Friday, January 31, 2014

Improper Ready-2- Eat Pricing Could Cost Millions.

Foodservice Solutions® 5 P’s of food marketing includes price and the role of pricing may be evolving faster and increasing importance. Jonathan Marek, senior vice president with APT, in an Op-Ed article in NRN  identified the following five often overlooked facts about restaurant pricing. I want to share them with you as well.  Here they are:
Fact 1: You can’t understand the impact of changing prices without a test versus control analysis. If you haven’t analyzed price changes on a test versus control basis with a well-matched control group, it is impossible to understand the impact attributable to that price change. As you may have found, elasticity models are often inaccurate. Imagine that you dropped the price on gingerbread lattes in December: Sales of those items would skyrocket, and elasticity analysis would suggest that restaurants across the network should drop prices. However, in December, many of those units might sell anyway, so a price decrease would largely subsidize existing guest behavior. Seasonal biases aren’t the only issues at play, so year-over-year comps analysis won’t suffice here, either. Restaurants are impacted by competitors’ actions, economic trends, weather events and many other uncontrollable factors that don’t happen every year. In short, historical elasticity curves simply fail to reveal causal relationships that can inform future pricing decisions.
Fact 2: Cross-elasticity rules restaurant economics. Introducing a new value item might seem like a great idea if that item sells like crazy in an initial trial. If you test in enough restaurants, you might even be able to read a significant impact versus control, observing that the unit lift far exceeds margin rate compression, making the new item appear profitable overall. However, pricing analysis needs to account for inevitable mix-shift of other menu items. A new value item could drive incremental profits, but it could also cannibalize higher-margin items.
Fact 3: Price elasticity varies by store  a lot. Based on APT’s pricing work with dozens of restaurant concepts, we have observed that restaurant-by-restaurant price elasticity varies greatly based on restaurant characteristics (e.g. size), competitive density and demographic factors (e.g. median income and population density). Restaurants need to do the right analysis to identify which factors impact pricing for their concepts. Such analysis can often yield tens of millions of dollars in annual profits by correctly setting price tiers.
Fact 4: If you have a franchised concept, your franchisees are likely testing prices for you. Franchisees often make independent pricing decisions; as such, there is an opportunity to mine historical item-level data to create a test and control environment without actually designing a price test. However, the biased nature of these unplanned tests, or “natural experiments,” is an even greater case for scientifically constructed control groups, as opposed to balance-of-chain or balance-of-region approaches. For example, franchisees often increase price in their highest-traffic locations. Comparing these high-traffic locations to low-traffic locations will lead to inaccurate analysis.
Fact 5: Pricing analysis should not be outsourced. Why would you turn one of the most impactful levers of your business over to consultants with their own black box? Black box solutions may lead to the mistakes outlined above. Restaurants need to own their pricing analysis by doing it themselves with the right tools.
There are two ways restaurants can make more money: increase check size or increase the number of transactions. Changing prices is one of the most important levers restaurants can pull to impact both of these metrics. However, to correctly set menu prices, restaurants need to move beyond traditional elasticity analysis and determine how guests react to realized price changes through scientific test versus control analysis.

Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Breakfast Battlefield can you compete on quality and price?

Have your breakfast sales been slipping of late?  Thinking about entering the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food space?  Then you may want to read what General Mills found in their recent research survey. The survey conducted of shoppers, aged 18 to 54, who buy food or beverages in the morning from a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop, convenience store or fast-casual restaurant at least monthly.

The General Mills survey found that “c-store shoppers are prime away-from-home morning food consumers. More than half of respondents said they visit a fast-food restaurant or bring food from home but eat it on the go during an average week. Additionally, 48 percent visit a c-store and 45 percent visit a coffee shop.”
The top five factors in consumers mind when choosing where to buy food in the survey were:
  1. Fresh-tasting food (62 percent rated this as extremely important)
  2. Great-tasting food (61 percent)
  3. Clean location (61 percent)
  4. Convenient location (58 percent)
  5. Good value for money (56 percent).
Chris Quam, consumer insights manager for General Mills Convenience & Foodservice stated that "Convenience stores have a great foundation for winning at breakfast,"… "Their convenient location and speed of service is an undeniable advantage.”

 QSR’s operators need to be mindful of industry food trends and the pace of the evolving consumer and consumer perceptions about fresh prepared food.

Visit:  if you are 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 or learn more at Johnson, or

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Legacy Food Retailers Adapt or Fade Away 2014 will be a Year of Change

Online Food shopping is here and positioned for increased growth.  Legacy chain restaurants and legacy chain grocery stores will be forced to adapt by selling in new channels of distribution or face continued market share capitulation to new non-traditional fresh food retailers according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru.  “The Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food aka grocerant niche food is driving change in retail foodservice today.”

Hudson Riehle National Restaurant Association Senior Vice President of Research projects that in 2014 the restaurant industry will only grow 1.2%: Restaurant industry sales increase in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.  In addition Riehle found that 56% of adults would order food delivered from a table service restaurant if it were offered.  Does anyone think that Red Lobster should look outside the box?

