Saturday, October 24, 2020

P.F. Chang's Late to the Party but On Track


Consumers are dynamic not static.  Wanting to do no harm, P.F. Chang’s did little to keep up with the evolving consumer for the past five years even after witnessing dramatic customer migration from sit-down restaurants to drive-thru and takeout fresh food grocerant niche operations according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Forced into action by the pandemic P.F. Chang’s is at last making the turn the concept and consumers have been clamoring for according to Johnson. Let’s look at some numbers for September in the U.S. In Drive-thru led the way, with 68% consumers having used it, followed by takeout (63%), curbside pickup (48%), third-party delivery and direct delivery (both 45%). 

Over the past 7 years sales of meals from all restaurants have occurred 80.3% of the time from within the fast-food sector with 69.7% of those from the drive thru.  Say all that you want about fast food, and most people say they don’t or never go to fast food outlets.  The simple fast is they lie wen polled about eating habits according to Johnson as the numbers prove.

Now after opening three P.F. Chang’s To Go stores in Chicago this year, P.F. Chang’s China Bistro is now turning its attention to growing the off-premise format store in new markets including New York, proving even the urban consumers is evolving or the suburban consumers moved into the city and is driving change.

P.F. Chang’s has opened the first of five to-go stores planned in New York City. The “to-go” stores have smaller footprints designed for off-premise orders which represent about 25% of sales. The company plans to open 27 by 2021.

Don’t miss understand the numbers, there is a place for full-service restaurants, they will rebound but some concepts a grow and adapt their menu’s for inclusion into the hot button consumer touchpoint of grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food better than others.  It just so happens that P.F. Chang’s instance on brand protectionism, did not help the brand keep pace with consumers.

Damola Adamolekun, who started as CEO June 1, stated that “the company plans to open 20 more to-go format stores next year, which is in line with growth plans prior to the pandemic.”  The consumers have led, and validated the grocerant niche migration since 1991. 

The facts are clear, the consumer likes full flavored fresh food and likes it fresh and fast.  Does your brand look more like yesterday than tomorrow?  How is your brand going to edify its relationship with consumers?  What is the right mix of fast food, fresh food, and full-service restaurants any one brand should have? 

Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Friday, October 23, 2020

Grocerant niche Energized with New Electricity


Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food has taken center stage once again in 2020. That said the upward trend has seen 9.45% year over year increases for the past 7 years and prior to that run has a 5.8% average increase for the 9 years before that.  Regular readers of this blog know that and know that the trend is your friend.  Ah, success does leave clues.

While those late to the party are touting the pandemic as the fuel that is driving their current success and ‘thoughtful planning’ the team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® including their Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson simply have been rewarded with ‘belly laughs. You have to admit, it’s kind of absurd to claim victory when you only came to the party this year and are still half dressed!

So, what are the undercurrents of success driving grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food? Our grocerant scorecards indicate fresh fast service via delivery with an electric vehicle. Yes, the new electricity is ELECTRICITY. 

In Miami our scorecard respondents over whelming let us know that they like delivery via the Chevy Spark.  Now we must note none of our clients in that area used the Spark but one pharmacy does, they have 24 and the reception from the consumer is positive. Even more important is notable because we focus on food and beverage yet it still came up and stood out. With 300 miles a charge the Spark could be your next food marketing spark.

Regular readers of this blog also know that Electric Bikes are in demand around the world in urban setting where traffic, pollution, and parking hamper grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food delivery. 

Electric Vehicle manufacture UBCO has launched its 2021 product lineup regular readers of this blog know UBCO.  Long lauded for the practicality and versatility of their 2X2 Utility Bikes, UBCO has stepped it up a notch with their latest offering.

UBCO CEO Timothy Allan stated "Over the past two years plus, our product development and international supply chain team have made huge improvements to the performance, durability, security, and intelligence of our bikes. Now the rider experience is next level."

“To date, our customers love the fact that our bikes are so quiet to ride and effortless to maneuver. The new bikes build on this legacy and amplify it. The power to weight ratio is just right, we’ve improved motor efficiency, and made a myriad of improvements to the control and handling,” says Timothy Allan. “They’re a real joy to ride.”

The improvements include a 10% increase in motor efficiency as well as 23% more battery capacity. Together this means a 33% increase in range at top speed. With a top speed of 50kph (limited to 45kph in Europe) the new bikes weigh as little as 64kg (depending on the model) and can travel around 130km between charges. Also, the bike and battery are both designed for disassembly, further improving the sustainability of these electric utility vehicles. Will electricity be you new electricity?

