Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Brand-less Restaurants Maple and Sprig Fail Fast

The trade media called both, Maple and Sprig virtual restaurants or ghost restaurants.  They were restaurant delivery service that were simply brand-less ideations concocted to drive retail restaurant meal delivery sales for less according to Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson.  
A restaurant brand is a unique flavor design, a signature product, a collection of identifiable menu items, a building and motif that codifies the menu, or a combination of these, employed in creating a image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors.  Over time that collection of consumer associations and perceptions creates a level of credibility, quality, consumer acceptance that drive adoption; elevating the name, menu, products, and building into a valued band according to Johnson.
In the case of both Maple and Sprig building the brand never occurred. Yes, they pontificated on their ideation, industry meal solution, and business benefits but for forgot to build a brand that consumers could rally around.
Sprig CEO Gagan Biyani stated via Email that Sprig “ceased operations today because the model doesn’t work…The demand for Sprig’s convenient, high-quality food was always incredibly high, but the complexity of owning meal production through delivery at scale was a challenge”.
Maple on the other hand simply never understood restaurant branding or how to build a grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared brand according to our own Grocerant Guru®.  Here look how Maple described their own closing:

“We built a brand that struck a chord with our customers and developed hundreds of menu items, allowing us to serve millions of meals to supportive and loyal customers such as yourself. We built some truly exceptional software, allowing us not only to collect, bundle and route orders with unprecedented throughput, but to drive efficiency at every step of our process—from ingredient sourcing, all the way through delivery completion (resulting in over a million miles logged by our delivery team members). Serving thousands of meals daily across Manhattan is no small operational feat, and our team orchestrated this dance with a grace that is rare in the face of such unrelenting expectations.”

Where to start simply put hundreds of meals is not an identity. Maple like Sprig never took the time to understand retail foodservice branding.  I give them both credit for blocking, tackling, and paving the way for others that will surly follow as the business ideation was great, the business positioning was great, the rollout lacked foodservice strategy. 

The rollout of both Sprig and Maple was filled with textbook business tactics and technology that were singularly excellent and that will over time create a platform of success that other will build on. However without a brand identity there can be no successful strategy according to the team at Foodservice Solutions®. 

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Will Technology Replace the Drive Thru?

Consumers continue to migrate to complexity free foodservice increasingly it is technology that is driving that migration from traditional avenues of fresh to distribution to new avenues of food distribution and chief among them is Delivery and Pick-Up services according to Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson.

Foodservice Solutions® team asked consumers during Grocerant ScoreCard visits What’s for Dinner  and  found at 11:00 AM 82.6% of respondents don’t know What’s for dinner and at 4:00 PM 68.7% still don’t know What’s for dinner. When you don’t know What’s for Dinner consumers today are turning to technology more and more and the drive thru less and less accruing to Johnson. Let’s look at facts:

1.       Americans’ interest in driving has declined over the years. In 1983, 87% of 18-year-olds had driver’s licenses; more than 30 years later, that percentage has dropped to 69% (Nielsen)
2.       U.S. retail trips are down more than 1 million since 2012 15.8 billion last year, vs. 17.6 billion in 2012 (Nielsen Homescan)
3.       Since 2008, chain restaurants have experienced -14.8 percent same-store traffic growth (Black Box Intelligence)
4.       82 percent of meals are now consumed at home (NPD Group)
5.       75 percent of respondents to an NPD group survey said they are eating out less, with many citing prices as a reason.
6.       Meal Kit services have become Training Wheels for Millennials companies the ilk of Hello Fresh, Blue Apron, Plated (Foodservice Solutions) and are expected to increase tenfold in the next five years.
8.       In 2019, Americans are expected to spend over $12.5 billion on delivery food
9.       Online ordering is expected by more than double to 58 percent over the next three years

Consumers today have an increased desire to save time, save money, and reduce the complexities of daily life according to our own Grocerant Guru®. The Grocerant niche filled with Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is garnering the attention of consumers according the team at Foodservice Solutions®. 

Fresh prepared food is the fastest growing sector of every sector of foodservice including at Dollar Stores, C-stores, Grocery Stores, and Restaurant Pick-Up, Drive-Thru, and Delivery.  Is your retail operations evolving, growing year or very customer counts, driving top line sales, and bottom line profits?

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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Restaurant Customer Counts Fall in a Battle for Battle for Share of Stomach

Consumer momentum is unrestrained in the Battler for Share of Stomach. Chain Restaurants have been particularly hit hard with falling customer counts according to the latest MillerPluse report and reported at  Consumers are looking for solutions and looking at the last minute for those solutions.

In fact our own Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson asked consumers during Grocerant ScoreCard visits What’s for Dinner  and he found at 11:00 AM 82.6% of respondents don’t know What’s for dinner and at 4:00 PM 68.7% still don’t know What’s for dinner.