With Multiple surveys finding that 11% of consumers are already buying groceries online. One study by Brick Meets Click found more than 10% of the 22,000 shoppers recently interviewed had made a grocery purchase online in the last 30 days. Amazon’s reported goal of 2.5% of grocery sales may seem like it’s not much however there are dozens of new start-up competitors in this space. 

Kantar Research noted that 11% of shoppers had purchased grocery items online in the past 90 days. Of that, 56% purchased those groceries from Amazon and that was prior to the launch of Amazon Prime.  Now in Seattle, Amazon “Spotlight” is testing and delivering fresh prepared meals from local restaurants.  When was the last time you asked Who is selling food to my customer?  Every wonder why they are selling your customers food and you are not? 

Is your retail food outlet a disrupter or are you being disrupted? Capitulating market share and blaming the loss on the weather, economy, or footprint malaise is neither a solution or a plan.  Outside eye’s may be required for inside results.

Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What TGI Fridays, Red Lobster, and Ruby Tuesday Missed.

Great brands and recycled executive leaders are not always a good fit.  The one thing the restaurant industry is very good at is promoting from within a brand or within the industry.  Sometimes however those leaders work so hard at doing the same thing they forget that consumers are dynamic not static.

Ever wonder why Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday and TGI Fridays are on the “for sale block”? When brand leaders practice brand protectionism over brand evolution many times the results are not positive.
With the rapid growth of fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food expanding into new non-traditional avenues of distribution with rapid consumer trial and acceptance it no wonder legacy chains the ilk of Red Lobster and Ruby Tuesday missed the fact that snack foods have made their way into main meal occasions according to the NPD Group.  

NPD found that the “number of snack meals eaten between main meals in the United States has remained steady over the last several years. NPD's SnackTrack information, however, shows that while traditional between-meal snacks may be flat or softening, versatile snacks such as fruit and yogurt are driving growth as a snack food at main meal occasions.”

This evolving shift has changed how consumer consumers view/define meals or meal occasions. “In 1985, NPD's National Eating Trends information found that more than 70 percent of household heads reported trying to avoid snacking entirely. In 2013, only around 40 percent said the same, indicating that snacking is no longer necessarily seen as an indulgence.”

Legacy chains must focus on the consumer and share of stomach over share of an industry define market niche.  When looking at share of stomach the focus is on the consumer not simply direct restaurant competitors. The consumer eats four distinctly defined meal occasions a day.  However many restaurants focus on one, or two a day which has not contributed to long term  gains is share of stomach. Are you looking at your customer?  Are your leaders looking at your brands market position yesterday, last year, or five years ago?   specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche. visit Johnson, or

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pop-up Restaurant Driving Meal Occasions with Authenticity

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru sees the undercurrents of “consumers drive for fresh authentic food, intersecting with non-traditional meal occasions served all most anywhere today.”… The rapid growth of Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is fueled in part by consumers drive for fresh food discovery.”
Sara Stuteville writing in the Seattle Times defines a Pop-Up restaurant ““Pop-up” restaurant is slang for a temporary restaurant. It’s a trendy term that has been used to describe anything from a new chef borrowing an existing restaurant for a night to underground restaurants operating out of private homes.” It may even be a food truck or mobile kiosk today.
Once a phenomenon associated with ambitious youthful foodies looking for low-cost and low-risk opportunities to sample new foods; today it has become a consumer’s point of discovery and a testing ground for budding entrepreneurs.
Most “Pop-up’s” offer hard to fine, authentic menu items, attracting immigrants looking for a taste of home or communities looking to lay claim to a point of differentiation that all serves as an invitation to a common palate or mindset.
Today, we find Peruvian, Spanish, Italian, Chilean and Thai eateries leveraging Pop-up locations more and more. No longer are Pop-up operating as a secretive restaurant or exclusive restaurant they are becoming a platform for chain restaurant new menu item testing, sales volume demand testing and PR platforms for budding entrepreneurs.   specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche. visit Johnson, or

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Chain Restaurant Conundrum The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome.

Restaurant industry customer counts are declining while retail foodservice continues evolving with a strong focus on the consumer.  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 identified one universal commonality driving consumers buying pattern changes.  Johnson calls it “The 65 Inch HDTV Syndrome.

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 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.

Looking back, during the late Home Meal Replacement frenzy grocery stores, C-stores and restaurants all studied with excitement the successful developments of Phil Romano’s Eatzi’s.  Eatzi’s is Where Phil turned the page from restaurateur to foodservice retailer and food merchant.  Phil’s experiment was a smashing success. It was and remains consumer interactive, participatory with visceral authenticity recording sales of 17 Million a year at the original store.  Now in NYC Eatley is Eatzi’s on steroids doing close to 60 Million a year in sales. 
Legacy Home Meal Replacement 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 the grocerant niche is the strategic path of choice for non-traditional food retailers, targeted at restaurant customers, profitable and expanding at an ever increasing pace.

