Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Foodservice Solutions the Grocerant Niche is Driving Profitability

Back in the day, the mid-1980’s Home-meal Replacement / Solutions (RMS) was the talk of the retail foodservice industry. Many research companies and retailers dismissed RMS as it morphed from a sideshow to the main stage (Top of Mind) for consumer’s seeking convenience. Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson did not dismiss RMS rather he define the evolution as the Grocerant niche. 

In fact Steven Johnson first warned restaurant industry in 1991 about the undercurrents change within the consumer mind-set.  Then in 1996 Johnson penned an Op-Ed article titled: Call Them Grocerants in August in both FoodService Director and Nation’s Restaurant News which highlighted undercurrents of food industry evolving consumer migration patterns.

What many legacy grocers failed to understand was the opportunity for fresh prepared food as a day-part meal opportunity / solution.  Most grocery retailers do not believe they are in the meals business. More important most grocery retailers did not want to be in the fresh prepared meal business then or now.  They wanted to be in ‘fill customers pantry’ business. The fill the pantry business has long since vanished as have many legacy grocery chains.

Grocery retailer’s mind-set in the 1980’s was Home Meal Replacement specifically in store fresh prepared food cost too much to produce, threw their labor out of line, created scheduling problems, and had too much wasted food. That same mind-set holds true today for many legacy grocery retailers today. Walk around most grocery stores today and you can see that they continue to try and make fresh prepared food into a CPG product.

Maybe that’s why most legacy grocery stores continue to struggle driving profitability with grocerant Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. Just look how Kroger stumbled with their new concept Main and Vine. Winn Dixie on the other hand opened a new customer focus fresh food focused new concept store to find incremental success and increased customer relevance. 

Legacy grocery retailers simply did not want to deal with fresh prepared food back in the day nor do they today. I guess that is why they cut corners, mass produced product that they call fresh, packaged it like it was a CPG brand, and let it sit on display or under heat lamps way to long. In short they blew it then and most are making the same mistake today. 

The pantry business is rapidly diminishing according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru®. While category managers can quickly tell grocery retailers what is selling inside their stores, how to price it, and where to position it. Category managers have no idea where the customers went. Nor can they explain how start-up mail-order meal-kits companies in three years have annual sale of $1 billion a year. That is pantry disruptive growth, and a concern for legacy retailers.

In an era of consumer transparency category management tactics have fallen out of favor with consumers. Or as our Grocerant Guru® put’s it “the consumer is not stupid, they have figured out what retailers are doing and dislike any company trying to trick / fool customers into buying a product in the era of transparence legacy retailers utilizing such tactics will face customer rebellion.” Fresh prepared Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat food has the ‘hallo’ of ‘better for you’ from the consumer perspective and continues gaining momentum.

Consumers are dynamic not static, the Grocerant niche continues to grow around the world and our Grocerant Guru® has been leading the drive for top line sales and bottom line profits within the grocerant niche since 1991. 

Food manufactures are searching for new, fresh food opportunity and that is something Foodservice Solutions® continues to excel at. Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® as regular readers of this blog know has repeatedly stated that “consumers never take step back in food quality or freshness”. The food retail industry today is no longer at a crossroad. The consumer has moved. It’s simply a question within the legacy grocery retailers if they want to move forward with consumer or not.

Back in the day it used to be restaurant chefs were the industry tastemakers and retail eventually playing copy-cat caught up with the trends. Today many tastemakers come from Grocerant niche retailers. Yes, the times they are a changing. 

Driven by increased demand and customer migration from cook from scratch to Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food everyone from Soccer Mom’s to Senior Citizens are putting pressure on retailers for fresh prepared food. All retailers are in a fierce battle to garner a larger share of stomach and the battle for customers is taking place within the grocerant nice Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food space.

Grocery stores are now playing catch-up with the fast expanding Convenience store sector that is focusing on Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food. Companies the ilk of Wawa, Sheetz, and Rutter’s Farm Stores all are finding success with fresh prepared food. Overall convenience stores are doing a better job within the grocerant niche than legacy grocery stores according to our Grocerant Guru®.

