested retail price (SRP) of $1 for three.
  • Mozzarella sticks are made from 100-percent mozzarella cheese sticks, breaded with Italian-seasoned coating, baked until the cheese melts and served with a side of tangy marinara sauce. SRP is $1.49 for four.
  • The chicken chipotle taquito uses chipotle peppers to add a kick to the chicken and cheesy Monterey Jack, asadero and mozzarella filling. It is specially priced at $2.29 for two.
With 50,375+ units around the world no food retailer should discount the competitive fresh food focus of 7 Eleven.  Nor should they forget how good that Slurpee was back on a hot day in July in 1965.

Interested in learning how the 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quick Service Restaurants Face Food Fight

Only Wall Street financial analysts could spin a prolonged daunting food sales market share fight as good news.  However this week when Wendy’s struggling to maintain year over year same store gains system wide presented a plan to sell units as a way to generate profits Wall Street financial analysts praised company leadership.  All the while Wendy’s franchisees continue too capitulate market share to other QSR’s, C-stores, and new non-traditional fresh food retailers. How does selling stores boost profits at your restaurant? Restaurant industry big data points to “big disrupters” on the way for QSR’s.

McDonalds on the other hand put a different spin on things.  Leveraging Big Data and positive same store sales CEO Don Thompson noted that they are “gaining market share even as sales shrink” and that is winning.   I have to agree.  The industry undercurrents of change first identified by Foodservice Solutions® and mirrored in the Big Data findings of McDonalds are all grocerant niche related.

Including in the findings Thompson called “the informal eating out market” we called it the non-traditional ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food aka grocerant niche.  Thompson pointed to casual dinning restaurants. We point to companies the ilk of Panera Bread once seating only are now adding drive-thru's, lowering price points and bundling meal options ala QSR’s and the grocerant niche.

QSR’s are increasing trapped by self-imposed legacy brand protectionism practices and footprint malaise. All of which is a contributing to store level cost pressure that new non-traditional competitors simply are not burdened with. The current price value service equilibrium for many legacy QSR’s and legacy food retailers is simply unsustainable at the store level.

McDonald’s big data drew focus on “heightened competitive activity” and “non-traditional competitors” specifically and for the first time “ready-to-eat supermarket meals”, and convenience stores.  Regular readers of this blog know Foodservice Solutions® was first leveraging big data to identify, quantify, and qualify these new competitive undercurrents of the evolving fast fresh food world.

While many legacy restaurant chains continue to mention, blame or justify sales growth on continued “economic uncertainty”.  The ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food niche continues to garner momentum, solid top line sales YOY growth, customers, bottom line profits, and new unit growth. Legacy QSR’s are facing a fight for share of stomach with new well- funded non-traditional competitors.  Is your brand waiting to see what happens or are you edifying your brand and footprint with consumer contemporized relevance?

Outside eyes can deliver top line sales and bottom line profits.  Invite Foodservice Solutions® to provide brand and product positioning assistance or a grocerant program assessment. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What Works Well in Retail Foodservice? Hand Held Food of Course.

In a 2013 survey conducted by David Decker of Consumer Edge Insight  of restaurant customers in the United States, when it comes to identifying what drives loyalty for restaurants, the most commonly-cited factors in determining which fast-casual restaurant is visited most often are best-tasting food (51%), good service (46%), cleanliness (45%), and highest-quality food (43%). The survey included 17 of the largest fast-casual restaurant brands in the US.

Look at the companies in the top 5 and the products that they serve.  Regular readers of this blog know that Hand Held Food continues to fuel retail food growth in the United States and around the world.  It is one of the main drivers within the grocerant niche.

Here are some of the findings: “The survey asked consumers to rate restaurant brands on different attributes. The fast-casual brands with the strongest perceptions for providing “great-tasting food” among past visitors were Pei Wei Asian Diner (51%), Culver’s (49%), Panera Bread (47%), and Chipotle Mexican Grill (46%). Pei Wei Asian Diner (44%), Panera Bread (43%), Culver’s (42%), Firehouse Subs (39%), and Five Guys Burgers (38%) were the top scoring brands for having “good service.” The top-scoring fast-casual brands for “high-quality food” were Pei Wei Asian Diner (45%), Panera Bread (43%), Chipotle Mexican Grill (38%), Firehouse Subs (37%), and Culver’s (33%)….

