Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Foodservice Partnerships Drive New Electricity at Your Pie

Once again success does leave clues one clue that Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® continues to point out is how successful companies leverage partnerships to drive customer relevance and new electricity into their brand.
Recently Your Pie has teamed up with Zapp’s Potato Chips for its latest Craft Series offering, the Voodoo Pie, featuring Cajun-inspired flavors and Zapp’s Voodoo Chips. The Voodoo Pie is now available in participating stores through December 19 as a Limited Time Offer (LTO).
This latest Craft Series brings New Orleans flavors to life, starting with a base of olive oil topped with mozzarella and feta cheese, green pepper, red onion, andouille sausage and roasted corn. The pie is then baked and finished with Zapp’s Voodoo Potato Chips, a spicy ranch drizzle and a pinch of cilantro.
Your Pie founder and president Drew French stated “I have always been inspired by the New Orleans food culture, and we had a lot of fun developing a pizza that pays homage to Cajun flavors….The original recipe came from last year’s Craft Pie Cook-Off, a featured event at our annual Franchise Fest conference, and we are excited to roll it out nationwide. We could not have brought this Craft Series to life without Zapp’s Voodoo Potato Chips, and I can’t wait for the Your Pie Family to experience this unique combination.”
Your Pie has found its new electricity. So, just what is your brands new electricity?
According to Johnson, “Brand relevance is in part driven with innovation in new food products in combination with new avenues of distribution all of which are the platform for the new electricity.”
Johnson stated “that in my minds-eye the new electricity must be very efficient for the supply and includes such things as fresh foods, partnerships, developing brands, unique urban clothing, grocerant positioning, Fresh food messaging, autonomous delivery, cashier-less retail, digital hand-held marketing.
Foodservice retailers to survive the next generation of retail must embrace the artificial intelligence revolution while simultaneously embracing fresh food that is portable, fresh, with differentiation that is familiar not different.  That will require brands to embrace new fresh food partnerships more now than ever before according to Johnson.
Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? 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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

7-Eleven Elevating Food & Beverage Drives Sales

Success does leave clues Amazon’s “Day One” reminding every employee to think of ‘today’ as day one of the company and how you can help make it better for consumers so it last.  Well, 7-Eleven has 66,579 locations around the world.  Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® believes the team at 7-Eleven is doing a lot of things right.

Once again,7-Eleven Inc. has been named the 2018 Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year by Convenience Store News.  With over11,800 locations in North America, this shows that its role as an industry leader is far from over according to Johnson.
For some time 7-Eleven has been adding single-origin, sustainably sourced brews. Late in 2017, the retailer headed south to the Cajamarca region of Peru for a Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee made with 100-percent Arabic beans. (Note: The Rainforest Alliance is an international nonprofit organization that seeks to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods.)
7-Elevens Peruvian coffee has citrus notes complemented by vanilla, cinnamon and berry undertones. The hand-picked beans are grown in the high Andes Mountains of Peru. They are then authentically roasted to a medium level for a smooth, rich taste.
Raj Kapoor, 7-Eleven’s senior vice president of fresh food and proprietary beverages stated "Today’s coffee-drinkers are more sophisticated and, in addition to wanting a great-tasting cup of coffee, many also are looking for something extra…Millennials, in particular, want coffee crops that are sustainably grown, sourced directly from small farms, and made from single-origin beans rather than blends."
Prior to introducing the Peruvian brew, 7-Eleven featured LTOs of single-sourced coffee from Matagalpa, Nicaragua and Chiapas, Mexico. In addition, the retailer’s popular 100-percent Colombian coffee is now made with Rainforest Alliance Certified single-origin beans.
What’s more, in April of this year, 7-Eleven went to Africa to source the first limited-time coffee available under its new Seven Reserve brand of fresh-brewed premium coffees. The Seven Reserve Africa Blend is a 50-50 combination of 100-percent Rainforest Alliance Certified Arabica beans cultivated on small farms in Ethiopia and Rwanda.
The CS News Foodservice Advisory Council members were impressed with how 7-Eleven is introducing all these new coffees from exotic locales known for producing fine coffee and so was the team at Foodservice Solutions®. They also gave credit to 7-Eleven for working with Conservation International to set measurable corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals to reduce its environmental footprint. As part of its CSR objectives, 7-Eleven says it will continue to seek out responsibly sourced coffees, and other products and packaging with less environmental impact. Leaders are dynamic not static.  7-Eleven continues to lead.
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

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pei Wei Asian Diner When you Can’t Beat Them Copy Them