Seemingly trapped in footprint malaise traditional grocery retailers are closing stores, capitulating market share. Success does leave clues and legacy food retailers must adopt a new view, and new business model, the Grocerant model. Foodservice Solutions® can help any retailer looking to drive top line sales and bottom line profits within the Grocerant sector. specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities for your product or your brand. Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche since 1991 Contact:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Starbucks Schultz Food Merchant of the Year

Howard Schultz Chairman and CEO of Starbucks Coffee is without doubt the retail food industries best food merchant according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson. So just what makes Schultz the industry leader?  That’s easy to answer according to Johnson, he understands customer relevance and refuses to allow his brand to get stuck in a brand Silo Mentality from the beginning Schultz understood our Omni-Channel retail world.  
Back in the day (1997,) “Starbucks quietly stocked a new gift item on its shelves. It was a small, plush bear the color of honey, dressed as a barista with a tiny green apron. This very first Bearista bear created a sensation among Starbucks fans, with more than 100 different editions of the bears following in the nearly 20 years since.”  Top line sales and bottom line profits define success Omni-Channel retail has help drive that time and time again for Starbucks and Schultz understands what others fail to grasp according to our Grocerant Guru®.
The Bearista bears have been dressed in everything from ski jackets to surf shorts and comfy pajamas. They've celebrated holidays, like Lunar New Year and Halloween, and destinations around the world from Paris to Hong Kong. Some bears even masqueraded as other cuddly animals including bumblebees, bunnies, chickens and ladybugs according to Starbucks.
While the Starbucks Bearista holiday bears have been in hibernation in the U.S. since 2009 this year the holiday classic bear is back by popular demand for a limited time in participating U.S. Starbucks stores.
The new 2016 limited-edition Bearista Collection includes five new lovable bears. Three are baristas—one with a classic green Starbucks apron, one with a red holiday apron, and a retro 1970s bear dressed in Starbucks original brown apron and logo with corduroy flare pants. There are also two Bearista bears with fuzzy hats—one with a red comfy sweater and the other with a cozy green sweater. Each has a “Starbucks 2016” commemorative mark on its paw you can pick one up or order it at
You can order Coffee, Tea, Mug’s, Tee Shirts, Coffee Makers, Gift Cards you name it.  Starbuck’s has made their brand relevant by integrating the present with the past.  Starbucks understands that differentiation does not mean different, rather it means familiar but with a twist.  It’s that understanding that continues to win the hearts and minds of consumers making Schultz Foodservice Solutions® Food Merchant of 2016.

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 or menu integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit:, Johnson, or

Monday, November 28, 2016

Pantry Busting Amazon is Blazing the Way

Is there any company in the world that is positioning itself better to be the undisputed leader of the Grocerant niche more so than Amazon?  Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® says no. Today there is no other company that encompasses the spirit of the evolving consumer with value added service and messaging within the Grocerant niche than Amazon.

Recently Tyson Foods created a meal kit service through Amazon Fresh its grocery delivery unit that once again is creating an incremental pantry busting platform.  That new platform has to be driving legacy grocery retailers to work overtime just to lose more ground, market-share, and customer relevance according to our own Grocerant Guru®.

Recently one executive of a legacy grocery retailer informed out team that they can’t believe how a “book selling Technology Company” can be a better foodservice retailer than them; but they are.”  While Amazon may still sell a lot of books; they have become a grocery behemoth according to our Grocerant Guru® who went on to say they may have read Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru’s business plan but they implementing it better than anyone would have ever expected.

Blue Apron, Plated, Chef’d, Home Chef, Munchery, HelloFresh, and many others all offer the ability to order recipes and ingredients to your door weekly. Even The New York Times, entered into a partnership with Chef’d, is launching its own branded meal kit service however all will have to “Up their Game” according to our Grocerant Guru®.

Amazon’s Meal Kits elevate relevance with millennial shoppers edifying a growing relationship that includes expanding discovery on Amazon, easy meal planning, no food waste, and how to prepare a meal.  That may seem like basic.  But in truth it is the platform that will drive sales of grocery items and everything else for years to come.  Amazon is just beginning to do to groceries what they did to the book business.  Change it forever and that my friend’s is Pantry Busting.

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.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Urbanization Driving Grocerant Growth Globally

In the United States Millennials are attracted to large urban cities mostly seeking jobs, thus creating higher demand for housing, and a ‘new’ lifestyle.  The same thing is taking place around the world in Thailand the growth of a rising urban middle-class is driving demand for convenience specifically demand for packaged convenient food from Convenience stores.

Demand for Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food is growing continuously in Thailand on the back of changing lifestyles in the kingdom. As an ever greater share of the population lives in the condominiums of Bangkok's sprawling suburbs, as rural areas turn into industrial clusters, as traffic jams worsen and more family members work outside, demand for more convenient packaged food options is rising.  Here are some numbers from Euromonitor International:

1.       The retail value of ready-to-eat meals is forecast to grow this year by 10% year-on-year to THB7.4bn (US$210.5m).
2.       The success of ready-to-eat in Thailand is closely linked to the success of convenience stores, of which there are by now close to 30,000, or a ratio of about one store for every 5,500 people.