The survey also asked past-three-month-visitors to each brand how satisfied they were with their most recent visit and how likely they were to visit again. The brand whose recent customers are most likely to visit again is Chipotle Mexican Grill (73% said they will “definitely” visit again), followed by Panera Bread (70%), Culver’s and Firehouse Subs (with 67% each), and Five Guys Burgers and Zaxby’s (with 66% each).”

Steven A. Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based foodservice consultancy Foodservice Solutions® and writes a blog at: He can be found on linkedin, Johnson, Email Contact:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Healthy Focused Food To-Go Drives Sales

Restaurants, Grocery Stores, C-stores and Drug Stores are all focused on selling ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat “better for you” food for take-out or delivery that is fresh prepared or for dine in.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru Steven Johnson has some clues for garnering market share within the grocerant niche with menu items in the three top take-out categories that are currently focusing on focused “better for you” attributes that are important to consumers. 

Rather than offer Fried Rice, Fried Vegetables, Fried Dumplings or Lo Mein on the top of the menu.  Consider steamed dumplings, brown rice (a high-fiber whole grain) rather than noodles (made from refined white flour) or simply steamed rice.  Focus on entrée’s with steamed meats and vegetables and fiber-rich bok choy and broccoli; even  baby corn and water chestnuts.  When it comes to sauces today the options for both low-sodium soy other topping are plentiful.
Drop the Deep-dish to the bottom of the menu and focus on a thin crust, pizza and offer soups like minestrone and salad up-front.  On the thin crust, list light on the cheese, try grilled chicken and pile on the fresh vegetables.   I’m not saying that these will be the top sellers by any means.  However offering them up front will create a halo of “better for you” for your menu.
Place some of the favorites like Tacos, refried beans and rice down on the lower section of the menu.  Then on the top place vegetarian refried beans, guacamole all wrapped in a soft not fried taco shell.  Again in 2013 menus will be filled with fresh vegetables, and don’t for the antioxidant benefits of the salsa. Remind your customers of the “better for you” attributes of your menu.

Outside eyes can deliver top line sales and bottom line profits.  Invite Foodservice Solutions® to provide brand and product positioning assistance or a grocerant program assessment. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Food Consumer Discontinuity Equals Customer Migration

Remember the old adage one step back then two forward. In order to understand what is occurring in the retail food landscape today sometimes its best if we take a look back.   The shift in food retail consumers spending patterns or retail food consumer discontinuity started well before the economic down turn.

I hear regularly from clients that “our consumer is not doing what they have always done”. I have but one simple reply, your consumer is not the same as her/she was a year ago, five years ago nor will they be next year and neither should your brand be.

The confluence of increasing consumer knowledge about food via TV, the “food network”, and rapid restaurant industry growth, coupled with concept sameness, combined with the weak economy allowed trepidation too crept into restaurant executive planning meetings and board rooms across the industry in 2008 and seemly stay there.

In far too many restaurant companies the cry was for just wait it’s the economy not us all will be fine. That prevalence of mediocrity and complacency at the C-level was extremely naive.  As an industry restaurateurs concern is and should be share of stomach; first by company, second by niche-market share, and third the restaurant industry overall at all times.

The economy is not the largest problem it is competition for share of stomach; specifically by the ready-2-eat prepared meal section of the grocery stores, Convenience stores, and Chain Drug stores. Under reported but significantly noted first in 2005 by Foodservice Solutions®. That was the first year that recorded a consumer increase in percent household spending for food in grocery stores and away from restaurants in 25 years.

The shift had been slow in coming but it has continued since 2005. That was the first such directional move in 25 years. That 25 year span can best be recalled as the golden age of chain restaurants, and marks a huge shift. The timing of this is important.   Those were the boom years for the restaurant industry. During that period we witnessed double digit growth in new units with most tier one players year after year.

It is important to note that in the past 15 years the average grocery store has dropped or discontinued carrying 15,000 Sku’s (individual food ingredients) which is equal to two isles in a standard grocery store. They replaced them with less than 200 ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food products. They created from those new ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat Sku’s a mix and match components that consumers bundled into customized family meals. Consumers now say most ready-2-eat components are restaurant quality.  Those products are driving an increase in customer frequency and loyalty for Grocery stores, C-stores and Retail Drug store chains.