Restaurants need to continue to find ways to up their game in fresh prepared pick-up, delivery, and takeout in order to drive both trip frequency and incremental customer migration. This means finding ways to draw shoppers Online, Mobile, when the consumer is considering What’s for Lunch or What’s for Dinner.
The team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® has conducted over 7,120 Grocerant ScoreCards and has tracked customer migration and compiled so the success clues needed to win in the race for a larger share of stomach for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.  Here they are:

1. The seasonal menu ideations draw the highest shopper interest.
2. Speed of service making dinner is all about time and reducing the time to cook.
3. Offer a complete meal bundled appetizers, salads, entrée, and desert.
4. The empower choice offering multiple entrees as one size does not fit all.
5. Freshly prepared Ready-2-Eat are  first on the list of wants.
6. Freshly prepared Heat-and-Eat solutions are second list of consumer solutions.
Here is where Foodservice Solutions® team has seen a real advantage for chain restaurants in the packaging of both the Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared options with 88% of respondents preferring restaurant meals over Grocery (service Deli) or Convenience store meals for Takeout.  Fresh prepared is offered many ways, and the study tested consumer interest for each solution type.
Coming in second were meal kits from companies the ilk of Blue Apron, Plated, or HelloFresh, again consumers cited packaging and menu options as key drivers. The one weakness noted with meal kits was the fact that they did not offer desert.
Convenience store fresh prepared food sales are up 14.7 % last year and grocery service deli sales are increasing at near 7%.  Our Grocerant ScoreCards indicate that increasingly consumers are rating both grocery store Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat as well as Convenience store meals as ‘restaurant’ quality.  As their packaging, meal bundling, and seasonal menu offerings improve so will their sales.  The a continued conundrum for the restaurant sector.  

Success does leave clues  understand that conundrum and how to correct declining customer counts.  We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities.  Has your company had a Grocerant ScoreCard completed, Grocerant Program Assessment, or new Grocerant niche product Ideation?  Want one?  Call 253-759-7869 Email:

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Maple Leaf Market ‘Better-for-You’ Grab-N-Go

Regular readers this blog know that the ‘halo’ of ‘better-for-you’ continues to drive foodservice customer adoption.  The team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® has documented companies the ilk of Everytable, Green Zebra Grocery and others as they expand the grocerant niche filled with ‘better-for-you’ fresh prepared food.  Today you can add Maple Leaf Market to that list.  
Maple Leaf Market  is one of the ‘Next-generation’ of chain retailers that are targeting grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-n-Eat fresh prepared food that healthier, fresher, faster than most existing retailers.  Central New York-based Oneida Nation plans to introduce Maple Leaf Market, its it is a convenience store brand that focuses on fresh, made-to-order food. Maple Leaf  will emphasize healthier grab-and-go meal and snack offerings made with fresh ingredients and freshly brewed gourmet coffee.
Currently the plans call for five Maple Leaf Market locations within the next two to three years with construction on the first store, is set to begin this month (May 2017) with a grand opening planned for the fall.
Ray Halbritter, Oneida Nation representative and Oneida Nation Enterprises CEO  stated "We are constantly evolving our businesses as the needs and lifestyles of our guests change,"…"Combining a convenient one-stop-shop experience with fresh made-to-order food, Maple Leaf Market will fulfill the needs for our always-on-the-go guests moving forward."
Leveraging success Maple Leaf Market's menu of fresh sandwiches, soups, salads, pastas and more will be developed by the culinary team from the Nation's Turning Stone Resort Casino. Snacks will include fresh-cut fruits and vegetables with freshly brewed gourmet coffee.  Yet there is more Maple Leaf Market will offer grocery and essential items, competitively priced gasoline, and a variety of imported and domestic beers.

Is your retail brand Looking A Customer AheadInvite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant Program Assessment, Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991  of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Is Grocery Store Grocerant Takeout the New Fast Casual?

Foodservice retailers understand the universal undercurrents driving the fast evolving food customer migration.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®, Steven Johnson identified, quantified, and qualified the 10 ten undercurrents and here are the top three:

1.       Desire for expanded exposure to flavor via new international flavor profiles and a lack of a cooking skill-set to prepare those meals.
2.       Consumers are increasingly strapped for time and have opted not t eat inside restaurants as much as they once did.
3.       Today casual-dining chains have evolved to the point that takeout is the only traffic in that business that’s growing.

On the flip side grocery store fresh prepared food from the service deli and deli sections has enjoyed great growth.  For many consumers grocery stores delis have becoming What’s For Dinner food destination of choice.  The ability to find complete Ready-2-Eat and or Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared meals and meal components has created a platform that consumers are finding increasing inviting.
Grocery Stores have the upper hand here according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® and they have the experience, desire, and product mix to leverage for the all-important mix and match meal bundling that consumers have come to rely upon to serve the ‘perfect family meal.
In fact in the Food Marketing Institute’s  “Power of Fresh Prepared/Deli 2017” report found that ”Freshly prepared heat-and-eat solutions” top list of  consumer solution types with “Prepackaged but freshly cooked items that can be reheated easily draw the greatest interest at 38 percent”.  That is the restaurant fast casual conundrum.

