Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hello Grocerants

Harkin back during the late Home Meal Replacement frenzy when grocery stores, C-stores, and restaurants all studied with excitement the successful developments fabulous sales at Phil Romano's Eatzi's. Growing once again Eatzi's is where Phil turned the page from restaurateur too foodservice retailer, food merchant extraordinaire.  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 Eatlaly is Eatzi's on steroids doing close to 60 Million a year in sales.

The 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, it is profitable, and expanding at an ever increasing pace.
 Grocerant Meal Components Drive Retail Customer Adoption
Wawa was once considered a convenience store.  Today Wawa positions it's brand as Fresh First, Built-ToOrder and Ready-To-Go with 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. Wawa excels at offering consumer meal components that can be bundled into the perfect family mix and match family meal according to our own Grocerant Guru®.

Sheetz once a convenience store as well 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 Sheetz variety including a 24 hour menu serving all day parts - all day long with a wide range of consumer meal and snacking needs. Sounds and acts like a restaurant doing all the right things.

Rutter's Farm Stores 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.
Grocerants Today Drive Incremental Experimentation
Foodservice Solutions® identified, quantified, qualified, and coined the term Grocerant back in 1996 and was the first to have the term published in NRN and Foodservice Director in 1996. 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.
Whole Foods is no longer Whole Paycheck.  Whole Foods 365 can be fresh food fast but they lost a bit of their focus in development yet it is still deemed "better for you" by consumers. They are 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 Foodservice Solutions® FIVE 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.
Duane Reade, Bartell Drugs, and Rite Aid Disruptive Food Force
Is Walgreens Duane Reade  the next Big Competitor in the retail fresh food space? Walgreens Fresh with Duane Reade has over 8,175 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 grab-N—go meal component 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.

Bartell Drugs and Rite Aid are both offering more and more fresh prepared food options for consumers. From coast to coast increasing the drug store sector is adding fresh food options in the form of meal component options faster than any other sector except many the Dollar Store sector.
Food Retailers Stepping Up
Food Retailing never takes a step backward according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson.  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. Remember, when it is 4pm, do you know what your customers want to make for dinner ?

Steven Johnson is the 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 global leader in the Grocerant niche for more on Steven Johnson and Foodservice Solutions® visit The Grocerant on LinkedIn or @Grocerant on Twitter

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Starbucks Tantalize Tales of Technology Success

I don’t believe that anyone who reads this blog on a regular basics thinks running a chain of restaurants today is easy.  Simply executing operational excellence by serving hot food hot and cold food cold at times is more work than many of us ever signed up for.

Restaurants and all retailers today must not only do the operational basics well they have to figure out how to integrate technology into an existing system so as to edify the system and elevate the customer experience simultaneously.

With incremental success comes the unintended consequence of that success.  In the case of Starbucks the fact is technology mobile ordering has created incremental congestion in the stores. (OK, so you wish you had that problem) Now Starbucks is developing new strategies to help combat congestion at stores caused by its mobile order-ahead service.

The company, which met expectations for its quarterly earnings report this week, provided an update about the issues around Mobile Order & Pay (MOP), a program that lets customers order with their smartphone via Starbucks’ app and skip the line.

The problem, as Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz detailed on the company’s earnings call in January, is that the increasing number of MOP orders creates congestion inside stores for mobile order-ahead customers trying to pick up their coffee and food at hand-off stations. This not only affects customers who are picking up items, but also potential customers who may notice the in-store traffic and end up not purchasing anything.

Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson, stated “Starbucks is implementing “three waves” of improvements to reduce in-store congestion caused by MOP. The first, which he said is largely completed, includes additional training and reallocation of employee roles, as well additional labor at peak hours in select stores. Johnson said this has resulted in higher customer service feedback and increased peak transactions.

The second wave, Johnson said, is related to a new “Digital Order Manager,” or DOM, a tablet-based device that gives baristas at the company’s busiest stores visibility on all incoming MOP orders, as well as those coming from drive-thru and the cafe. “It enables better tracking and real-time order production management,” Johnson noted.