Wawa was once considered a convenience store now they view themselves as a restaurant with a focus of serving Fast Casual Food- - To Go.  At Wawa customers are now finding What’s for Breakfast, What’s for Lunch and now what’s for Dinner.  Sheetz once a convenience store now calls themselves a restaurant that sells gas.  Sheetz Made To Order food is a hit with customers.  Sheetz is successful contemporizing legacy C-store products with differentiation, customization and personalization. Consumer like the variety, 24 hour menu serving all day parts - all day long - a wide range of consumer meal and snacking needs.  Sounds and acts like a restaurant doing all the right things.

Rutter’s is another convenience store in transition.  Rutter’s understands the unique balance between palate, price, pleasure and the consumer’s drive for qualitative distinctive differentiated new messaging and Rutter’s is meeting that need set. 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.   Rutter’s is an example of brand identity extending beyond consumer expectations within the traditional conveniences store sector. Too the consumer Rutter’s is a direct valued competitor within the QSR space.

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 equilibrium.   In other words they are not discouraged or intimated by competition from any sector.

They understand that the grocerant niche is a result of the blurring of the 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 “better for you”, portable and portioned for one or two. All of these operators want a larger share of the retail food market.  They want to take share from the restaurants.

During Transformational period’s legacy industries are at times forced to expand at a pace unseen in decades. The grocerant niche is contributing too redefining the retail foodservice experience. The Ready-2-Eat & Heat-N-Eat fresh and prepared food niche is expanding rapidly within the grocery sector. Whole Foods is no longer Whole Paycheck but Whole Fresh Food Fast and consumers find that is “better for you”.
Whole Foods is driving customer frequency while building loyalty with Fresh prepared ready-2-eat and heat-N-eat better for you food. Whole Foods focus is on convenient meal participation, better for you differentiation, and individualization.

Safeway’s has integrated Mix and Match Meal Bundling marketing into daily and weekly iphone app’s and legacy print flyers. With a focus on Fresh Prepared Food, Safeway is leveraging The 5 P’s of Food Marketing: Product, Packaging, Placement, Portability and Price establishing contemporized consumer relevance. In what was once restaurant food space alone grocery stores, C-stores and Drug stores are now garnering consumer attention.

With powerful well Financed companies the ilk of Walgreens entering the fresh food space that is something no food retailer should dismiss as not my competitor.  Walgreens with over 78 Billion in sales they can try and try again. Walgreens might just be the next Next Biggest Competitor in the retail food space.
It must be noted that Walgreen’s all but exited retail food service when they sold their last Wag’s restaurant.  We all must remember at one time Walgreens was a tier one fresh food retail operator / restaurant. Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food runs deep in the legacy of Walgreens.

Walgreens Fresh with Duane Reade have 7,500+ retail outlets.  Who is selling what in your back yard? With Walgreens entering the fresh food area again with meats, wraps, soups "and other on-the-go meal options, as well as convenient alternatives for tonight's family meal, it is clear that the future of fresh food retail leadership may be up in the air.

Food Retailing Never Take 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.   specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche. visit Johnson, or

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Champs Chicken Adds New Breakfast Menu

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru Steven Johnson recently stated “Non-traditional fresh food retainers continue to expand fresh food offerings and Champs Chicken is driving new day-parts and new products meeting growing consumer demand. The Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Grocerant niche continues to drive day-part sales growth and bottom line profits in every retail channel.

With 520 locations in over 28 states Champ Chicken’s new breakfast is building brand value with new products in new day-parts. The Breakfast program “offers quick, easy-to-prepare recipes, including breakfast sandwiches with three different kinds of meats, loaded bowls and burritos, as well as classic biscuits and sausage gravy. Participating retailers will also have the choice to serve a bakeoff biscuit or a prebaked biscuit

Shawn Burcham, CEO and president of Champs Chicken,stated  "All our retailers can easily prepare these breakfast items using their existing equipment, ensuring a quick return on investment,"… "Altogether, this program offers the variety, value and convenience that distinguish us from other QSR locations."
Technomic's  2013 Breakfast Consumer Trend Report found that, “nearly 60% of consumers buy breakfast from a fast-casual restaurant monthly, with breakfast sandwiches being a popular purchase.”  Hand held food for immediate consumption on-going success is something that Champs Chicken is focused on.
Burcham  continued saying  "Champs Chicken has built its reputation on supplying quality products and making retailers profitable,"… "This breakfast program does just that. Retailers can expand their menu and reach more consumers, while still working with the quality and excellence they expect from Champs Chicken."
Success does leave clues and Champs Chicken continues to pick up the clues and execute a proven retail model. Champs Chicken provides non-traditional fresh food retailers a platform for success in the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food grocerant niche.  specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche since 1991

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Pizza Landscape is Evolving Fast

When Tyson Food Inc. announced that it had acquired the assets of Bosco's Pizza Co. as Part Company’s strategy to expand its prepared food business.  Not only did the competitive Pizza sector take notice but so did the Convenience Store sector, Grocery Sector and Chain Drug Store Sector.