On top of that they have integrated the ready-2-eat and multi-daypart meal components food products foods into national advertising and weekly flyers. YES, an ilk equivalent to a restaurant meal bundled and priced very competitive with a focus on fresh better for you. Harris Teeter once described its remodeled stores salad bar and ready-2-eat foods as CASH COWS.  Safeway stock is up sharply over the same period with the proven results from their ongoing remodel prepared food focused lifestyle stores.  It must also be noted here that during that 25 year period while the US population was booming, grocery stores declined in number by 25,000 units while the restaurant industry grew by 200,000 plus outlets.

The grocery prepared food Industry leadership is being driven by European retailers. Three of specific note are Marks & Spencer, Morrison’s (M-Local) and Trader Joe’s with “tonight’s dinner” mostly refrigerated or quick chilled food components which blend their store brands with branded ingredients and simultaneously put their prepared meals on par with homemade.  Today, Walgreens and Duane Reade both US retail drug stores are aggressively expanding into fresh ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat prepared food.

Walgreens initiative can best be called convenient meal participation. For the consumer it is interactive, participatory and inviting, providing “like” homemade touches via component bundling creating personal satisfaction. This as extremely compelling because Walgreens is an 81 Billion dollar company well financed and that makes this very competitive for the restaurant industry. This is not a fad but a trend that is now 27 years in the making.  The trend began in 1985 with the food industry focus on Home Meal Replacement (HMR) and has progressed into a full-fledged battle for the consumer’s food dollar and share of stomach by all retail sectors.

The race for the consumer is transformational with more competitive points of distribution opening up all of the time. The traditional metrics for measuring success at chain restaurants is currently being challenged by the success of chains like; Buffalo Wild Wings, Chipotle, and Papa Murphy’s. These firms have carved out niche’s based on purpose, choice, convenience and price. Realism is reflected in the customer counts and continued sales numbers for these companies.

The economy is a focus now, however since 2005 clear indicators are now providing a picture of what is important and changing with consumer eating habits particularly HOW THEY EAT, WHEN THEY EAT, and WHY THEY EAT.

Most notable is the change in consumer vision and role of food: including social eating, eating economically, environmental eating and eating for personal benefit! Yes personal benefit, only in America do consumers go on diets to eat their way thin!  Ok, ask yourself does that work? If no keep reading.

Recently three chains particularly have addressed these issues and seem to be having success; Domino’s, Starbucks and Cheesecake Factory. Each company has had a dramatic overhaul of menu and positioning are now recovering building new and additional loyal customers.

The restaurant industry has not proved as agile as the Grocery, C-store or Drug Store sectors when it comes to attracting new consumer while expanding fresh food offerings since 2005. The confluence of events may in fact force our industry to look at how we run our business. It will not however force us to stick to outdated metrics, methods or models. Yes, “times they are a changing”. The challenge is to recapture share of stomach.

The grocery and drug store sector particularly have spent millions studying restaurant quality food, levels of service, packaging and product positioning. They have a wealth of knowledge and it is in play. The restaurant industries legacy of innovation combined with its ability to get products to market faster, places it first in the mind’s eye of the consumer. Increase success in the Grocerant niche call Foodservice Solutions®

Steven A. Johnson is Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based foodservice consultancy Foodservice Solutions® and writes a blog at: He can be found on LinkedIn at:, Johnson, Email

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shop 24 and Outerwall Selling Food When Others Don’t.

New non-traditional avenues of food distribution are evolving and two of those companies want to sell food to your customer’s 24 hours a day.  Outerwall the old Coinstar is placing 1,000 Seattle Best Coffee “vending” machines around the country maybe across the street or in the parking lot near your location.  Where do you sell food today?  Why? Where can you sell branded food?

Shop 24 is a PC-based store, it is an automated store like a sophisticated vending machine. “Shop24 Global LLC convenience stores operate similar to a vending machine, but they offer everything from a small bag of chips to a half-gallon of milk. The stores offer up to 180 items that range in weight from an ounce to 8 pounds.” According to the company. However could you sell branded food with a private label “shop 24”?

