Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Convenience Stores Focus of Foodservice Freshness

The convenience store sector continues to drive top line sales, bottom-line profits and incremental year over year customer counts garnering new and repeat customer from the grocery store sector, dollar store sector and the restaurant sector according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
With new guidelines and restrictions on restaurants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, somedays C-store fresh food retailers are moving one step forward others it seems they are taking one step back. However,  their foodservice has become a safe and reliable source of fresh, delicious and convenient meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner for all according to new research from Nielsen.
Brian Ferguson, vice president and chief merchant for Pilot Co., stated, “While some guests will gravitate toward grab and go, our freshly prepared hot food is especially popular for professional drivers who are on the road for long periods of time and look forward to a warm meal while away from home,”
Ferguson continued adding “that Pilot Flying J stores added back self-service options such as roller grills and soup bars in June, offering single-use disposable paper sleeves for guests to use when handling tongs and ladles. Details like this emphasize the company’s focus on “keeping health and safety top priorities,” Ferguson said.” While roller grills are one step back, Johnson noted that hot fresh food from a visceral display roller grill rings true for many seeking comfort foods.
Exploiting new expanding daypart opportunities Pilot Flying J is promoting availability of  bold flavored and new flavored selections with daily, weekly and monthly deals, which are communicated via digital coupons through its app, special prices through its loyalty programs and seasonal limited-time offers (LTOs).
Among the promotions are ‘Thungry’ (buy one snack get one free with purchase of beverage) and the professional driver-oriented ‘Hungry Driver’ (savings on freshly prepared meal bundles including five-piece wings or tenders meal with beverage purchase).  
Get this Flying J is not alone as the Nielsen report noted, during the four-week period beginning in mid-June, food sales “exploded” for Kwik Trip and Kwik Star, according to Paul Servais, the company’s retail food service director. Sales from that period were ahead of those during the same time the year before.

C-stores are filling a gap by adding technology, for marketing, messaging, and delivery.  Servais continues “new customers were pleasantly surprised to find that the stores’ shelves were always well stocked with basics such as milk, butter and eggs from their own dairy, commissary and bakery” “In many cases, we were the only game in town,” he said. “We also offer home delivery in some areas by partnering with two third-party services.” 
The stores have resumed normal foodservice operations including self-service condiment bars, dispensed beverages and single-serve bakery. In the works are promotions through the company’s loyalty program and the development of take-home family meal offerings.   
Joshua Clark, category manager for fresh foods at Nouria noted “Switching popular self-service foodservice items such as pizza and hot dogs to prepackaged or full-service. Pizza slices and, in some locations, hot dogs on buns are prepackaged in bags. At some stores, roller grills were moved to the back for service by associates. Clark described breakfast as “the canary in the coal mine.” Which regular readers of this blog understand well.  How are you repositioning your brand, products, to garner new customers?
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, August 4, 2020

NPD Group Save The Restaurant Industry Pass the Stimulus Extend $600

There were 15.1 million restaurant industry employees in the United States in January of this year. 7 in 10 restaurants are single unit operations, and 9 in 10 restaurants have fewer than 50 employees according to the National Restaurant Association.
 David Portalatin, NPD food industry advisor and author of Eating Patterns in America stated “As we move into the weeks ahead the possibility exists for setbacks in restaurant customer transactions. Up until July 31, somewhere between 25 and 30 million Americans were receiving Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as part of the federal government’s CARES Act, which has provided $600 a week of enhanced unemployment benefits,”
Portalatin continued “These unemployment benefits translated to between $15-18 billion per week being put into consumers’ bank accounts, and for context, total restaurant industry sales right now are a bit less than $8 billion per week. Although the benefits don’t entirely evaporate on August 1 because of backlogs and late claims, the loss of the $600 a week unemployment benefit could adversely affect the restaurant industry.
Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® stated “extending the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation as part of the federal government’s continued stimulus program, including providing $600 a week of enhanced unemployment benefits is important as 10% of the U.S. Work Force is employed in restaurants.  
The stimulus is just that stimulus for the economy restaurants are at minimum 10% of our work force.  The ability to maintain a job, away of life, and the culture of our local communities is at stake. If we can spend $ 100 of Billions to save Air Lines, Airport, Cruise Ships, and in the past Big Banks and the Auto industry lets save our local restaurants, neighborhood jobs, local banks, and way of life.
Foodservice Solutions® team is here to help food retailers drive top line sales and bottom-line profits. Are you looking a customer ahead? Visit for more information or contact: Remember success does leave clues and we just may the clue you need to propel your continued success.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Dunkin’s Breakfast Buzz Drives New Electricity