Bosco's Pizza, is famous for  "The Original Bosco Stick," makes a variety of consumer favorite including stuffed bread sticks and frozenpizzas for foodservice and retail customers throughout the Midwest and a few retailers nationwide.

Donnie King, Tyson Foods' president of prepared foods, customer and consumer solutions. "Bosco's will be a good addition to our diversified portfolio of quality food offerings…. This is part of our company's strategic plan to grow our domestic prepared foods business”.

For those of you who did not know Tyson Foods is the largest supplier of pepperoni and pizza toppings to the foodservice industry. Tyson Foods markets prepared foods products to retail grocers, foodservice distributors, restaurant operators and on-site foodservice establishments such as schools, universities, corporate cafeterias, hotel chains, healthcare facilities and the military.

Tyson is getting “Better for you”  The Bosco's Pizza plant produces partially baked frozen pizza made with traditional and whole grain crust, reduced-fat cheese Bosco Sticks, pepperoni Bosco Sticks and whole grain apple-filled Bosco Sticks in a variety of sizes and pack options. Tyson will be extending its pizza offerings into Grocery, C-store and other non-traditional fresh food retailers.  specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche since 1991

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Seattle’s Best Coffee and Burger King Team Up for a Free Coffee

There are times that “better for you” food simply means free.  January is the middle of winter and Burger King keeping pace with the industry has rolled out a coffee promotion targeting the AM daypart.  The “better for you” offer is “Buy Any Breakfast Sandwich and Get a FREE Small Seattle’s Best Coffee” .

The objective is simple drive awareness about new and improved coffee offerings at Burger Kings while reinforcing the value of attributes of 100% Arabic smooth roast coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee and simultaneously drive breakfast sales at Burger King.

This Ready-2-Eat fresh prepared offer is a bit of a departure for Burger King which has become known as the menu-copy-cat-king. Teaming with Seattle’s Best Coffee adds differentiation in menu value, while edifying coffee relevance in the QSR niche is has become of paramount importance.

The Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food grocerant niche has created a platform for leveraging brands, products and day-parts for legacy food retailers and at new non-traditional points of fresh food distribution.

Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

7 Eleven Fresh Pizza Pleases Patrons Take-N-Bake or 7 Eleven Bakes

O’ thank heaven 7 Eleven is getting “better for you”.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru has documented the progress that 7 Eleven has made entering the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food space. 
With more than 10,000 stores in North America 7 Eleven is one of the largest Fresh Food retailers. With over 50,000+ units worldwide 7 Eleven has become a new food product testing ground and one of the largest food retailers in the world. 
Entering the “Take and Bake” pizza space selling a large pizza for $5.55 either to take home and customized, personalized, cook or it can be cooked in the store in 90 seconds 7 Eleven is pleasing patrons with fresh pizza that is priced to give competitors headaches.
Better for you is not limited to pizza  recently 7 Eleven introduced its Egg White Breakfast Sandwich, a $1.99 that has Egg White, Canadian bacon, cheddar cheese on a whole wheat English muffin, at 180 calories.
Kelly Buckley, vice president of fresh food innovation at 7-Eleven when speaking on food industry trends said "There's been a major focus on the push for fresh foods,"…. "We know that is an area where we have a competitive advantage. Part of our key differential here is, we have fresh bakery items and cold sandwiches and wraps and cut fruit." Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru agrees stating “in North America 7 Eleven has been growing fresh food sales since 2009 and the focused results are paying garnering respect from consumers and competitors alike.
The Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food space aka the Grocerant niche has been so successful for 7 Eleven that 50+ percent of 7 Elevens new stores do not sell gasoline.  Those stores are fresh food focused.  Many industry restaurant operators discount 7 Eleven as a competitive threat, naively.  However I remind you that 7 Eleven has branded food success as an entity with identity dates back to 1968 with the Slurpee alone.  I bet that there is not a reader of this blog that at one time did not have a Slurpee and enjoy it.
One word of caution do not discount 7 Eleven as a competitive fresh food retail competitor.  Success does leave clue and since 2009 7 Elevens fresh food sales are up 58%.  In North America in 2012 alone 7 eleven opened 1,000 new stores.  How many did your company open?

Foodservice Solutions® specializes the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Fresh Prepared Food niche aka the Grocerant niche.  We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Wegmans in Store Restaurant THE PUB gets New Menu

Going well beyond traditional pub grub The Pub restaurant at Wegmans, in King of Prussia, Pa., will reveal on Jan. 27 an updated menu of fresh salads, sandwiches, composed entrées, and beer, wine and cocktail selections. In addition to the new offerings is the eatery’s most recent collaboration with local brewery Sly Fox, for a German-style malt beer served exclusively at The Pub.