What’s your conundrum? 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, May 26, 2017

Doc Popcorn Throws a Strike in Atlanta

Talk about a hot concept that is expanding with customer relevance let’s talk Doc Popcorn, the world’s largest popcorn franchise retailer.  Doc Popcorn opened its first location in a Major League Baseball stadium, the Atlanta Braves’ SunTrust Park.  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® stated “high foot traffic and a small footprint are a perfect balance to drive top line sales and bottom line profits.”

Jared Downs and Rudy Cook Doc Popcorn franchisees via of Innovative Concessions Enterprises, LLC, opened the new location just inside the main entrance from The Battery Atlanta. Cook started the company in 1989 as a frozen lemonade slush manufacturer.

Cook and Downs have expanded their concessions business to 3,200 accounts, 400—500 special event sales like PGA Tour Events and NASCAR Series races, distribution and retail. Downs joined the business in 1998 and helped lead the first franchised distribution arm for Dippin’ Dots, innovator and market leader of flash-frozen ice cream.

We are talking success here with hand held food for immediate consumption both Cook and Downs understand the growth in the niche and how to garner a larger share of stomach focusing on customer migration trends, and food consumption trends. 

Fine-Food Fast food the pair owns three Dippin’ Dots mall locations, one Doc Popcorn mall location, and six Dippin’ Dots kiosks within SunTrust Park. They previously owned Dippin’ Dots locations in the former Braves stadium.

Cook stated  “SunTrust Park’s foodservice management was excited to introduce Doc Popcorn and see what the product could do for the ballpark’s popcorn sales. We’re thrilled to bring this gourmet popcorn to fans at the stadium, and we can’t think of a better way to spread smiles than with the delicious aroma of Doc Popcorn’s fresh popped flavors popping as guests walk in,” … “We offer a more unique popcorn experience than the typical concession stand popcorn, so we knew we had to get it into the Park and let guests decide for themselves. Given the favorable response, we envision adding more locations in SunTrust Park in the near future.”

Doc Popcorn is a better-for-you snack option in the minds-eye of the consumer. The halo of ‘better-for-you’ Ready-2-Eat fresh prepared food can be found nearly anywhere in the US.  Where are you selling your fresh food?

Success does leave clues  is the global leader in grocerant niche business development.  We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities.  Has your company had a Grocerant ScoreCard completed, Grocerant Program Assessment, or new Grocerant niche product Ideation?  Want one?  Call 253-759-7869 Email:

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grocerant Fresh Food Growth Drives Disruption

Consumer migration from legacy CPG products, legacy grocery stores, filling the pantry has hit an ebb and the preference for Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is now leading according to Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®, Steven Johnson.
The undercurrent foodservice battle brewing is one for Share-of-Stomach as the lines between Restaurants, Convenience stores, Grocery stores, meal component channels grow ever thinner and the battle for top-of-mind intensifies.
Meal Kit’s, Meal Delivery, Restaurant Advance ordering Pick-Up stations, Food-trucks, and Kiosk at farmer’s markets are all full of customer relevance, authenticity  expanding consumers’ options for buying food away-from-home
Last year (2016) foodservice Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food generated more than half of food industry sales, exceeding grocery by 1.2%, according Acosta. The NRA’s forecast for U.S. foodservice is outpacing inflation with more than 5% expected gains as consumers face lower food and fuel costs.
The halo of ‘better-for-you’ encompassing fresh prepared meals and meal saving consumer time empowering choice in mix and match components is another leading factor driving customer adoption according to Johnson as outlined at our Grocerant Meal Mash-Up last week during the NRA show. 
A new report from Mintel shows “79% of sandwich-buying consumers are willing to pay more for premium sandwiches. And seven in 10 say they want high-quality sandwiches made with all-natural ingredients.” Clearly the ‘halo’ includes hand held food for immediate consumption.
That same ‘halo’ extends to “Hot food offerings are an integral part of convenience store foodservice with nearly nine in 10 consumers (88%), surveyed in 2016 by Technomic, stating they buy hot food items at c-stores, and purchasing is up, with 44% claiming to buy hot foods more often than last year.”
So are you wondering if Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food is still booming take a look at this VideoMining study that “demonstrated food-to-go boosts the average transaction in convenience stores by more than 14%. Sales increase by more than 19% for evening/late night baskets.”
Most legacy grocery stores lack authenticity within their offerings in the grocerant space. Many legacy grocery stores excelled at being all things for everyone back in the 1970’s, 1980’s, and 1990’s however that was a strategy that worked yesterday is not working today and will not work tomorrow. 