When a brand loses traction; it needs a refresh and there are times that the refresh is as simple a follow the leader according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. That my friends is called copy-cat marketing and has been a staple of the restaurant industry for 70+ years.
That’s right just look at the burger chains, pizza chains, and chicken chains and then look at the number of $ 5.00 meal deals the fast food sector has to offer.  Copy-Cat marketing works my friends and Pei Wei is no the right track.
Just last month, Pei Wei launched a TV ad highlighting its orange chicken as “Wei better” than the competition’s offering. While Pei Wei claims it hired a private investigator to determine the ingredients in Panda Express’ orange chicken, Brandon Solano, Pei Wei’s chief marketing officer, told Restaurant Business and we believe him as it happens all of the time.
Panda Express, in a panic released a statement to Restaurant Business, saying it pays attention to consumer requests, such as adding more "health-forward" offerings and removing trans fats from all items, and would begin listing all ingredients in its “core dishes” on its website in the next year. In short, they are retooling as a ‘better-for-you’ concept.  However, when they tried to go to all brown rice the consumers complained and yes, they have white rice again and sell much more of that we are told.
“Deeply rooted in this work is a foundation of transparency and care; when a guest calls, we take the time to discuss allergens and nutritionals, as well as the full ingredient list upon request,” the statement said. “While these types of changes take time to scale and achieve our standards, we believe that a strong food philosophy is an important part of this promise and our culinary innovation team is hard at work to bring this vision to life.”
Pei Wei, only has close to 200 units to Panda Express’ more than 2,000 locations so they must try harder in very smart move Pei Wei petitioned the Food and Drug Administration asking that restaurants be required to disclose their menus’ ingredients.
Pei Wei has said that by 2020 they will eliminate all artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. It also published the full list of ingredients for its top-selling orange chicken. The chain plans to release the ingredient lists for all of its dishes in coming months. Johnson, thinks that a great move as consumer don’t want to cook at home anyway.  Copy-Cat marketing works but you need to be better at messaging, service, and price to drive customer migration according to Johnson.
Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. 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

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Parker’s Technology Drives Fresh Food Fast

The convenience store sector picks up success clues much faster than many other retail food sectors of late according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. Parker's is rolling out self-checkout across its footprint of 54 convenience stores across Georgia and South Carolina creating a ‘frictionless’ shopping platform or fresh food fast according to Johnson.
It’s been reported that Parker's completes more than 125,000 transactions daily across its network. Developed in conjunction with NCR, the new self-checkout technology speeds up transaction time and frees up cashiers to serve as in-store concierges, enabling them to focus on the total customer experience.
Parker's President and CEO Greg Parker stated "Our goal is always to deliver the ultimate in-store experience for our loyal customers. …This is an important step forward in our overall technology strategy at Parker's and in meeting the changing needs of consumers."
This technology will create a platform to edify the fresh food fast while driving incremental sales of meals and meal components from Parker’s Kitchen according to Johnson.  Fresh food fast edified with technology is a win for customer relevance and a win for incremental sales.
Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? 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.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Starbucks Growing Internal & External

Success does leave clues and Starbucks is focused once again on growth both in unit count and same store sales according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®. When Starbucks reported that they were going to fully license Starbucks operations in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg to its longstanding strategic partner Alsea, S.A.B. de C.V., the largest independent chain restaurant operator in Latin America you knew things were going well.
The story goes that Alsea will have the rights to operate and develop Starbucks stores in these markets, building on Starbucks regional growth agenda that drives value through strategic licensed relationships. At the same time the company would introduce a new support structure in its head office in London to better serve an increasingly licensed strategy.
John Culver, group president, Starbucks International, Channel Development and Global Coffee & Tea. stated “We’re very pleased to build on our 16-year history with Alsea, a long-term strategic partner to Starbucks, with the intention to license our business operations in France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg,” These strategic moves would enable us to further accelerate growth across these markets as we position Starbucks for long-term success moving forward.”
Slow and steady Starbucks opened its first Paris store in 2004, the brand came to the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg between 2008 and 2016, creating more than 3,100 jobs at more than 260 stores across the four countries. The simple fast is they want to grow faster and this is one of the best ways to do just that according to Johnson.
Developing a relationship with a partner that you have come to trust while edifying your brand message is one of the best ways to drive new unit growth.  Thus, expanding your resources base to drive new product ideations in food, beverage, and technology to drive incremental top line sales and bottom line profits in every unit.
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

Friday, October 26, 2018

C-Stores Continued Innovation Drive Sales at Maverik

While restaurants and grocery stores are battling each other for an increased share of stomach and share of dollars.  The convenience store sector continues to drive top line sales and bottom line profits while garnering customer from both the grocery and restaurant sectors leveraging innovation in fresh food, and brand positioning according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.  
This year Maverik Inc. was chosen as the 2018 Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year in Convenience Store News ’seventh-annual Foodservice Innovators Awards program. Yes, for regular reader of this blog you are right this is the fifth time that Maverik, has won a Foodservice Innovators Award.
"With the combination of Adventure’s First Stop and Bonfire Grill, Maverik has been very innovative with branding itself and using its foodservice program to become a serious food destination in the company’s core markets," said one member of the CSNews Foodservice Advisory Council, who were impressed with the retailer’s prepared foods offering. Other significant moves that have built up Maverik’s foodservice program are:
·         Experimenting with creative LTOs, some of which become mainstays on the menu, such as the MOAB (Mother of All Burritos);
·         Examining its products and improving the quality of ingredients used;
·         Hiring a new corporate chef, Kyle Lore, a fine-dining culinary expert who’s brought a new perspective to the business; and
·         Creating a taste profile that is spicier and more flavorful compared to its c-store, quick-service and fast-casual competitors.
This year, Maverik launched a new fresh sandwich line to replace its hoagies, which consisted of meat and cheese in a hoagie roll that the customer purchased and then dressed themselves.
The new, fresh line of ready-to-eat sandwiches starts with new bread and also includes new meats and cheeses, and new sauces. Preparation steps have been developed that allow Maverik team members to dress the new sandwiches without them getting soggy.
Varieties include California Club, Turkey Gouda, Righteous Italian, and Buffalo Chicken Ranch. The new sandwiches were first tested in two stores, then expanded to a 10-store test to see actual sales results, and then moved to 30 stores to ensure ingredient distribution was right before being rolled out across all locations.
"Foodservice is an important part of Maverik’s business model, and is becoming even more critical," said Brian Sullenger, the retailer’s FRESCH category manager for grab-and-go. "We’ve been in the foodservice business a long time and our customers have come to trust that we have quality food for a competitive price."
Sullenger also told Convenience Store News that Maverik recently extended its Hispanic menu into nachos and salads, and plans are in the works for line extensions in the retailer’s most successful prepared food segments.
So, how are you planning to drive new customers to you retail brand?  Does our menu look more like yesterday than tomorrow? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? 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.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Grocerant Fresh Prepared Ready-2-Eat & Heat-N-Eat Success