Pichaya Poonlarp, an assistant professor at Chiang Mai University's faculty of agro-industry, sounding a lot like Foodserivce Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson  stated "There's no time for cooking, so pre-cooked products, frozen meals and sterilised product are in the convenience stores all over the areas in Thailand," …As each menu is either in frozen or in sterilised form, consumers can buy and ask the store staff to warm them using the microwave."

Poonlarp continued naming some of the top selling items in Thialand including “stir-fried chicken with mint leaves over rice, fried rice, wonton soup, stir-fried garlic and pepper pork over rice, stir-fried rice noodle and curry over rice as the most popular ready-to-eat meals sold in Thailand's convenience stores.” 

Poonlarp also noted “US-style fast foods such as hamburgers and pizzas are popular among children and teenagers, whereas the 15-50 age bracket displays more fondness of Japanese-style ready-to-eat meals, such as sushi and noodle soups.”

Tunyarut JinKarn, head of the department of packaging and materials technology at Bangkok's Kasetsart University's faculty of agro-industry, argues the strength of Thailand's convenience store channel is a grave threat to the fast food sector, from hamburger outlets to traditional street foods. "Ready-to-eat prices are acceptable, so that ready-to-eat competes with fast food head-on on price," JinKarn explains. "But unlike the fast food sector, ready-to-eat companies like CPF are constantly launching new ready-to-eat meals on the back of robust R&D efforts, and promote them through TV, Internet and leaflets."

Well it would appear that Grocerant niche Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food continues to drive retail foodservice growth globally.  The threat to the fast food sector and the restaurant sector over all can be validated by declining year over year customer count numbers that the restaurant sector in the United States continues to post.  Those numbers negative or flat numbers can be reversed, replaced, or revitalized with integration of Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru’s Five P’s of Grocerant Marketing

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

When Did the Chain Restaurant Status Quo Break

Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® stated “Traditional restaurant brand building practices are no longer effective they aren't just broken, they simply no longer work. They are Kaput, Dying, Replaced, they are Yesterday.  The customer has moved.  Have you? Has your brand?

The retail food consumer has moved, competition has increased, and Multi-channel retail has been replaced with Omni-channel retail.  Simply put, the playing field has changed, and if you're still playing on old turf with yesterday's rules, you are in trouble and you’re company is in big trouble. 

If you are sitting back waiting for the economy to rebound, food prices to drop or customers to come rushing back in the door.  It just might be too late. Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson has been following the consumer since 1991 and outlining the new universal success clues, actions, and language of the consumer.

The rise of the grocerant niche has not been sudden, not dynamic, rather a steady evolution highlighted and accelerated by technology and economic turmoil.  The consumers has new priorities, protocols, and engaging new technologies, is more informed embracing new avenues of fresh prepared food distribution.  Gone are the days when having a “restaurant quality” dinner means going to a restaurant exclusively.

Gone are the days of Top Down Menu Development. In the new evolving world of Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food it is about the consumer. It’s about creating a platform for consumer convenient meal participationdifferentiation and individualization. It is no longer about you promoting, you selling, you pushing or your LTO. It is about the consumer, the community, inclusion.

Success comes in this new era of Omni-channel fresh prepared food by empowering franchisee to test, to try, to fail.  Success will come when you empower all customer-facing teams in daily cross-functional engagement, from C-level to line level. Success will come when you invite, include, empower customer input.

The customer has moved.  Restaurant brands today must move with the consumer or risk losing consumers to new avenues of fresh food distribution. The gone are the days of brand protectionism practices at all cost. Today brand protectionism is a brand that is consumer interactive and participatory.

Visit  If you are 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.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Convenience Stores are a Conundrum for Restaurateurs

The restaurant industry is not known as an industry that adopts to change very well.  If fact it is the one retail sector that cultivates customer relationships with comfort food of the past.  There is one problem with that and that is comfort food of the past reflects more yesterday than today. 