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

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Sheetz Grocerant Niche Made-to-Order Halloween Drinks Will Brighten-Up your Day


Success does leave clues and Sheetz has picked up all of right clues the past 25 years and is once again sharing them with you and all of its customers.  Success not only leaves clues but at Sheetz has three festive new Halloween-themed drinks that are sure to put a smile on your face, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Now you have a reason to wonder out of the house and try these the limited-time beverages are available only until Nov. 1.  The three drinks are:

1.        Dracuccino: a frozen cappuccino mixed with chocolate and Oreos

2.        Sour Appelz: a blue sour lemonade mixed with caramel and apple

3.        Monster Mash: a candy shake mixed with peanut butter sauce, salted caramel, brownie bites and Reese's peanut butter cups

Each drink sells for $3.99 and is available for curbside pickup.

The special menu is accessible from the main menu section of Sheetz's Made-to-Order touchscreens. It is available at all Sheetz locations. Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Ready-2-Drink fresh food can be and should be fun as well as good tasting.  I’m sure they are at Sheetz! 

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

In a Battle for Share of Stomach

Fun Works!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Is Dollar General Making Room For more Fresh Food Fast


Dollar General has more than,16,705 stores they simply keep growing and according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® ‘there is a limited amount of floor space in a Doller General store for grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food.  Fresh food has been the fuel to drive growth Dollar General need to spin off / out some other products to continue growth in food and prepared food.”  

So, Dollar General Corp. announced a new store concept it says provides “stress-free and guilt-free” shopping for non-consumable items such as seasonal and home decor, health and beauty, home cleaning supplies, party goods, and entertaining needs,”  non-food items. Makes a lot of since.

The new concept will be known as Popshelf.  The store will be a 9,000-square-foot concept will open later this month at two locations near Nashville. The Goodlettsville, Tenn.-based retailer said it intends to open 30 such stores by the end of its 2021 fiscal year.

“We are excited to introduce Popshelf from a position of strength, further highlighting our innovative spirit and building on our proven track record of store format innovation,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO, in a statement. “We have leveraged robust consumer insights to create a unique store that we believe will resonate with new customers, while providing Dollar General with even more opportunities for growth in the years ahead.”

Officials say the new concept arose from insights from the company’s non-consumables initiative, or NCI, which seeks to develop “treasure hunt” capabilities for its Dollar General stores behind revamped merchandising and selection of in-and-out home goods and other non-consumable essentials at price points of $5 or less, bolstering the everyday low price offering of its main selections. Launched in 2018, NCI has since brought new selections and merchandising to thousands of renovated Dollar General stores, moves the company says has contributed to sales growth and margin improvement.

Popshelf would appear to be an inside-out deployment of NCI, building a store around the non-consumables selection and bolstering that with what the company called a “highly curated” assortment from Dollar General’s concept, including nonperishable foods and beverages, paper goods, candy, snacks and its private-label selections.

The Dollar General branding does not appear to be part of the customer-facing aspect of the Popshelf store, indicating the concept could be eyeing shoppers who might not currently associate Dollar General with those items. The store also takes a decidedly upbeat approach, using a bright purple color scheme and a logo and signage signifying excitement.

The concept would also appear to reflect a more direct take on the selection of the company’s non-consumable-focused rival Dollar Tree, while presenting a discount-filtered interpretation of the treasure-hunt aspects of retailers in other channels such as Aldi or Costco, which use value on limited-time items to drive shopper excitement and store visits.

“Building on the success, learnings and insights from Dollar General’s non-consumables initiative, we are excited to unveil Popshelf following our work to research, create and define the brand and merchandising offerings,” said Emily Taylor, Dollar General’s EVP and chief merchandising officer. “At Popshelf, customers will find a differentiated retail concept that seeks to bring joy to their shopping experiences, with surprising deals in targeted non-consumable product categories. We are excited to welcome customers into these stores.”

The company said 95% of the items would be priced below $5 at Popshelf and would include items with $1, $2, $3 and $5 price points. Each store will employ approximately 15 workers. So, how many stores do you have selling fresh food that is Ready-2-Eat or Heat-N-Eat?  Fresh food Drives Sales clearly price matters?  

So, if you are wondering if Dollar General Making Room for more Fresh Food Fast the answer is yes. Are you?

Don’t over reach. Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Interested in learning how Foodservice Solutions® can edify your retail food brand while creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization?  Email us at: or visit us on our social media sites by clicking the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Are Dickey’s Monthly Subscription Boxes A Mistake


What in the world were they thinking about at Dickey’s Barbecue Pit when they came up with the “At Home meal subscription boxes”?  The team at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® laughed out loud and read the PR “At Home meal subscription boxes” press piece aloud.  Clearly, Dickey’s did not read or review in-stock or new consumer research about this promotion have any relevant consumer touchpoint.  

Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® understands what drives the path to purchase for grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food items and stated “I’m puzzled, sending mix messaging to consumers does not add value to your brand.”

So, what is the mixed message? Look at the picture below.  That is not a meal it is pounds of meat that can become a meal component.  Driving customers into individual stores is key to building incremental customer loyalty and subscriptions and be the right way to do just that.  This promotion does not fit that bill.

The “At Home meal subscription boxes can be found at:, the world’s largest barbecue concept’s customizable meal delivery service consists of carefully curated selections of high-quality meats, sides and desserts. You can get them in three box options:

·         Chef’s Special Box—Two proteins, two sides and four individual desserts for $99.99.

·         Dickey’s Classic Box—Five proteins, two sides and six individual desserts for $150.

·         Dickey’s Value Box—10 proteins, four sides and 12 individual desserts for $280.

Do you understand grocerant niche customer relevant touchpoints? Are you simply throwing things against the wall hoping for something to stick?  Do you want actions steps to build top line sales and bottom-line profits at the store level?  If so, you might what to start looking a customer ahead.

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

Monday, October 19, 2020

C-Stores Tap-N-Pay Cashierless Check-out Hits a Cord with Consumers


Consumers are dynamic not static and every sector of foodservice retail must adapt with consumer or risk capitulating incremental market share according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® who stated “retailers must keep up with consumer unmet need-sets and frictionless checkout / tap-N-pay is safer, faster, and fresher in the minds-eye of the consumer today.”

The large C-store chains are following the lead of national restaurant chains adopting cashierless options of payment companies the ilk of Alimentation Couche-Tard, Tesco, Wawa, 7-Eleven, with the help of companies the ilk of and MasterCard, Visa, and American Express are all working to enable fast, safe, integrated tap-N-pay (POS) system solutions.

Here is the question: are POS systems even needed any longer?  Amazon Go has proven that they are not. So, since the average age of most POS platforms across the c-store industry is 10 years or more, perhaps the oldest installed POS base of any retail segment.  We ask, are they needed? Could an app based/cloud system cashierless, POS-less system work in urban locations?

First, moving sales from inside the store to the outside of the store speeds things up.  You can do this via a branded app.  Customer relevance rest in branded apps more than ever during this COVID-19 environment, customers don’t want to touch anything or enter an enclosed space. App-check-in enables c-stores to deploy new brand messaging and new points of distribution including order-ahead, curbside/pump-side pickup, drive-thru’s and delivery.  

Battle for Share of Stomach


Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) with advanced check-in and order-ahead in their apps see average order value grow by 50%. Fueling apps from the major petroleum brands not integrated with c-stores miss this upsell opportunity if not tightly integrated into the total c-store experience, not just fueling. 

Check-in can provide a new level of interactivity, customization, and personalization for all consumer touchpoints.  Check-in is the branded invitation that Gen Z and Millennials expect according to Johnson. Branded apps provide a menu board, take orders with embedded payment, even act as a walkie-talkie to summon items — all activated through the autonomous check-in by the fueling app empowering consumer choice.

Consider this before COVID-19, the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) reported that c-stores drove 80% of all gas sales in the U.S., with 48% of fueling customers going into c-stores and 53% buying a beverage

Back in the day the C-store sector was a “game of inches’, typically 180 to 540 inches from the pump to c-store door swing.  COVID-19 has pushed forward the need for technology that is handheld, digital, and branded with messaging that has additive customer relevance and edifies a consumer value touchpoint.

Don’t worry about, who owns this data, worry about getting the right message to the right person at first.  There is enough data to be shared.  Getting the right branded messaging to the consumer should be your very first concern.  

Branded relevant marketing messaging must drive you to offer cashierless transactions both inside and outside of your stores. An innovative branded cashierless strategy expands the customer touchpoints and makes your location advantage more valuable. Are you being as dynamic as you can be?

Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing tactics look more like yesterday that tomorrow?  Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may have the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Franchisee can drive Success for Chain Restaurants


There is no need to list the thousand of restaurants that have closed during the pandemic. Nor is there  a need to list all of chain restaurants that have filed for bankruptcy over the past five years. There is one question all operators need to ask themselves.  That question is: Do consumer find relevance in my restaurant or brand?

If you don’t have customer relevance, you have very little value.  Consumers are dynamic not static, they evolve, your restaurant needs to evolve with consumer or risk losing relevance, customer, sales and profits according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

Think about this in June of 1919 over 101 years ago A&W was founded.  It grew with customer relevance, full flavored food that was craveable. During the late 70’s and early 80’s chain leaders resorted to ‘brand protectionism’ of the status quo and things began to go south.  They were bough and sold and at the core chain restaurant leader after chain restaurant leader trying to do no harm continues with the status quo mindset.  Ok, we all know that did not work.