Success does leave clues, one clear clue is that consumer demand for meals and meal components that are fresh prepared with the halo of ‘better-for-you’ continue to drive sales according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Here is but one example focusing on refrigerated dressings, dips and spreads that can be used in multiple dayparts when mixed and matched with other meal components in two of today’s hottest food consumption trends: healthful snacking and meal preparation made easy.
According to IRI, Chicago, sales of refrigerated dips reached more than $1 billionthis year (for the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2018), up 12.8% vs. the previous year. Sales in the category have been up for the past four consecutive years.
Spreads aren’t far behind, garnering more than $9.5 million in sales for the same time period, up 4.5% vs. a year ago. (For both dips and spreads, figures represent UPC only: refrigerated sold through all refrigerated areas in produce, dairy and deli.)
Supermarkets across the country are promoting healthful refrigerated dressings, dips and spreads paired with produce in a variety of clever ways designed to increase consumption edifying consumer demand.
Consider not reinventing the wheel use traditional spreads and other products with healthier ingredients (think avocados) is also top of mind at Calavo Foods in Santa Paula, Calif. It recently introduced Avocado Mayo, which is sold alongside refrigerated dips, positioned as a healthy alternative to traditional mayonnaise.

“As we visit major retailers across the country, they say they like the freshness, versatility and health benefits of avocados and guacamole,” says Ron Araiza, VP of Calavo Foods.  According to a national benchmark study conducted by Calavo that polled guacamole consumers using a web-based panel in all 50 states, “ease of use” was identified as the top reason why respondents who both purchased and made their own guacamole preferred to use premade guacamole. An overwhelming 78.6% of respondents cited the convenience of premade guacamole as the impetus for purchase.
Calavo also reports that total guacamole retail sales—including the produce and deli departments—was $328 million in 2017, with guacamole sales in produce outpacing deli guacamole sales 20.7% vs. 14.1%.
This fall, Calavo will introduce guacamole combos in a grab-and-go format that will feature various chip and guacamole flavor combos. Later in the year, Calavo will launch combos that pair pretzels and guacamole, as well as vegetables and guacamole.
“Retailers can’t get enough of these types of product,” Araiza says. Guacamole’s growth is 15%-20% per year, he says.
Also catering to the increasingly important on-the-go shopper, Good Foods Group of Pleasant Prairie, Wis., is optimizing packaging for its single-serve avocado-based products and introducing new items (such as Chunky Guacamole Spicy), as well as Guacamole and Avocado Mash, scheduled to hit stores January 2019.
“According to Mintel, about 83% of the U.S. is adding plant-based foods to their diets to improve health and nutrition.”  Don’t invent the wheel simply offer ‘cleaner cuisine’ according to our Grocerant Guru®.  Enabling success means giving consumer’s what they want when they want it. Today, that is authentic fresh food with fewer additives that can be mixed and matched into a customized meal.
According to Technomic’s 2018 Snacking Occasion report, 71% of consumers say that when they snack they are usually watching TV at home. But as for what they’re snacking? Compared to two years ago, 13% of consumers are consuming more sweet snacks and 13% are consuming more salty snacks; those numbers are slightly higher among younger consumers.
For consumers ages 18- to 34-years old, 20% are eating more sweets while 16% are reaching for more salty snacks. What does that mean for grocery stores? Simply that there’s ample opportunity to stock a wide range of sweet and salty snacking options.
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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Aldi’s Award Wining Seal of Approval

Success does leave clues and Aldi’s growth at nearly 1,928 stores with 600 more to open over the next four years is one clue that they are on the right track.  Consumer driven Aldi is giving consumer what they want from a grocery store according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Aldi has garnered another Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for its private label products, this time for its Never Any brand of free-from meats.
Launched in 2016, Never Any includes more than 20 meats – including chicken breasts, hickory bacon and chicken sausage – all of which are certified by the USDA as raised antibiotic-free, with no added hormones or steroids, and no animal byproducts. The seal offers shoppers assurance that the product line was evaluated and quality tested by food and nutrition experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute.
Scott Patton, Aldi VP of corporate buying stated "We know our customers are looking for natural foods free from added ingredients, and that's what our Never Any brand offers,"  "We're proud to have the backing of the Good Housekeeping Seal for Never Any! It's one more way we show people the care we put into bringing them great food at great prices."
Aldi has received more than 300 recent product recognitions and awards. These include the Good Housekeeping Seal, which it earned earlier this year for more than 50 products in its liveGfree line of gluten-free foods.
Are you looking for a new partnership to drive sales? Are you ready for some fresh ideations? Do your food marketing ideations look more like yesterday than tomorrow? 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.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Pizza Hut’s Brand Invitation includes Grocerant Mix & Match Bundling