Chain restaurants ability to drive customer relevance, create consumer focused ‘buzz’ is made a lot simpler when they develop a partnership that co-develops a product or brand message according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  
Breakfast is back and cereal is the renewed consumer touchpoint of relevance according to Nielsen. Thus Dunkin’ brands is an on-going quest to drive new electricity into the Dunkin brand has reached out to Post Consumer Brands to help drive new electricity.
So, get this Post Consumer Brands and Dunkin’ are brewing up two new cereals made with Dunkin’ coffee, set to roll out nationwide beginning in August. The two new Post cereals are Dunkin’ Caramel Macchiato and Mocha Latte.  They were inspired by Dunkin’ fans’ two favorite flavors and mark the first collaboration between Post and Dunkin’. How are you edifying your brand and creating a platform of new electricity?
Driving new electricity into a legacy brand with a partnership is a good move and will accelerate the marketing messaging for all companies involved according to Johnson. How is your company positioning to grow your brand, the top, and bottom line?
Johnson stated “that in my minds-eye the new electricity must be very efficient for the supply chain and includes such things as fresh foods, online ordering, delivery, plant based foods, sampling, toy’s, cereal, developing brands,  grocerant positioning, fresh food messaging, autonomous delivery, cashier-less retail, plates, glasses, cash-less payments, digital hand-held marketing.

All food and beverage retailers to survive the next generation of retail must embrace the artificial intelligence revolution while simultaneously embracing fresh food and beverages that are portable, fresh, with differentiation that is familiar not different.  Does your retail path forward look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Why?
Post Dunkin’ Caramel Macchiato cereal is brought to life with crunchy cereal pieces and caramel-swirled marshmallows, creating the deliciously indulgent taste of the layered iced coffee beverage. Post Dunkin’ Mocha Latte cereal features a hint of chocolate and latte-swirled marshmallows in honor of its namesake espresso. The new cereals contain very small amounts of caffeine, roughly a 10th of a cup of coffee, so all can indulge in the rich coffee-forward experience.
Josh Jans, Brand Manager of Cereal Partnerships at Post Consumer Brands  stated “Coffee and cereal are the ultimate breakfast go-tos, ranking as the top two most consumed items to help people start their day,”  “Dunkin’ coffee is a daily ritual for Americans, and we’re excited to be partnering with them to indulge their fans’ coffee cravings. Getting the flavor right on our new cereals was a top priority, and we think we’ve nailed the rich, smooth and creamy taste.”
“Brian Gilbert, Vice President of Retail Business Development at Dunkin’ stated “We love delighting customers with surprising new ways to enjoy the great taste of Dunkin’. For our fans who already start their days with Dunkin’, this gives them another way to experience their favorite flavors,” … “The Post Cereals team has done an excellent job of paying homage to the Caramel Macchiato and Mocha Latte with these new cereals. We can’t wait to see how customers enjoy them.”

Coffee remains the beverage of choice in the United States, with nearly 65% of American adults reporting that they drink coffee every day. For the 14th year in a row, Dunkin’ was named the No. 1 brand for customer loyalty in the out-of-home coffee category, and for the 8th straight year, the Dunkin’ brand was also No. 1 in the packaged coffee category.
Consumed in nearly 90% of all U.S. households and popular with people of all ages, cereal is America’s No.1 favorite breakfast food. Today, it’s also increasingly enjoyed as a snack, lunch or dinner meal replacement, or as an ingredient in recipes.
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, August 2, 2020

Chain Restaurants Achilles’ Heel the Past vs the Future

All retail brands have a lot in common. Sometimes we have to take a sept back to have a view of today or tomorrow according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. I have you noticed that Kodak went nearly out of business. Growing up in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, every family had a Kodak Camera and I still have one of mine.
Those yellow boxes were everywhere and getting your very own Kodachrome camera was seemingly a rite of passage, heck, Paul Simon even wrote a song about it. As digital cameras gained popularity, Kodak stuck to what they believed. They sneered at digital’s quality, righteous in their knowledge that Americans would NEVER give up shiny pictures for their photo albums.

Today, cell phone cameras take most of the pictures and they are rarely printed. Kodak, today is a technology company that produces camera-related products, correct in their assertion that professionally developed pictures look better than low-resolution versions uploaded to Facebook. However, they waited too long to evolve and are now just a fading shadow of once was a great company, this year the stock price hit a low of $1.50. That's 25 years of struggling and turmoil. Now they are evolving into a 'pharmaceutical' focused company with a loan for the U.S. government for $785 Million to do so.  Who is going to help you evolve? 

Being dead and correct is not a great strategy.  Today chain restaurants are either growing or dying much the same as Kodak. Simply look at restaurants that filed bankruptcy of late: Chuckie Cheese,
Sweet Tomatoes & Souplantation, Logan's Roadhouse, and large Pizza Hut, Wendy’s and IHOP franchises groups.  They are not all dead but they have been far from right.

These are statements frequently heard from legacy restaurant operators. Like Kodak, crystal clear that what has always worked will continue to work. Over the last ten years, anything sound familiar?