Jason Santoro, vice president of sales for Shop24 said  “We are PC-based”…“We cater to our audience,” …by location.  Shop 24 likes to be near universities / colleges Santoro said. “So what we’ve learned in higher ed is that students are buying meal options late at night — you’re seeing fresh-made sandwiches, frozen entrees, frozen pizzas and calzones are all very popular. Beverages are also popular, but it’s primarily food.”… (I find it interesting Students 18 – 24 leveraging new points of distribution, could this work in urban locations at night or during lunch?)

“Meaning there is a computer inside the store, so that’s what separates us from a vending machine. That technology allows us to take all payment options — cash, credit cards, debit cards and university meal plan cards.”  Shop 24 is working with the University of Alabama to allow the machine to take Bama Cash from Alabama student Action Cards as a way to build loyalty.

What could you sell 24 hours a day?  Are you utilizing all the space inside and outside of your building?  Is your drive-thru open 24 hours but the inside of the store closed?  If you are paying rent 24 hours a day would selling branded product 24 hours a day help build top line revenue and bottom line sales?

Outside eyes can deliver top line sales and bottom line profits.  Invite Foodservice Solutions® to provide brand and product positioning assistance or a grocerant program assessment. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fun, Food, Flavors, Evolving with Foodies and Manufactures.

Time-starved yet demanding consumers are evolving flavorful ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh food.  The grocerant niche comprised of fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food, are building top line sales and bottom line profits in all sectors of the foodservice industry.  The ability to mix and match meal components or ingredients for a particular meal or specific sandwich is empowering to the consumer. This niche is thriving in Convenience Stores, Restaurants, Drug Stores, and Grocery Stores.

Food Manufactures are focusing on restaurants and prepared food for the grocery sector. It is important to understand the differences between cooking a food product for immediate consumption and manufacturing a product with adequate shelf life and safety profile to be on the shelf.   There are systematic differences between cooking ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food.  Maintaining food safety and quality will allow products served at restaurants to also be available in the grocery store with brand integrity.
New non-traditional points of food distribution are cropping up monthly.  Retail food brands must continue to find ways to place products in new avenues of distribution where current customers are going and future customers of the brand will come from.

Many Co-packers of refrigerated entrees and side dishes are preparing products for quick casual restaurants and even fine dining chains.  Then they manufacture the similar products under for a different avenue of distribution i.e. grocery or convenience stores under the restaurants chain label. 

Grocery store deli operators are now seeking private label fresh prepared proprietary menu items with identity for their national grocery/ supermarket distribution. With sales picking up month after month in this category this will become a very successful business proposition for many a manufacture and or co-packer.

Join me on my blog for insights, information and inspiration at   Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions visit

Friday, July 19, 2013

Who Is Winning the Food Customer Contest?

The battle for retail foodservice customers has tilted and at this point in time ATKearney, Technomic, IRI, and The NPD Group all have concurred with Foodservice Solutions® industry leading data that ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food aka the GROCERANT NICHE is leading the way. 

Foodservice Solutions® clients and regular readers of this blog are not surprised by the findings of all of the above companies that issued press releases or white papers just this week on fresh prepared food sales. We on the other hand welcome them to the Grocerant niche.  Here is what we have been talking about and know. Consumers have been attracted to new fresh prepared food offerings from our clients at new non-traditional locations including Liquor stores, chain drug stores, convenience stores and much improved supermarket delis.

In a nutshell collectively the independent findings from IRI, Technomic, ATKearney, and The NPD Group found that concurred with our years of continued findings:

1.       Over the next ten years grocerant niche food growth will grow faster than traditional restaurant table service.

2.       18 – 34 year olds, 35 -65 and 65+ all utilize ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food at increasing rates.  The difference is meal period by day part, food types, hand held vs. plated, and portability.

3.       Non-traditional locations of fresh food sales were identified by all, but none of them seem to grasp the significance of the plethora of new points of distribution and the competitive risk nuances as being disruptive too the current competitive landscape. Legacy retailers including restaurants, c-stores, grocery stores must all evolve with the consumer or lose market share.

Foodservice Solutions® was first to identify, quantify, and qualify food consumer migration when we named the undercurrents of food consumer migration The Grocerant Niche.  Foodservice Solutions® was first to identify, quantify, and qualify the market uptick in customer migration The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome. 