What chain restaurant brand is doing everything right in the minds-eye of the consumer currently? Yes, it is once again Pizza Hut.  Exhilarated at the on-going miscues by Papa John’s, Pizza Hut has stepped up edifying it’s relationship with the NFL and continues to expand fresh food offering for consumers according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
So, when Pizza Hut released a new value menu that included a selection of items that go well beyond pizza, or even the current set of brand offerings Johnson knew they were continuing the good work.
Leveraging one of Foodservice Solutions® FIVE P’s of food marketing PRICE more than the others with the chain’s new $5 Lineup.  The new items priced at $5 apiece when customers order two or more. And while that menu includes a medium one-topping pizza or eight Wingstreet Wings, it also features new Crafted by Cinnabon Mini Rolls and the Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Other items on the menu included Stuffed Garlic Knots, Tuscani Pasta, a double order of breadsticks and a four-pack of 20-ounce beverages. “There’s an incredible variety of food in this lineup,” Marianne Radley, chief brand officer for Pizza Hut in the U.S., said in a statement.
While much of the restaurant sector is capitulating year over year customer counts the team at Foodservice Solutions® believes that Pizza Hut will drive incremental customer counts at its more than 7,500 domestic locations. Price is a key component in Foodservice Solutions® FIVE P’s but so is PORTABILITY and as we all know Pizza Hut Delivers. 
The launch of Pizza Hut’s new value menu follows the chain’s recent updates to its Hut Rewards loyalty program that offers points for every dollar spent on food. The recently introduced Cinnabon Mini Rolls include 10 miniature cinnamon rolls topped with Cinnabon’s cream cheese frosting all can be delivered.  Are your sales trending up? Are your customer counts trending up?  Are you integrating the FIVE P’s?
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, October 22, 2018

Food Delivery Dangles Dollars

The customer need for speed and increased demand for more fresh prepared meals, and meal components from the ilk of chain restaurants, convenience stores, deli’s, and new non-traditional fresh food retailers are all in a battle for a larger share of stomach to grow top line sales and bottom line profits according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Instacart recently landed an additional $600 million as part of a financing round led by hedge fund D1 Capital Partners. The e-commerce company has raised more than $1.6 billion in funding since its launch in 2012, and the latest financing lifted its valuation to $7.6 billion.  My friend’s fresh food delivery is not going away.  Yes, I know you have read in legacy food trade magazines delivery will be fading in two years.  Don’t believe it.
Regular reader of this blog know that our Grocerant Guru® was the first to identify, quantify, and qualify the ‘up-tick in demand for Ready-2-Eat and Heat-N-Eat fresh prepared food delivery, online ordering, and pick-up food back in the day when he created the term/word GROCERANT then trademark it  to help explain the new platform driving incremental fresh food sales.
The new capital will be funneled toward additional expansion in North America — with new plans to build a Canadian technology hub — along with marketing investments to boost awareness of its service at grocery stores and recruit engineering and product development talent.
“The U.S. is nearly a $1 trillion grocery market, and last year we saw almost every major grocer in North America bring their delivery business online in a significant way. We believe we’re in the very early stages of a massive shift in the way people buy groceries, and we expect that one in five Americans will be shopping for their groceries online in the next five years,” Apoorva Mehta (left), founder and CEO of Instacart, said in a statement.
It’s not just restaurants that are expanding delivery of fresh food options. Grocery retailers recently making significant expansions with Instacart service include Kroger, Aldi, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hy-Vee, Publix, Supervalu and Albertsons. Supervalu announced a program to resell Instacart’s service to independent grocers, while Albertsons launched an Instacart-powered virtual store for its O Organics brand.
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

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fast Casual or Fast Food Casual