• Our executives have 30 years of experience and know how to run the business.
• We never use coupons, nor do we want to deliver.
• We don’t allow or brand to wander, we protect our brand, that’s brand protectionism and its dying brand.
• We don’t use online third party ordering, I-pad ordering or voice screen ordering.
• We only advertise on Google, Twitter or Facebook.
• We don’t do snacks, we do meals.
• We like the umbrella approach each store different personality but under one umbrella.
• Video menus and video signage is visceral gimmickry.
• We don’t measure ingredient’s; we create daily specials and simply show employees how to make it
• We can’t lower our menu prices.
How did a dominant brand and sector leader like Kodak, in a rock-solid consumer staple lose everything? Simple, they determined the market, the direction of that market and took the steps to conquer it.  If that sounds like your restaurant, retail food sector or niche leader, you better keep reading.
There is little about today’s market, the consumer or food marketing / promotions that was predictable three years ago. In the next three years the rate of change will continue to increase. You need to think about change or evolving your restaurant the way technology companies think about Moore’s Law.  So, let’s look at the above list:
Reliability and a comfortable working relationship are correctly a key to success.  However, if you find your team is blaming the economy, minimum wages increase, cost of health care, the pandemic, and rising food cost for disappointing results, you have a problem. Do not forget there are many companies are out there capable of growing both the top and bottom line, number of units and garnering market share. Is your company one of them?  If not, it might be time for Outside Eyes. 
Millennials and Gen Z consumers are digital natives. They want what they what and in a digital first format.  So, if you are saying we always/never use coupons – coupons and promotions are very complicated today. Add the online aggregators the ilk of, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok on top of what you know what works. Here is the point, what you measure you manage. All advertising must have an objective that is clear and measurable to insure a proper marketing ROI and validating customer relevance.

We don’t use third-party delivery – face it, convenience is a driving reason why foodservice is popular. If you do not want to deliver, consider outsourcing more not less.  Deliver is not about you. That’s right it is about the consumer.
We protect the value of our brand and its integrity for the consumer, our shareholders and stakeholders.  We know the consumer is dynamic not static, but our customer’s comeback because we have a brand promise and they trust in us to keep that promise. Sounds a lot like Kodak, don’t you think? Don’t let your brand or brand messaging look more like yesterday than tomorrow. 
We don’t use online ordering our food does not “carry” well.  Think about this if you don’t have a way to connect your menu to computers and mobile devices, your competition will woo your customers. Consumers are time starved, and hooked on technology, make it easy. So, can you sell you meals and meal components in a format that does carry well?  

When it comes to search don’t forget Amazon, and Google or Facebook. We don’t open for breakfast – you pay rent 24/7, find ways to increase the utilization of your “factory”. Considering catering or school lunch program, contract out your kitchen. Have you considered opening a branded virtual breakfast restaurant in your store?  Don’t become the next Kodak of chain restaurants.

Different store brands / personalities under one large corporation and all expected to operate utilizing a uniform set of metrics.  Worked well in the 70’s, 80’s but you have the answer.  Let me know just how well that works out.
Visceral gimmickry does not replace high quality food and great service ever.  Who defines quality service? You’re via your brand promise or the consumer?  Yes, the CONSUMER.  Today, consumers consider C-store fresh food restaurant quality, with 24% reporting its ‘better than restaurant quality’.
We don’t measure ingredients; my employees know how much to use – why have menu prices, let customer pay whatever they want. If you don’t care what your product costs, you CAN’T make money.
We can’t raise our menu prices – tell that to the gas station owner on the corner, or the farmer growing your food. Costs are up, you must raise your menu prices, expand dayparts, renew menu choice or you will not exist.

Kodak management, smart and hard working as they were, did not see the world changing, fortunately you do. Realize that change is good and necessary. Act now to challenge your assumption, create new revenue streams and increase profits.

Foodservice Solutions® 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

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Trader Joe’s Drives Customer Relevance

Trader Joe’s the store and the brand has the halo of ‘better-for-you’ in the minds-eye of the consumer, according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  Johnson stated, recent grocerant ScoreCards show 79.6% of consumers say “Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) food is better for you’, 69.9 % report TJ’s food is fresher, 68.9% report TJ’s food has better flavor choice”.
Expanding the customer relevance with the ‘halo’ even more TJ’s has announced that Impossible Foods’ flagship product, the Impossible Burger, is now available at Trader Joe’s locations across the United States, as the Redwood City, California-based alternative-meat company continues its acceleration in retail outlets this year.
Since the beginning of the year, when the Impossible Burger was available in only 150 grocery stores in Southern California and the East Coast, the supermarket footprint of the Impossible Burger has grown more than 40-fold, according to the company. How are you extending your brands value?
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 us on our social media sites by clicking one of the following links: Facebook,  LinkedIn, or Twitter