Foodservice Solutions® was also first uncovering five universal commonalities of successful food retailers today Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of Food Marketing. First with integrated marketing solutions for  restaurants, supermarkets, C-stores, drug stores, and liquor stores wanting to garner additional market share via Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of Food Marketing.  Is your brand capitulating or gaining market share?  Are you keeping pace with the evolving food retail landscape?

Interested in learning how the 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pinkies Liquor Stores Expanding Success Selling Fresh Prepared Meals To-Go

Ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food customer migration continues to unfold.  Grocery delis are garnering customers from restaurants, C-stores expanding fresh food offerings are garnering customers from the QSR sector.  Pinkies located in San Angelo, Texas is garnering customers from everyone.

New non-traditional points of fresh food distribution are expanding customer’s opportunity to purchase grocerant niche ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food.  Regular customers need not worry Pinkies still has a huge selection of liquor including bourbon, gin, rum, vodka and a quality selection of Single Malt Scotch.

Pinkies now is featuring Take-Out meals prepared fresh in the store daily including entrée’s sandwiches salads and desserts. Pinkies has elevated the quality of fresh side orders, dips, fresh fruit cups, and customer satisfaction with its expanded take-out fresh prepared food options.

Success does leave clues CEO Mike Ellington has informed me that since he added the new in-store kitchen sales have increased across the board in every category within the stores including sales of his over 850 imported beers, 2500 wines from around the world and yes liquor. Ellington was attracted to the grocerant niche in large part because of the Mix and Match bundling grocerant fresh prepared food is renown.  

Pinkies offers a wide variety of items on its menu.  Entrée’s from Brisket, Rotisserie both Pork Loin and Chicken to Green Chili Stew.  Pinkies offers side orders for every occasion including; Collard Greens, Green Beads w/Bacon, Mac and Cheese, Spinach Soufflé, and Glazed Carrots.

Customers drive sales.  Pinkies has no table seating inside or outside the store. What Mike Ellington understood was his customers were time-starved looking for meal solutions.  Not only has he found an additional profitable sales niche it has proven to be complementary too every existing category in his store.
Success does leave clues Pinkies is a new avenue of distribution for fresh prepared food.  The success clue: ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food drives top line sales and bottom line profits.

Outside eyes can deliver top line sales and bottom line profits.  Invite Foodservice Solutions® to provide brand and product positioning assistance or a grocerant program assessment. Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit or 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Pizza Chains Threatened by Non-traditional Fresh Food Delivery

Restaurant customer migration has been well documented by Technomic, The NPD Group and Black Box Intelligence showing or predicting nominal or flat growth for the restaurant industry of late. Some sectors could be more vulnerable than others to new non-traditional points of distribution. 

The pizza sectors continued battles within the sector over price and product selection has an intensified competitive threat on the delivery front from the Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) sector.  Pizza once the suburban dinner savior with its delivery option is seemingly under attack from the QSR sector.

Leading the way is Burger King now offering delivery in parts of 72 different cities and suburbs around the country.  Other QSR’s are now considering offering delivery.  We asked David Decker of DemandTracker who are the customer most likely to want delivery from QSR’s and which chains would be most likely to benefit from offering the highly coveted service.

Here is what the new DemandTrack survey asked consumers who are “aware of the twenty largest quick-service restaurant chains what changes the restaurant could make that would cause the person to visit the restaurant more often…. Among the top twenty quick-service chains, Wendy’s has the highest number of people, 14% would use the brand more often if delivery were available. McDonald’s has the second-highest number at 12% and Subway, Church’s Chicken, Popeye’s, and Taco Bell each had 11%.  If any two of the aforementioned chain QSR’s were to begin delivery Foodservice Solutions® team see’s serious consequences for the pizza sector and a minimum loss of 5% of total market share.

Who wants delivery the most? The QSR’s leading demographic and coveted industry demographic consumers who are “18-34” years old according to the DemandTracker survey that who.  “As quick-service restaurant companies consider offering delivery, it’s important to understand to which restaurant consumers that service would most appeal” said David Decker, President of Consumer Edge Insight stated.