Price points and speed of service converge at the consumer as the line between restaurant sectors continues to shrink.  What the customer wants the customer gets according to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions®.
Today our Grocerant ScoreCard indicate that there is less than $0.18 between the average fast casual check average and that of the average fast food restaurant.  More importantly many fast casual chains are evolving service attributes that speed up service to the point of fast food. 
One such company is Noodles & Company, known for serving classic noodle, zoodle and pasta dishes from around the world, announced two new limited-time-only (LTO’s) dishes: Zucchini Spicy Peanut Saute and Zucchini Truffle Mac. Noodles & Company is also expanding its delivery and quick pickup options to make trying your favorite noodles and world flavors easier than ever.
For zoodle-lovers who prefer a lighter meal option, the two new dishes, Spicy Zucchini Peanut Saute with Grilled Chicken and Zucchini Truffle Mac, will hit the spot. The dishes are only available for a limited time and feature zoodles rather than traditional noodles. Zoodles, which the company added to its menu in May, are full of vitamin C and potassium and have 90 percent fewer carbs and calories than a serving of elbow noodles.
1.        Zucchini Spicy Peanut Saute with Grilled Chicken: Zucchini noodles in a spicy, peanut-flavored sauce with grilled chicken, broccoli, carrots, snap peas and cabbage. Topped with peanuts, black sesame and cilantro.
2.        Zucchini Truffle Mac: Zucchini noodles in the famous Noodles & Company cheese sauce with black truffle, roasted mushrooms, Parmesan cheese and toasted breadcrumbs.
Nick Graff, executive chef at Noodles & Company stated "We're redefining the noodle in our World Kitchen by providing a variety of options to ensure there's something on our menu for everyone," .. "The new zoodle dishes, which are available for a limited time, combine some of our favorite and classic flavors to excite your taste buds."
Faster service or more relevant service options have been added at Noodles. Now there's an even easier way to try the new dishes through Noodles & Company's expanded delivery and quick pickup options. Noodles & Company expanded its partnership with DoorDash, to bring easy and convenient delivery to 300 Noodles & Company restaurants nationwide. The change comes in addition to Noodles & Company's delivery partnerships with Grubhub, Uber Eats and EatStreet, and on-premise easy pickup options.
Dave Boennighausen, chief executive officer of Noodles & Company stated "We know our guests are looking for ease and convenience in all aspects of their lives, so to better serve our guests, we made delivery and quick pickup a priority," "Whether our guests don't feel like leaving the house or they need to make a quick pickup between sports practices, we're making mealtimes delicious, easy and fun."
For guests making their way into restaurants, but who don't want to wait in line, Noodles & Company offers Quick Pickup in all restaurants and Quick Pickup Windows in select test restaurants. Guests can bypass lines by simply placing their order online or through the NoodlesREWARDS app and picking up their food at the Quick Pickup station in each restaurant. Are your prices lower? Are your service options expanding?
Foodservice Solutions® specializes in outsourced food marketing and business development ideations. 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

Saturday, October 20, 2018


Today a Guest Blog is from my friends at BAUM+WHITEMAN’S  focusing on 2019 trends. Regular readers of this blog will note how many grocerant niche attributes are listed as trends for 2019.  The team at Foodservice Solutions® believes that this is another sign that the Grocerant niche is going main stream.  Enjoy the guest blog and than you Mike. 
Big challenges in 2019.  More people eating home as restaurant prices outstrip supermarkets’, while paychecks lag behind.   Sit-down restaurants converting to fast-casual, serving upscale food.   Did Amazon just benchmark the country’s new minimum wages, and how will restaurants cope?  Breakthroughs in automation aimed replacing labor. Smile … cannabis is showing up almost everywhere.  Get ready for more Chinese specialties; food from the Stans; more sour flavors.  New perspective on winning the meal kit wars.  What is “motherless meat”?    


Biggest change for the year ahead:  As this is written Amazon is raising its minimum wage to $15/hour … and bumping up wages of those already at the minimum.  This will damage lowpaying restaurants across the country.  And it will accelerate menu price inflation that already is taking its toll on restaurant customers … especially Americans whose hourly paychecks don’t reflect a ten-year stock market bonanza.  Widening gaps between menu prices and costs of meals eaten at home is moving more of us to the family dinner table.
Another threat to restaurants:  If Trump’s tariffs raise prices for washing machines, cars, refrigerators, clothing, and electronics, consumers may retrench further. 
For the 12 months ended August 2018, food prices away from home rose 2.6% while food purchased at grocery stores rose only 0.5% … and actually may have declined at cutthroat competitors like Walmart, Costco, Kroger and the like.  A longer look (see Bureau of Labor Statistics chart) tells us that in December ‘o8, the inflation rate for restaurant meals and in-home meals were pretty much the same.  As of last December, the spread was growing.

As restaurants raise prices to offset staff-heavy wages per dollar of sales and increasing rents … which is where food retailers have an enormous advantage … revenue grows but customer counts stay fairly flat or down, especially among chains.  
Binge-meal kit explosion, better supermarket prepared food, tight finances … all contribute to restaurants’ squeeze.  Restaurant traffic would likely show drastic declines if not for growth in delivery options.  
We may spend nearly half of our food dollars eating out, but 82% of our meals are prepared at home … says NPD Group … and restaurant-going per capita peaked way back in 2000; we’ve returned to 1990 numbers,
they say.  Better Homes & Gardens claims that 93% of millennials … a 75 million market segment … eat dinner at home four nights a week.  They’re not scared of actually cooking … like sautéing or poaching … or of supplementing their handiwork with arrays of prepared supermarket goods.  
The situation’s especially acute in states and cities mandating higher minimum wages … and abolishing tip credits … while workers clamor for benefits like health insurance.  At the same time, labor pools have dried up, adding to wage pressures and increasingly bad service.  Amazon, all by itself, has made $15/hr. the minimum entry level wage these days. … no matter what the law says … so restaurants will have to compete for labor. So restaurants are reducing service staffs, introducing new technologies, converting to fast-casual formats, expanding reliance on delivery, getting serious about automation (see below).
 -- 2.  NEXT-GENERATION FAST CASUAL:                                                                   