In August, 2020 sales at franchised A&W Restaurants grew 8.2 percent over last year, following double-digit increases in February, May, June and July. Systemwide, year-to-date same-store sales growth is at the highest level since franchisees acquired the brand in 2011. Now they did that during the pandemic when other chains were folding.  Think about that!  These A&W Franchisee are close to the consumer and moving forward with relevant messaging and branding.

A&W CEO Kevin Bazner stated,  “This is a remarkable recovery from the dark days of March and April,”. “As we head into the fall, sales at nearly two-thirds of our stand-alone restaurants are up over 2019, which was our eighth straight year of comp-store sales growth.” The majority of co-branded locations also are up over last year.

So get this, since franchisees acquired the company from YUM! Brands in 2011, average unit sales have increased by over 38 percent. According to Bazner, the brand’s performance is a key reason it was recognized by Franchise Business Review as a Top Food and Beverage Franchise for the second straight year.

A&W was just one of 35 franchise food brands to be listed by the market research firm that performs independent surveys on franchisee satisfaction. It analyzed 18 months’ worth of data from over 4,300 franchise owners representing 100 franchise brands in the food sector. A&W franchisees were surveyed on 33 benchmark questions about their experience and satisfaction regarding critical areas of their franchise systems, including training and support, operations, franchisor/franchisee relations and financial opportunity.

Bazner continued, “Being owned by franchisees, we are solely focused on their success. According to Franchise Business Review, A&W is outperforming its competitors and franchisees' expectations. “It is very rewarding to have our franchise partners rate their satisfaction with A&W so highly.”

A&W currently has 15 franchise locations in development. A new stand-alone restaurant opens early next month in Mountain Lake, Minnesota, southwest of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Who is better at listening to your consumers? That’s right, those who are closest to them. 

Known for its All American Food, fresh food and beverage including Root Beer that is made fresh in each restaurant and served in frosty mugs, there are more than 900 A&Ws in the U.S. and Asia. Keep doing what you are doing A&W franchisee.

For international corporate presentations, regional chain presentations, local educational forums, or keynotes contact: Steven Johnson 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. For more information visit, FoodserviceSolutions.US or call 1-253-759-7869

Saturday, October 17, 2020

ShopRite Moving from Grocery Store to Grocerant


Success does leave clues now that there are 34.5 Restaurants for every grocery store.  ShopRite is one of the grocers that says enough is enough, its time to move with the consumer.  Consumers are dynamic not static and they have been on the move for 40 years leaving the grocery sector for the restaurant sector.  In fact, over the past 16 years there are 50% fewer grocery stores and 38.9% more restaurants.

Ok, we are in the middle of a pandemic and the grocery sector is doing great.  However, its not because they are doing the right things for the consumer.  Yes, restaurants are still closing.  Pay attention that will not last forever, rents will be reduced and new entrepreneurial foodies will step up, stand out, and make waves with new restaurants and grocerants that will continue to disrupt legacy chain grocery and restaurant chains according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.

One grocery chain has stepped up, is looking a customer ahead, and focusing on the consumer.  That company is ShopRite.  They have revamped and renamed their deli ordering app, providing shoppers the ability to easily shop ahead for prepared foods, deli, floral and other specialty items for pick-up and delivery. When you look closely you will see it has the look and feel of a top tier chain restaurant. Bravo!

So, the ShopRite Order Express app, expands its available features and added new options offered in a fresh look. The new app will automatically upload for current app users. New customers can download it from their phone’s app store or scan a QR code in the store seamlessly.

Meal focus, family oriented, consumers can order game day platters and birthday catering, including cakes and desserts, sandwich platters, appetizers, entrees, fruits and veggies, salads, sides, seafood, sushi, as well as floral arrangements and balloons. 

We should note they also can still order deli meats and cheeses in advance to have them ready at the counter when they visit the store along with sandwiches, pizza, rotisserie chicken and other items that can also be ordered ahead for easy pick up or delivery at select stores.

Building on our Grocerant Guru’s customization and personalization essentials for fresh food sales success you can use the custom cake builder included on the new app. For personalization options for cake design include flavors, filling, frosting colors and messages.  Are you looking a customer ahead or are is your store looking more like yesterdays store?

Success does leave clues. One clue that time and time again continues to resurface is “the consumer is dynamic not static”.  Regular readers of this blog know that is the common refrain of Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Our Grocerant Guru® can help your company 253-759-7869.