Regular readers of this blog have been exposed to many new non-traditional points of fresh food distribution.  None of those points threatens a particular sector like this one does the pizza sector.  Is your company new to the grocerant niche?  Do you want to understand how to succeed within the grocerant niche when under attack?  Well here we are we can help. If you want to grow within this niche here we are.

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Migration Marketing assessment, grocerant program assessment. For brand, product placement, menu positioning assistance simply call Foodservice Solutions® today.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson, or

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Restaurant Industry Icon Subway’s Fred DeLuca Seriously Ill

In an email to Subway development agents that went out from Subway sandwich chain president and co-founder Fred DeLuca on Monday stated: Deluca has been diagnosed with leukemia.

While on a trip to Ontario, Canada three weeks ago, Fred DeLuca fell ill. There, he was diagnosed with double pneumonia and leukemia. He was then air lifted to Yale Medical Center, some ten miles from the Subway world headquarters in Milford, Connecticut.

Treatment was started immediately for leukemia.

An email to the Subway development agents (area developers) went out Monday to inform them of DeLuca's poor health. In the email, DeLuca stated: "I won't be able to attend convention this month because I'll be in the middle of treatment." The chain's annual convention will be from July 26-28 in Nashville, Tennessee. Some 5,000 franchise owners, affiliates, vendors and corporate employees are expected.

"My number one job is to take care of my health and get well," wrote DeLuca. "Do I have a succession plan? Yes, I have organized a succession plan. Should we need to implement it, the details will be shared with you then."

The letter went on to say that he cannot receive visitors.

Leukemia is a blood cancer that begins in the bone marrow and quickly spreads through the body, which can cause death. Some forms are treatable while others are not.

In 1965, Fred DeLuca borrowed money to start the first Subway sandwich shop. Since then it has grown by number of units to be the largest restaurant chain in the world, consisting of some 40,000 franchised units.
A Subway spokesperson said: "We can confirm that Subway restaurants' president and co-founder Fred DeLuca has been diagnosed with Leukemia and is currently being treated. Fred is doing well and focused on his health right now. The senior management team for the brand continues to manage the day to day operations of the company and no significant changes are being made at this time."

Our thoughts and prayers go out to our friend Fred and his family.  I have full confidence that this industry leader will lead his way back to good health soon.

Grocerant Guru

Food Retailing Never Take’s a Step Backward

Meal components are drive home viewing and home dining in 2013. Grocery stores, C-stores, and Club stores vie for Dinner customers threatening the restaurant sector’s market share. The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome edifies the dinner at home trend. The choice between dining-out or cooking at home could be the size of the HDTV.  At the intersection of the consumer, technology and retail food sales we find the grocerant niche creating and expanding points of quality food distribution.
 It’s at that intersection that Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru Steven Johnson identified one universal commonality driving consumers buying pattern changes.  Johnson calls it “The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome” consumer like HDTV’s have invested heavily in them they are key to the evolving food space.

The grocerant niche is the result of the blurring line between restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores all selling fresh prepared, portable, convenient meal solutions.  Targeted at the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food components that are perceived “better for you”, and portioned for one or two. Consumers like the Convenient Meal Participation, Differentiation, Individualization / Family Customization that these retailers offer.

Restaurateurs need to be particularly mindful of developments within the grocerant niche for they are driving the change within the price, value, service equilibrium in retail foodservice. It is at the intersection of the consumer, technology and The 5 P’s of Food Marketing: Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability, and Price that retail food sales competition is expanding. Driving ever greater Mix and Match bundled meal options and new points of distribution for consumers.  Consumers love the on-the-go options in fact Zaget’s 2013 NYC Restaurant Survey found that in New York at-home meals surpassed dining out for the first time in 30 years.

Legacy Home Meal Replacement (HMR) or Retail Meal Solutions (RMS) focus quickly faded away in the Restaurant side of business. However in the Grocery, C-store and Drug Store sector it continued to be studied, tested, and implemented. Today HMR and RMS have been replaced by the grocerant niche. It is the strategic path of choice for non-traditional food retailers, targeted at restaurant customers, profitable and expanding at an ever increasing pace.