Kathy Haines, director of Wegmans in-store restaurants and Market Cafés  stated “From the start, we’ve created The Pub as a friendly, welcoming place that our guests feel a strong connection with – so when they asked us for more local craft beers, chef-inspired entrées, greater variety of appetizers and more salads and sandwiches, we listened!” … “As always, all of our dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients from the adjacent market, and these new menu adjustments make The Pub better than ever – a place where guests can enjoy a top-notch burger and local craft beer, close to home, any night of the week.”

Channel Blurring No Grocerant Niche Food

At Wegmans you can shop for top quality foods, enjoy a fresh prepared meal that is Ready-2-Eat, or buy fresh prepared Heat-N-Eat meals and meal components.

Look at some of the new menu item offered at ‘The Pub”  “Yuengling Beer-Steamed PEI Mussels with shallot-thyme butter and warm baguette; Cajun Kettle Salad with Bronzed Chicken, with romaine, tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, cornbread croutons and Creole mustard vinaigrette; a Scallop Salad of spring mix greens, sliced pears, sweet pickled red onion, dried cranberries, shaved carrots, pine nut granola and cranberry-orange dressing; and a Pub Cheese Burger -- 8 ounces of beef grilled to order and served with Adams Reserve cheddar, Wegmans thousand island dressing, leaf lettuce and vine-ripened tomato. Entrees now come with complementary sides, and many dishes feature sauces that are also for sale in the store.”  Yes, Ready-2-Eat, or buy fresh prepared Heat-N-Eat meals and meal components.

Don’t Forget Technology

The Pub restaurant inside Wegmans “now accepts reservations over Open Table, and aesthetic improvements to the establishment include curtains for privacy and more comfortable low tables.”

Foodservice Solutions® specializes the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat Fresh Prepared Food niche aka the Grocerant niche.  We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Five Fresh Prepared Food Marketing Tips

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  Visit or Johnson, or

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Shoney's When the Customers Move it’s Time to Move. Move with them.

Industry complacency, brand stagnation, nor a quagmire of economic uncertainty can slow Shoney’s from the Family Dinning sector leadership role.  David Davoudpour CEO of Shoney’s understand that the consumer is dynamic not static.  Under Davoudpour’s leadership Shoney’s is going to be dynamic as well.
Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru presentations all include a focus on restaurant customer migration while highlighting the growth of Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.  This week Shoney’s unveil its latest prototype it was the family-dining chain’s first restaurant located in a mall and its first to feature a full bar and attached Shoney’s On The Go quick-service dining option.
Consumers have been migrating to new non-traditional points of fresh food distribution in ever increasing numbers the past 7 years a and Shoney’s wants to garner some of those customers. 
Shoney’s On The Go could become a  brand by itself. At the new Georgia prototype “On The Go”It’s separate. It’s next to the store. In this case it is an accompaniment to a big-box Shoney’s.  Davoudpour explained that it was intended to be a complement to the big box. They do have one other one in North Georgia, but this is the first one next to big-box Shoney’s. The other one is a test location.
Consumers are going to notice the quality and the freshness of the food. Davoudpour  thinks frozen food is going the way of the past for this brand. Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to drive top line sales and bottom line profits in ever sector of retail foodservice.
Shoney's “On The Go" is a dynamic positive stem and Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru agrees with Davoudpour when he said “The stories you hear about Shoney’s aren’t myths. This brand was the premier family casual dining concept in the world. And this opening represents another step towards returning Shoney’s to its glory days.”
 Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Chain Restaurant Quagmire Customer Migration

The restaurant industry entered an era in 2013 where customer counts were down and industry same store sales slipped according to Black Box Intelligence. Where recycled CEO’s simply did not get the job done.  Is it time for Outside Eye’s or simply a Non-Boomer CEO?   The restaurant industry appears to be lacking innovation of late and consumers are migrating to Non-traditional avenues of fresh food distribution.

So it’s time to ask is your company thinking like a legacy boomer CEO holding on to what worked in 1980, 1990, or 2000?  Are you still utilizing benchmarks from 2000 or 2005?  At the intersection of consumers, technology, Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared is new innovation:  new avenues of distribution and filled with consumers with the psychological mindset of today not 2005.

Is your restaurant business model expanding both brand and profits gaining customers counts and top line revenue? Some restaurant business models and products have been around so long that we just take them for granted, while others concepts that are becoming new business models are so new that we’re not quite sure what to expect. The easiest to explain why is important by looking at a few examples.

Here are some examples we came across that involve challenging our orthodoxies that we think you might want to think about.

1. Coffee Shops In the typical coffee shop pretty much anywhere in the world, the business model works like this – you buy a coffee and it comes along with it the right to take up a place at any table in the café for as long as you want. So, coffee buys you time. An article I came across on NPR highlights an entrepreneur in Moscow that has opened a restaurant that loosely translates to the Clockface Café where instead of buying coffee and getting time, you instead buy time ($4/hr per person for the 1st hour and $2 an hour after that, up to a maximum of $12 after 5 hours) and get coffee for free. Ivan Meetin, the founder, plans to open his next café in London. Meanwhile I have heard of similar operations in Paris, and by now they can probably also be found elsewhere. So, in your business what do people get for free, and what do they pay for? And is there an opportunity to change around what you charge for?