Convenience stores were made to change and evolve.  Here is one example and there are plenty more according to Foodservice Solutions® Grocerant Guru® Steven Johnson.  QuikTrip Corporation  most of you may not know or don’t remember, but QuikTrip began as a grocery store that opened and operated for many years before they got even got into gasoline becoming one of the fastest growing and successful convenience stores today.
Now here is the conundrum for operators of restaurants.  Increasingly companies the ilk of Wawa, Kwik Trip Inc., QuikTrip Corp., Sheetz, and Maverik have all been opening retail locations without gasoline. Mike Thornbrugh, spokesperson for QuikTrip, which operates more than 700 c-stores in 11 states and opened its first store sans fuel in downtown Atlanta this past June stated “The store in Atlanta was the right time and location, and a good opportunity for us to see if it will be successful and to learn from it.”
Thornbrugh continued “To open a store without gasoline has been part of our strategic plan for some time, but it had to be the right timing and the right location… As part of the retail space of Viewpoint Condominiums, the 3,500-square-foot QuikTrip store in downtown Atlanta offers a range of grocery items, as well as fresh foods through the QT Kitchens made-to-order concept.
The new non-fuel QTKitchens store is focused even more on the fresh food side of the business than other locations. Non-fuel locations for QuickTrip are placing a lot of emphasis on fresh food will give us a chance to bring a lot of different products in; to see if we can perfect it and learn from it,” according to Thornbrugh.
Another convenience chain opening stores Non-fuel retail outlets focused on Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh food is Sheetz, based in Altoona, Pa..  Sheetz has for the past couple of years described its C-stores as “convenience restaurant” concept. Louie Sheetz, the past EVP of Marketing for the retailers  and now member of the board of directors, explained how non-fuel retail is the direction the retailer is headed in for the future.
Sheetz already has a full-scale convenience restaurant operating in Altoona, and opened two Sheetz Caf├ęs in Morgantown and State College, Pa. Another location without gasoline was slated to open this fall in Indiana, Pa.
Tarah Arnold, public relations manager for Sheetz, recently stated that the non-fuel retail outlets “have been incredibly successful due to the location of the two cafes in two college towns and the loyalty of our Sheetz customers for our food offering.”
For a C-store to be successful without gasoline, a store has to offer high-quality, well-differentiated Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food according to Foodservice Solutions® team. Sheetz leverages the strength of the standalone c-store and competes very well with quick-service restaurants utilizing the FIVE P’s of Grocerant Marketing.  Both Sheetz and Wawa have such a strong c-store offer, that each has locations that would be more viable if they removed the fuel allocating more space for customer parking. 
The undercurrents of change are engulfing the restaurant sector.  The conundrum for restaurant operators is that C-stores are not a start-up competitive threat.  They are evolving retailers that on average have vastly higher volume sales per-location, higher profits, more cash on hand, and established loyal customers.  Restaurateurs simply don’t understand, accept, or believe that there is a new retail platform / environment that they must adjust too.  How Grocerant niche Mix and Match bundling and Foodservice Solutions® can help. 

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 or menu integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche visit:, Johnson, or

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Meals a Melting-Pot of Food, Family, and Friends

In the United States we have celebrated Thanksgiving since 1621. That first celebration lasted three days and was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims according to Plymouth Colony archives.  Thanksgiving today is not much different as the tradition reflects a mix of influences, including economic, ethnic, generational, health, pop culture and social structure, according to new research findings from The NPD Group.
Today's Thanksgiving meals are celebrated by most Americans and they celebrate the meal at home, whether it be theirs or someone else’s. Approximately 48 percent of Americans eat their Thanksgiving meals at home, while 44 percent eat at someone else’s house. Only 3 percent will eat their meal at a full-service restaurant, NPD found. Here are some additional fun Thanksgiving Facts:
1.The meal most likely to be eaten at a restaurant on Thanksgiving is breakfast (19 percent).
2.  29 percent of holiday celebrations include an item sourced Ready-2-Eat from a foodservice outlet,
3. 55 percent include items that were “completely homemade” from a restaurant or foodservice outlet.
The Thanksgiving table may look a bit updated from 1621 while there is still Turkey on most tables Americans are also beginning to seek out and identify with a food culture that reflects their friends and family. According to NPD that menu may not necessarily stem from their ethnicity.
Today’s consumers are more comfortable integrating various culture influences into their daily lives, including meals. Thanksgiving meals will integrate cultures into traditional Thanksgiving staples, like a Szechuan green bean casserole, or mashed potatoes made with Manchego cheese.
Holidays much like the United States itself have become a melting-pot for friends and family. Do you have a family meal, moment, or memory around food you would like to share with us?  Please do.  The more families and friends each of us intertwine with and adopting traditions and customs the happier and more understanding we all become. Happy Thanksgiving

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