Food Quality Never Takes a Step Back. The grocerant niche is driving new competitive points for food distribution which are a step above consumer expectation in most cases.  Food quality never takes a step back, these evolving new points of fresh food will continue to improve over time increasing industry competitiveness. Dunkin Donuts, McDonalds, and Starbucks, here comes the C-store sector.   When you look at the menu items offered by these legacy conveniences store operators it is clear to see that the grocerant niche is a platform that is creating customer focused equilibrium.   In other words C-stores are not discouraged or intimated by competition from any sector and customers are responding positively.  
Food Retailing Never Take’s a Step Backward.  Consumers are dynamic not static always looking to save both time and money.  The grocerant niche is propelling new quality points of fresh food distribution and competitors that are well financed.

Interested in learning how the 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or

Monday, July 15, 2013

Are Restaurant Marketers the Rip Van Winkles of Food Marketing?

Restaurant brand marketers are once again scrambling for customers counts and sales.  June’s restaurant sales numbers were flat once again. All the while grocery store deli sector and convenience stores continue to garner both top line fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat food sales and profits. There is a battle for share of stomach underway and many restaurant marketers seeming slept through the undercurrents of change in denial, or continued leveraging the outdated metric of brand protectionism.

Understanding differentiating drivers of today is key if a food retailer wants to grow or maintain share of stomach particularly within the ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh food grocerant niche marketplace.  Consumer marketing migration is underway.  New avenues of fresh food distribution are emerging and garnering acceptance from consumers. Is your brand growing both the top and bottom line?

Background with Facts

The United States Census reported that 50% of adults over the age of 18 are single. No one can be surprised by the evolution of and rapid developments in the retail food space.  Nielsen reports that in 2013 there are more convenience stores in the United States than the number of drugstores, supermarkets and dollar stores combined.

Well-Funded Competitors within Ready-2-Eat Space.

Wawa a Northeastern U.S. based C-store company has committed 575+ Million dollars too entering the Florida market looking for fresh ready-2-eat food sales success. Wawa has positioned themselves as Fast Casual To-Go. Yes, a C-store finding success in the restaurant industry Fast Casual Space.
Grocerant niche ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat fresh prepared food is blurring the line between Convenience stores, Restaurants, Chain Drug stores, and Supermarkets. Grocerant food targets the time-starved consumers, not with ingredients to make from scratch rather with ready-2-eat or heat-N-eat food components that can be bundled into a personalized customized family meal. What is it some restaurant chains don’t understand?
Where are your customers going to get dinner?
81% of American consumers are unsure about what’s for dinner at 4 PM, found Foodservice Solutions® in 2011 Grocerant study. Consumers are looking for high quality ready-2-eat foods and ready-2-heat meals.  A 2013 RetailNet Group webinar stated that time starved consumers want to purchase fresh prepared meal components that they can bundle into a customized family meal that will please everyone without spending time cooking. Mix and Match meal component bundling is a hallmark of the Grocerant niche. Restaurant consumers are time starved? How has your company addressed time starved consumers?  Are you still doing what you did 10 years ago?  Are you or is your company Rip Van Winkle?
Differentiating Drivers: Consumers Want Fresh Ready-2-Eat Food

90 percent of people look for deals to get more value when making food purchases in new national research survey conducted by DiGiorno January 2013.

US consumers estimate that restaurant rewards program would increase their visit rate to a particular restaurant by average of 35%, according to new study; 65% would recommend restaurant more to others if that restaurant offered rewards program in a study by LoyaltyPlus January 2013

Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed June 2013, “the term “marketing” is dying out and, in its place brands are becoming “publishers” and telling their own stories” Grocerant niche fresh food is the story-line consumers are attracted too.

US millennials seem to be spending more money than other generations when it comes to dining out, industry officials noted as reported by Ginia Bellafonte of the New York Times as a percent of income January 2013.
Food Value Equilibrium in Flux

The food value proposition equilibrium for the consumer today balances; better for you, flavor, and traditional products all blended into something with a twist.  In industry speak, differentiated does not mean different to the consumer it means familiar.  Outside eyes can bring new light and assist in your successful growth by creating a platform of insights for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization. Don’t wake up one day and find that you or your company slept; while consumers were on the move.

Interested in learning how the 5P’s of Food Marketing can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participation, differentiation and individualization contact us via Email us at: or visit Johnson, or