Crossing the price barrier with breakthrough food

Wall Street frets that fast-casual restaurant chains are oversaturating the market … but they’re missing the real excitement:  Independent operators who are filling in the price and quality gaps between standard fast-casual and more upscale dining.
Chains like Chipotle, fast-casual pizza outfits and … yea, even Shake Shack … strain to keep average spends to $10-$14, positioning themselves as better choices than fast food.  But fastcasual newcomers are ignoring fast food pricing.  Instead they’re taking aim at mid-scale sitdown restaurants in high-rent locations that are crippled by high labor costs and lots of overhead. These new entrepreneurs offer similar meals at a bit more than half the price. 
Take Barzotto in San Francisco.  Walk up to a counter and order your food as in most fast-casual joints.  Maybe pasta aglio e olio with chili, bottarga and broccoli rabe for $14; or porchetta with salsa verde and cherry mostarda for $18.  Add a side and a glass of credible wine and bang! …. you’re up to $33.  Dinner for two with a bottle of wine: $85.
Take Kish-Kash, a fast-cas couscouseria in New York’s West Village.  You approach a counter topped with colorful casseroles holding first-rate toppings … to be ladled over a mound of hand-made couscous. Short rib couscous with chard and white beans:  $18.  Chicken tagine with olives and three-lemon sauce: $15.  Split an order of cauliflower with pickled raisins, pine nuts and tahini: $12.  Add a glass of vinho verde and an Israeli red … and dinner for two is $65.  
What’s missing from these places: No tablecloths, no flowers, no waiters, no bussers, no drawnout dinners, no reservations, no tipping, and not much elbow room.  
What you get:  A chef actually cooking top-notch products; often a bar with signature cocktails; knowledgeable servers at the counter; probably actual china; a strong personality that doesn’t reek of design-a-restaurant kit … and adventurous ingredients that have trickled down from fine-dining establishments.   These all are consumer-friendly touchpoints.
 AlaMar Kitchen & Bar in Oakland, a service restaurant known for family-size Cajun seafood boils … switched to fascas … and now tells customers via a buzzer to pick up their orders.  
At Chiko, a hot-hot Chinese-Korean fascas in Washington, main courses range from $8 for a pork-kimchi potsticker to $14 for fried rice with Sichuan hot-smoked catfish; $17 for cumin-lamb stir-fry, to $18 for chopped brisket with soft brined egg and furikake butter. (Note the ingredient trickle-down from fine dining menus.)  Fifty bucks gets you a tasting dinner at four counter seats … which are perpetually booked.
(Re tipping:  With high average
checks, many fascas converts now facilitate tipping by having customers pre-pay at the counter using a tablet that suggests tips… which makes hiring easier; allows tip distribution to everyone since there’s no distinction between front- and back-of-house staff; and gives operators advantages of tip credits where they are legal.)
Expect generally to be jostled by delivery boys and carryout customers hurrying for the door … because 50% (or more) of these places’ food is consumed off the premises.  Just look at the                       real estate economics:  If 50% of its meals could be converted to takeway and delivery, then an
80-seat restaurant would need only 40 seats. At 13 square feet per seat, you’re looking at about 1,000 more square feet not to pay rent on.  At, say, $75 per square foot, the restaurant’s offloading $75,000 in rent onto customers who eat somewhere else … plus saving on air conditioning, cleaning and related operating expenses.  Adding beer and wine or a full bar means more than raising average checks … it negates the “no” vote among upscale customers who otherwise might shun places where they can’t get a drink.


A month ago, a NYTimes article detailed why hotel employees around the world, panicked by a new generation of electronic gizmos, now prefer job security to better wages.  Face-recognizing front desk automatons; robots delivering meals and laundry to hotel rooms; AI-powered ordering systems replacing waiters and food store cashiers; fully automated restaurants, hotel front desk staffs reduced to a single troubleshooter … the bots are here. Even sitdown restaurants have “self-driving” bots delivering and removing dishes from tables, taking orders, and escorting customers to specific tables.
A three-armed robotic pizzaiolo in France claims to bake 120 made-toorder pizzas an hour with various selections made from a touch screen.  Also, see Zume automated pizza in California (right).  In China, they’re working on fully automated restaurants as this video shows … raising real concern about mass unemployment among low wage earners.
Café X is a robotic sidewalk coffee monger in San Francisco’s financial district.  You order a variety of beverages using smartphones or tablets and a robot does the rest..  Its mechanical arm clears the counter … even waves goodbye.  A human refills the beans.  Imagine the impact of Café X in the lobby of a hotel … or on a corner or mall near you?  Starbucks must be wondering … what’s next? 
Here’s a humdinger:  A 14-foot-long transparent hamburger bot called Creator … also in San Fran.  It grinds the meat; slices the brioche buns and the tomatoes; shreds the cheese; applies snazzy condiments; and delivers a 4,5 oz. brisket burger … for $6.50.  The contraption uses 350 sensors and 20 computers; its two machines cook and assemble up to 350 burger an hour.  And these are not your basic burgers.  Available sauces … in quantities you specify … read like this:
Thousand Island with umeboshi and mole; Oyster Aioli, Charred Onion Jam, 
 Sunflower Tahini,  Pancetta Aioli, Garlic Sauce, Smoky Ketchup, Garlic Aioli, Hickory Smoked Jalapeño Sauce, Truffle Parm Fonduta, Blue Cheese Fonduta.”  Have it your way, indeed.
Spyce, a Boston startup with star chefs