2. Waste Disposal In many businesses, and in the creation of most products, there is waste. And in most cases, businesses pay to have this waste removed from their premises. Or there may be waste that the customer has to pay to have removed. But this doesn’t always have to be the case.
KFC, McDonald’s, Burger King, etc. used to have to pay to have their used fryer oil picked up, but now thanks to the rise of biodiesel they may even make money from this waste product.
Chicken processors used to throw the feet away after processing a truckload of chickens, but after they discovered that chicken feet are a delicacy in several Asian countries, they stopped throwing them away and instead started exporting them. In fact, chicken feet sell for more per pound than chicken breasts in China.
Broken OREO’s used to have no value before Cookies ‘n’ Cream ice cream (and now Cookies ‘n’ Cream OREO’s) were discovered.

We came across an example of a bottle cap concept created by designers from the Lanzhou University of Technology in China, intended to give poor children access to building blocks for play, from what was previously thrown away.

3. Discounts for Data Data security and privacy is becoming an increasingly hot topic, and in the past companies would either ask customers for their data and not give them anything for it, or just not ask for it. But now we are seeing some interesting models of companies asking customers for data and instead giving them something of value in exchange. For example, Urban Outfitters rewards users that respond to promotions inside their mobile app or to users that allow its app to connect to their Twitter or Instagram accounts with points that can be redeemed for sale previews, concert tickets, or early access to new pieces. What data do you want from your customers? What is it worth to you? How could this exchange be made engaging and not be seen as a purely financial transaction?

4. The Soft Drink Category is Saturated and Cold Soft drinks… How many people out there think that the soft drink category is a blue ocean full of incredible opportunities for unbounded growth for established soft drink makers? Most people would say that this is a mature category and a tough place for companies, full of merciless competition. But yet, people continue to innovate and challenge this orthodoxy. Witness a couple of interesting new concepts.

Britain has always been a hotbed of innovation, and the country that brought us Pret a Manger and Innocent smoothies brings us this tasty treat. Mr. Sherick’s Shakes brings people a little bit of luxury to their day in the form of their high quality milkshakes.

Meanwhile in Japan, there is a growing trend manifesting in a wave of product launches in the soft drink category that are not cold, but instead hot. Witness this example of what has always been a cold drink, Ginger Ale, being brought into the Japanese market as a hot beverage by Coca Cola’s Canada Dry unit.
People always love something new and different, even if it is something old that has disappeared from the market. This is why fashion runs in cycles, and in a mature category like soft drinks there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep these principles in mind and see if now is the time to bring something back, or to see if there is an orthodoxy that we shouldn’t now look at challenging to see if an opportunity might not be created. Is it time you bring in Outside Eye’s?   specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson, or

Much of the content of today's blog was shared with me by Harry Roberts

Friday, January 17, 2014

Food for Take-Away, To-Go, and Delivery is easier than Cooking.

Cooking from scratch is fun if you have the time and like doing dishes. The problem is very few people either have the time to cook from scratch or want to wash dishes after any meal let alone dinner after a long day at work.

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru stated  “The reasons for the continued growth of the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food aka the Grocerant niche are many.  However not are as important as time and cleaning-up after  continued research finds.

Recently Technomic reported that today Takeout is commonplace  “more than half (51 percent) report doing so at least once a week. When consumers think of takeout, fast food usually comes to mind. However, with the exception of fast-food concepts, prepared foods from grocery stores are utilized more often for takeout than any other segment.” Below is an Infographic from the Technomic press release.

Technomic recently published its Takeout & Off-Premise Dining Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

Takeout consumers expect consistency and look for takeout fare to match dine-in occasions; out of all traffic drivers measured, including freshness, temperature and portion size, consumers say it is most important for takeout and dine-in food to taste the same (68 percent).

More than half of consumers (56 percent) say a convenient location is one of the most important factors in deciding where to purchase takeout; 48 percent report that quick food preparation is an important consideration in this decision.

Call-ahead services are vital; 69 percent of limited-service takeout customers and 61 percent of full-service takeout consumers say they would likely use call-ahead ordering if it was offered.  For more on this report you can contact Technomic at:

Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Convenience Stores Bundling Mix and Match Meal Options Drives Foodservice Sales

Sheetz formerly a C-store now a “convenient restaurant” and Wawa once a C-store now a “fast casual To-Go” outlet have grown same store sales focusing on selling fresh food meal components customers can mix and match into a personalized or customized family meals.

So when The NPD Group reported, approximately 70 percent of consumers won't try new menu items, in a new report, Menu Item Trial: Motivating First-Time and Repeat Orders. Convenience store operators were not surprised. Their success has come from bundling consumer favorites, offering an extended set of fresh prepared food product offerings that restaurants simply can’t compete with today.