What’s the problem with the grocery sector they lack a cohesive grocerant strategy.  What they have done is ignore or deny the core values of the grocerant niche and simply thrown a plethora of tactics into an existing footprint and new locations as if grocerant niche products were a new CPG product.  We all know how many CPG products don’t work out.

Individually most of tactics have some merits but when bundled together they do not create an avenue for customer migration but rather they create a highway without a reason to stop.    Consumers are not blurring the line between Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food so please retailers quite trying to make grocerant offering a CPG product. That CPG mind-set has been an Achilles heel for many trying to regain customer adoption. If you do you risk continued decline in market share.

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.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Subway Branding the Sweet Sounds of Success

Success does leave clues and Subway the world’s largest restaurant chain is expanding the value of their brand messaging this summer with music, food, fun, and consumer interactivity and Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® believes that is a very good way to expand the ‘halo of better-for-you’ beyond the four walls.
This summer Subway, will be serving free mini sandwiches, among other goodies and experiences, at five music festivals.  From May to August, Subway will take an interactive lounge known as “The Green Room, baked by Subway” on a roadshow to festivals, starting with this past weekend’s Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
The Green Room baked by Subway, is a restaurant, a performance space, and a lounge, “it will bring a “backstage” experience to the front of the house for all festival goers. Featuring live acoustic and DJ sets, meet-n-greets with artists and semi-famous internet people, a live-stream of mainstage performances, virtual games, prizes, sweet amenities like cookie-flavored lip balm (no joke), and free mini sandwiches, festival-goers can chill out and recharge however they please.”
The Green Room is about much more than FREE MINI SANDWICHES (and high speed Wi-Fi, air conditioning, exclusive performances, phone charging stations, and personal refreshment stations) but don’t get me wrong the Free mini sandwiches will be big hit. It’s about th, expanding, evolving, and redefining, Subway as a brand with consumers.
Karlin Linhardt, SVP of Marketing for North America at Subway stated “The Green Room provides an experience festival-goers can’t get anywhere else. It’s also a chance for people to connect with Subway in a fresh way, and reconsider how they see our brand.” “Subway is a part of people’s lives everyday, and we want to expand into new territory to exceed the expectations of younger customers,” 
There will also be a sauce bar and fresh-baked cookies “offered sporadically,” while thirsty folks can chug new vitaminwater that will be served at select festivals. If success does leave clues this is the right step at the right time for a brand consumers enjoy. 

Do your marketing tactics look more like yesterday that tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Kai Market Fresher Faster Foodie Favorite

Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to drive consumer adoption, customer migration, retail foodservice disruption all while expanding fresh food to millions of urban dwellers and suburban soccer mom’s according to the team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Uwajimaya’s a staple for foodies in Seattle has opened a new concept that is even more foodie friendly called Kai Market. Kia Market has about 5,500 sq. ft. is filled with options that are both Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat all can be eaten in the store or simply as grab-and-go meal and or meal components. 

Kai Market aims to answer the question What’s For Dinner with fresh food fast.  Kai has more foodservice options with an emphasis on fresh seafood, along with a limited selection of grocery items which follows the consumer trend of empowering fresh food discovery and backing away from legacy CPG products according to our won Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson.

Uwajimaya’s CEO Denise Moriguchi stated that targeting urban office workers is their goal. Moriguchi noted “There are just so many office workers—it’s super-dense,.. I would say there’s not enough lunch and dinner options right now; there’s definitely a number in the area, but just for the number of workers, people want more choices and more options for primarily lunch, but a little bit for dinner as well.”

Looking a little like Whole Foods Kai Market is somewhere around 70 percent grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat foodservice and 30 percent grocery according to Moriguchi. This new store focuses heavily on grab-and-go, it also offers a range of Asian snacks popular at the more traditional Uwajimaya grocery stores, including Japanese crackers, cookies and candy, as well as beverages ranging from tea, coffee and soda to beer, wine and sake.

Moriguchi continued “The amount of grocery that we have is basically enough to complement your seafood,”. “We have a small selection of produce, enough to make a side noodle dish or something like that also.” The company anticipates a rise in residential population, so it’s possible that the product assortment could shift over time to target more than the grab-and-go lunch and dinner crowd. But Moriguchi believes that Kai Market will provide shoppers looking for more Asian grocery options with a taste of what can be found at the full Uwajimaya stores.

This small footprint store filled with Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food with authentic Asian flavors will drive incremental top line sales while garnering customers from other avenues of fresh food distribution including legacy Grocery stores, C-stores, and Fast Casual and Fast Food Restaurants according to our Grocerant Guru®.

For international corporate presentations, educational forums, or keynotes contact:  the Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  His extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert and public speaking will leave success clues for all. Visit: for more information