Daniel Boulud, Gavin Kaysen and Thomas Keller … along with some deep pockets.  The mostly automated restaurant turns out meal-size $7.50 bowls with strong ethnic inflections … filled in front of customers by seven induction wok-like drums (right).  
Garnitures … which can run up the bill
… are added by hand, cleverly decorating the otherwise jumbled ingredients beneath  (see video here). Prep is done (by humans) at an offsite commissary.  In September they raised $12 million
… which is a lot of brown rice and kale.                                                                                                                                    
As one-offs, none of these contraptions appears economically logical until scaled up, and maybe not even then.  But you can see where things are heading … and rather rapidly.  Even faster in China.
Hidden in plain sight, immigrants from places like Kazakhstan, Tajikstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan … breakaway republics from the former Soviet Union … are now spreading their ethnically specific flavors among us.  Formerly lumped together as “Turkish” food … which itself was lumped into kabab cuisine … they’re showing us new ways with noodles, beans and eggplant; newold tricks with liver; how to marry meat and fruit; and what miracles happen when you chop tarragon, spinach, cilantro, dill, garlic chive and parsley together and toss them into a stew or a frittata or stuff them into a dumpling.  Great
kebabs, too.  (See also Iranian food in “Getting Sweet on Sour”, below.)  Some enterprising restaurateur will figure out how to turn out individual orders of plov in a pastry crust and reinvent Big Night (above) in the style of Stan.
Big Beer and Big Soda are giving thumbs-up to pleasurably ingesting marijuana and hemp … and restaurants are joining in the fun. 
 Constellation Brands … owner of Model and Corona … placed a $4+ billion dollar bet that weed is its future, investing in a Canadian marijuana company.  Heineken-owned Lagunitas is selling Hi-Fi Hops, a beer-flavored, boozeless sparkling water with a modest dose of THC … the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana … or CBD (which mellows you without the high).  You get them in California dispensaries for about eight bucks.   Molson Coors has ventured with another Canadian weed company for a similar product.  Cannabiniers, in San Diego, aims to sell its own  THC-infused beer in grass-friendly states, along with its goosed-up coffees and teas.  And CocaCola … whose name originally referenced cocaine as an ingredient … is flirting with the notion. 
As more jurisdictions in North America legalize pot in one form or another, Big Beverage’s “legacy” products, from generic beer to sugar-filled soda, face a shaky future …  anticipating a massive consumer shift to hemp and marijuana drinkables. 
Restaurants are tinkering with this stuff, too.  Some explanation first: THC, a compound in marijuana leaves, gets you high. Cannabidiol or CBD, comes from hemp, gets you mellow and maybe relieves pain … but won’t get you high.  Right now, CBD is where it’s at. 
Early adapters:  Millennials, of course.  Vegans and vegetarians.  Wall Streeters. And the wellness crowd that revels in mindfulness and meditation.   The rest of us will follow.
Hotshot mixologists are busy concocting CBD cocktails with or without booze … and chefs are assembling CBD tasting dinners and even THC-laced dishes.
Spring, a restaurant in LA, has a power lunch with three CBDsprinkled courses. Organic eatery Green Goddess Cafe in Stowe, Vt has a chill-latte infused with CBD oil … and CBD-enhanced tonic juices.  Plant-based Panacea in Henderson NV serves CBD-infused syrup for pancakes. In Portland, vegan café Harlow augments its smoothies with 33 mg of CBD for $3. Juice Crafters in LA sells CBD teas, a CBD elixir with turmeric and herb ashwagandha. In New York, vegan chain By Chloe’s ice cream cake called Mary Jane has a CBD frosting (see photo, right) and green sprinkles.  
LAX is becoming an “airpot” … allowing passengers to carry weed through the building and onto airplanes.  It’s all mainstreaming … which is better than mainlining … although we haven’t heard from Olive Garden and Applebee’s just yet.