NPD also reported that of consumers 30 percent are "early adopters," of new menu items and only “17 percent will order a brand-new item and 10 percent will try a limited-time offer item.”  Having many more items in both the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared category provides a platform for trial and flavor profile innovation.

Bonnie Riggs, NPD's restaurant analyst stated  "In addition, stimulating menu-item trial and delivering a satisfying experience should lead to repeat visits and sustained customer loyalty."

The convenience sector has been stimulating menu-item trail and innovation in multiple categories of Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh at an ever increasing rate. That innovation has proven successful as the conveniences sector continues to increase Same Store Sales at a rate much higher than the restaurant sector.   specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson, or

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Chain Restaurants Competition They did not see Coming

Wonder why restaurant sales were down last year? Non-traditional food retailers found fresh food success. 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.

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.  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 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. For product or brand positioning assistance contact via:, the Grocerant LinkedIn page or on Facebook at Steven Johnson, BING / GOOGLE: Steven Johnson Grocerants or Grocerant on Twitter

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ready-2-Eat Home-style Fresh Food Success Up-Market and Coast to Coast

Walgreens acquisition of Duane Reade was a fresh re-start in New York City for the drug store leader. Today, Duane Reade is providing the innovation platform for the ever expanding Up-Market new footprint retail stores Walgreens is opening from Los Angles to Boston. 
Michelle Carnagio, Duane Reade’s perishables category specialist, talking about pharmacy’s customers “We’re bringing them in for the food and we’re keeping them there for the drugstore,”
Duane Reade today offers fresh foods at 56 of its 250 New York stores.  They have now opened a second “up market” concept in Manhattan with “home-style ready-to-eat prepared foods.”
The up-market stores have trained foodservice employees staffing chopped salad stations, a sushi bar, frozen yogurt machines, fresh bakery items and warm soups station.  
Carnagio when speaking with Supermarket news “We have some side dishes like mashed potatoes, a 1-pound container of mashed potatoes, that the ingredients in them are mashed potatoes, milk or cream, butter and a little bit of salt,” …“It’s like what you would make at home. So we’re offering customers an option — when they’re out and about in their work day— of convenience, but better than homemade because we made it.”
Walgreens via Duane Reade incorporates consumer relevance watching New York restaurant trends and incorporates them into prepared foods — including its sandwiches, soups, appetizers and sides including a new gourmet mac-and-cheese offering.  The retailer’s focus on fresh and premium ingredients extends even to grab-and-go sandwiches, which are made with artisan bread.
Success does leave clues and Walgreens Up-Market stores from Los Angles to Boston are finding it utilizing local sourced, fresh food and expanding the complement of offerings consumers can count on from Walgreens. Serving Mix and Match Meal component options that are fresh prepared is a hallmark of Grocerant niche success.  specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche since 1991

Monday, January 13, 2014

Restaurant Sales Are Down. Will your Restaurant Become the next Red Lobster or Ruby Tuesday?

Restaurant customer migration continues. Where is your customer eating today? Will they be back next week, next month, or next year?

Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K, parent company of Black Box Intelligence and People Report stated in Nation’s Restaurant News that “On an aggregate level, 2013 was not a good year for the industry, which posted slightly negative same-store sales, but more importantly suffered through its third consecutive year of deteriorating same-store traffic growth,”

Restaurant customers are not eating any less.  They simply are eating fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat food from other non-traditional fresh food retailers. In fact Casey’s General Stores fresh prepared food drive an 11% increase in sales at the 1,678 unit chain.  So successful has Casey’s been they are now testing a stand-alone pizza restaurant.
Fernandez also found that “Annual same-store sales for 2013 fell 0.1 percent, a 1.0-percent drop from 2012, and the first time since 2010 that Black Box Intelligence’s index has resulted in negative same-store sales for the year.”  Is your restaurant brand practicing brand protectionism of the 1980’s, 1990’s that worked so well back then?
Whole Foods once had a unwanted moniker “Whole Pay Check” given by customer that though the food was over priced.  Not any more.  Today, Whole Foods is known for Fresh Prepared Reasy-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat “better for you” food.  Today, new Whole Foods locations are about 30% smaller in size and sell 35+% of all sales of Fresh Prepared Ready-2-Eat food. If your customer is asking at 4PM What’s for Dinner?  The answer most likely is I’ll find it at a non-traditional fresh food outlet.
Are you still running template LTO’s based on consumer trends of 1990? Are your simply waiting for your customer to come back?  Well watch out.  Walgreens is not waiting, the new Up-Market stores they now sell fresh prepared sandwiches, sales, sushi, and beverages? Are you ready for an integrated contemporized grocerant assessment? Or are you simply waiting for perfect weather, returning customers and harking back the golden era of the restaurant industry?
Have you heard of Wawa?  Once a C-store chain they now describe themselves as Fast Casual TO-GO. This new Fast Casual TO-Go company is currently investing $550 Million in new units in Florida.  Who is your next and best funded competitor?  How do you plan to compete? Where are your sales and customer counts headed?