Finally, the third wave is about how Starbucks is designing new stores and renovating existing ones with a focus on store layout that provides ways to increase throughput. Starbucks is driving customer relevance with technology.  Technology can drive customer adoption and incremental customer relevance.  Do you have to many customers?

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? Email us at: or visit: for more information.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Au Bon Pain Technology Drives Sales

Online ordering at Au Bon Pain is nothing new as regular readers of this blog know.  Au Bon Pain catering sales too Boston area insurance companies and law firms alone for over the last 18 years has exceed $ 6,000,000.00 per year according to our own Grocerant Guru®.

Au Bon is set to utilize technology to put the ‘fast’ in fast-casual, Au Bon Pain announced the launch of ABP Pickup which is a new service for customers to save time and skip the line.

ABP Pickup is available via the new Au Bon Pain mobile app and at, ‘ABP Pickup allows guests to place their order when they have a few free minutes, select a convenient pick-up time at their preferred Au Bon Pain location, pay ahead, and skip the line when they pick up in cafĂ©. Once registered, customers can save their orders, easily choosing favorites when it is most convenient, making it perfect for skipping the line during the morning coffee rush hour or grabbing lunch on-the-go between meetings.”

Ray Blanchette, president and CEO, Au Bon Pain stated “With ABP Pickup, guests will have more time to get on with the busy day ahead with a full and happy stomach”…. “We put our time into creating quality, delicious food, but want to give our guests an efficient dining experience. We are proud to introduce this new service to better help our customers, no matter what their schedules may look like.”

ABP Pickup is currently being rolled out in Massachusetts locations and will continue to become available across Au Bon Pain regions between now and May 25, 2017. ABP Pickup is available with the Au Bon Pain mobile app available on the App Store and Google Play.

Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a new menu product segment and brand and menu integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit Johnson, or

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Chain Restaurants it’s Time to Up-date your Brand Promise

Why is it that so many chain restaurant brand managers continue to tout the value of their brand promise and when you read their brand promise it is the same brand promise that they had 5 years ago, 10 years ago and in some cases 15 years ago?  Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson believes that the consumer is dynamic not static and when the customer moves retailers must move with them.  

Regular readers of this blog know that restaurants have’ become fully woven’ into the fabric of our daily lives and retailers want their brands increase in value with the consumer over time as well.  Restaurant brand protectionism is dead according to the team at  

Restaurants need to speed up innovation, because what’s innovative now will be an expectation not too far down the line. Even Tim Ryan, president of the Culinary Institute of America recently when speaking about the restaurant sector stated “You’re not going fast enough… In what area will restaurants need to hit the gas next? The customer experience, Ryan predicts. The challenge, he said, will be finding ways to surprise and delight when diners today have so many options.”

Gail Seanor, senior director of marketing technology for TGI Fridays  understands that customer relevant data points can help retailers keep up with consumers.  Restaurants must evolve with innovative insights utilizing outside customer focused data points at times to find where undercurrents of customer migration are pointing too.  In shot retailers need to find a way to tease what Seanor calls the “next best option,” not what they’ve already purchased.

Seanor has a great example: “If someone buys a sleeping bag, they shouldn’t be shown more ads on sleeping bags, but instead should be shown a tent. Right now, even the more advanced brands are still trying to resell the sleeping bag.

Steven Johnson the Grocerant Guru® at Foodservice Solutions® repeatedly pontificates that consumers don’t think in silo’s when they think about dinner, lunch, or breakfast.  In fact consumers today buy meal components from multiple channels for one meal.  NPD found that 40% of consumers now buy grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals from grocery stores. 

Ready-2-Eat fresh prepared food was once the mainstay of the chain restaurant business and it still is.  However other retailers have found a way to garner that business and increasingly finding a better way to fill the customer need set of a fresh fast meal than many restaurants have.  Thus customers are migrating to new and evolving avenues of distribution.  Are you still trying to resell that sleeping bag? 

Are you trapped doing what you have always done and doing it the same way?  Interested in learning how can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit: for more information.