Visit:  if you are 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  or learn more at Johnson, or

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Foodservice Success Booming in the Grocerant Niche

Foodservice Solutions®  Grocerant Guru says this "Grocerant means any retail food item that is ready-2-eat or Heat-N-Eat and prepared fresh. The word Grocerant is a result of the blurring of the line between restaurants and grocery stores.
In reality a grocerant is where a consumer can find fresh prepared food aimed at the time-starved consumer with Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals or meal components that can be bundled into a meal and or packaged for Take-Out, Take-Away, or To-Go.
Today, grocerant meals and meal components are found in liquor stores, drug-stores (Walgreens), fast food restaurants, fast casual restaurants, full-service restaurants, and restaurants inside grocery stores, in legacy “deli” departments, furniture stores (Ikea), club stores (Costco) and clothing stores from Tommy Bahama, Macy’s, and Nordstrom’s.  
 When the  Grocerant Guru say’s retailer, it is broadly defining supermarkets, mass drug merchants, C-Stores (convenience stores), Furniture stores, Club Stores, Clothing retailers and fast food , fast casual restaurants and full service restaurants selling fresh prepared food, and restaurant meals and meal components sold TO-GO or delivery.
What is Driving the Grocerant Trend
Its 4 PM: your customers are just beginning to think about what's for dinner. 81% of American consumers are unsure about what's for dinner. Time Starved Consumers are looking for high quality ready to eat foods and ready to heat meals. Today's time starved consumer wants to purchase meal components that they can bundle into a customized family meal that will please everyone without spending time cooking.

Most consumers may traditionally think these items can be or are found in grocery stores in the deli / lifestyle section, C-stores in the prepared food area and prepackaged, ready to eat items and in restaurants under the To-go, takeout or take away or delivery section of the menu or on the website. The retail industry has expanded and is evolving to keep up with the demands of consumers desire to save time, improve quality, increase family flavor profile, while enabling personalization and family meal customization.
Examples of Grocerants
Restaurant examples are McDonalds, Pret A Manger Burger King, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy's and Starbucks, each having a fresh Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. In the Casual Dining sector Maggiano's Little Italy offers a buy one take a 2nd home for free in their Classic Pastas menu section, Olive Garden, Chili’s, Boston Market and Denny’s.  That is to name but a few.

Drug Store examples Walgreens as a food destination yet Walgreens sells fresh soft-serve yogurt, coffee, sandwiches, salads  and sushi at selected stores, so they are technically grocerants.

Convenience Store examples are 7 Eleven, Wawa, Sheetz, Sheetz, and QuickChek, all of which sell fresh and prepared sandwiches, salads, beverages.

Clothing Stores Tommy Bahama, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Brooks Brothers all have or are planning restaurants selling fresh prepared food in-store. Fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food is garnering consumer favor in this sector.  Expect to find more and more clothing retailers entering the grocerant niche.

Furniture Stores & Liquor Store example Ikea sells over $ 2 Billion a year in Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food in its stores (mostly meatballs-mash potatoes), Pinkies in San Angelo, Texas this past holiday season even offered complete fresh prepared full Turkey Dinners will all of the traditional side orders.  All of the fresh  prepared food is prepared on site and sold To-Go. 
Supermarket examples are Whole Foods, Trader-Joes, Central Market, and Wegmans sell fresh prepared chicken, salads, sandwiches and most offer sushi and beverages. Many are now opening in-store restaurants including fast food, full service sit down and bars all offer fresh prepared To-Go as well.
The retail supermarket and convenience store sector have unique grocerant challenges. Presentation of the Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is important. When you get a meal at a restaurant, the plate and the food look great… let's call this "food for now". Many legacy retailers are primarily selling "food for later" or take-out and unless an item is a sandwich, the looks of Ready-2-Eat meals and snacks begin to change.
Why is it so hard to package food to go? In the Hot food section of the grocery store the food in most cases does not look appealing so our expectations drop when we get it for Take-Away. That may be one reason that many grocery stores are continue to open restaurants or “food courts” selling made to order fresh sandwiches or Chinese take-out.  In convenience stores like Wawa, the Ready-2-Eat food looks great in the To-Go containers. Why? Because Wawa puts the entire consumer food package together. They exert more control on the look and feel of "food for later".
Around the world we are now seeing sections in department's stores and kiosk in malls in Europe and Asia and airports around the world. The items can range from entrees to side items and deserts. Some examples of items range from fried chicken, mash potatoes, cream spinach, to liver and onions, pizza, hot dogs, steak, prime rib, various casseroles (hot-dish) to salads, side salads pie, cake and any single proportioned deserts. They can be picked up at the specific unit, or delivered.

Visit:  if you are 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 or you can learn more at Johnson, or