There’s no dispute that home cooking is growing.  Meanwhile, meal kit companies can’t hang onto their customers … only 15% of Blue Apron’s subscribers stick around for a year.  
About 150 meal kit companies are scratching to make a living while customers fret about long commitments, getting a week’s worth of food in a box, mountains of packaging, and the expense.  Now, we believe that customers go to supermarkets more often than they order meal kits … and go to restaurants even more often … so maybe the future belongs to food stores and restaurants.  
That’s why Home Chef was sold to Kroger, Plated sold to Albertsons, Gobble is partnering with Walmart … and why you’ll find troubled Blue Apron’s meals in some Costco stores.  And why supermarkets are developing their own kits.  The idea: Put kits where customers are … where they can buy something today for today.  Here’s where impulse triumphs over commitment.  
That logic applies to restaurants … but the industry has barely dipped its toes into the meal kit pool. Chic-Fil-A may be the leader … testing whole ready-to-cook meals in several markets … crispy Dijon chicken, chicken parmesan, chicken enchiladas, chicken flatbread and pan roasted chicken with greens.  Each kit feeds two people and costs under $16 … while typical website meal kits cost closer to $20.   
Of course, it’s only a test, but everyone’s watching … especially casual dining chains that are plagued by falling customer counts.  If a fast food chain can assemble its own meal kits, certainly casual restaurants could hawk their own at lunch for people to have for that day’s dinner … or at dinner for customers to take home for lunch tomorrow.    With a la carte pricing and packaging, restaurants could produce highly flexible meal kits of the “always on-demand” generation. 
Meanwhile Blue Apron’s muddying the waters by acting like a restaurant … testing on-demand delivery of meals by GrubHub in an hour … without a subscription.  
Last decade we developed a craving for bitter … coffee, dark chocolate, broccolini, brussels sprouts … and now we’re exploring mouth-puckering, saliva-inducing sour.  You can thank the popularity of Korean food, the rising influence of Filipino cooking and … just now emerging … Persian’s love of sour.
Think of how kimchee has migrated from Korean restaurants to “new” American menus … into tacos and quesadillas, pots roasts, flavored mayonnaise, mac-and-cheese … and of course the kimchee ice cream created for the Trump(ski)-Kim(chee) peace summit in Singapore this year. 
Exploring trendy Filipino dishes, we note various vinegars in braised dishes, in marinades and dipping sauce … even in their version of ceviche; vinegar-based chicken adobo (not to be confused with Mexican adobo) is a national signature.   Also tart calamansi gets trendy.
Iranians who fled the 1979 religious revolution injected their Persian cooking into London, where it now is easy to find … and we’re seeing more Persian restaurants opening in the US, with the greatest concentration in LA.  Iranians are particularly partial to sour:  rhubarb, sour oranges, fresh and dried limes, tamarind and pomegranate fit the flavor profile (example: At Sofreh, a hot new restaurant in Brooklyn, you get griddled chicken with tart bayberries and dried sour plums).  
Let us not forget kombucha … on tap in supermarkets.  And restaurants fermenting corn, cabbage, tomatoes, garlic, strawberries, peaches and blueberries … along with slow-rise sourdough pizza crusts.
-- 8:  “CELL-BASED SLAUGHTER-FREE CULTURED CLEAN                              
Last year we proclaimed that ‘plant-based’ foods were among the top trends of 2018.   That’s still true.  But this year we’re shifting our view:  Lab-grown meats and related proteins look like profound long-range game changers.  Regardless of what you call them … some names are in our headline above … if it can please your favorite carnivore, meat grown from animal cells will transform the way we think about “food.”  
The idea, oversimplified, is that instead of killing an animal for a steak, you pluck a cell or two, then manipulate and breed it on an enormous scale.  Success means we’d eliminate ranches and slaughterhouses, slash greenhouses gasses since cows are prolific poopers, turn back land to other uses or to Mother Nature, clean up lakes and rivers and reduce energy consumption.   (We’ll need lab-grown leather, too, for shoes and for the seats in your Bentley.)
This could be a technological blind alley … but Just, the outfit behind plant-based eggs and mayo, says it will have a ground chicken product is an overseas KFC by year’s end.  It’ll come from chicken cells grown in a plant-based medium … and is only a test; but economically viable production could be only a few years away.  Mind you, making whole chicken breasts, sirloin steaks and pork chops could take five years, ten years, or beyond your lifetime. 
Quandaries:   If early users blend this stuff into fast food hamburgers, what, if anything, will they call it?  Will it be kosher?  Will vegetarians eat it if it doesn’t come for dead animals? Will consumers accept it … or will it become another “frankenfood”?  What will the government say?
None of these quandaries deters venture capitalists who are showering money on motherless meat startups.  Tyson Food and Cargill, among the largest meat people, are heavily invested.  There’s also Memphis Meats (with Tyson, Bill Gates, Richard Branson as investors), Future
Meat Technologies (from Israel, saying it’ll bring a product to market this year), Mosa Meat in Holland (with Merck as investor), Clara Food (growing egg whites), Finless Food (working on fish), Perfect Day (milk).  
Ranchers are running scared.  After watching dairy sales attacked by the runaway success of faux milk, they’re on a campaign to prevent this lab-grown stuff from being called “meat” at all.    


SZECHUAN HOT POTS:  This home-cooking and restaurant craze in China is
increasingly popping up in US small and large towns.  A bubbling cauldron of broth, ferociously red with chilis and spices, sits on your table and you swish into it a cornucopia of raw vegetables and proteins that you and your friends have selected … cooking them to a desired doneness.   It’s communal, and pepperheads make dinner a competitively incendiary sport.   
Chinese chains are establishing beachheads in the US but most are individual operators.   Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot has about two dozen in the US. 
HaiDiLao … with a billion-dollar IPO in Hong Kong … runs hot pot restaurants in Japan, South Korea and Singapore with outlets near LA and a 12,000 square footer coming in New York.  At Niu Jiao Jian Hot Pot, in Houston, chili oil is molded into a cutesy animal sculpture that dissolves when hot broth is poured over it.   Chubby Cattle, with locations in Denver, Las Vegas and Dallas wants to expand its “Hellishly Spicy Hot Pot” chain further east.
We hosted a hot pot soiree in Taiwan and each person had a raw egg in a bowl … so if the pain got too severe you could dip your morsels into the egg for an emergency coating.
  DRY POT COOKING:  Here’s the next generation of hotpot cooking but this time around the items you select of cooked “dry” by the chef, instead of by you and your buddies, using lots of spices instead of broth.  Flavors are more intense, especially with the pool of fragrant chili oil in the bottom of the dish.  Depending on the restaurant, you can experiment with tripe, catfish, lamb, pig’s foot, frog, duck tongues, various gizzards, even Spam … along with more familiar cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and shellfish.  Spicy is the way to go.  Find dry pots at Mala Project, New York, Sizzling Gourmet in Cupertino, Chef Pin in Richmond, Sichuan House in San Antonio, Happy Dining in Irvine, and New York’s fascas Peppercorn Kitchen. Big Wang’s Cuisine (yes, that’s its name), in Dearwood, Md. specializes in dry hot pots that will napalm your taste buds.
BINGS MAY RING YOUR BELLS:  Bings are getting loads of attention from fast-casual diners, most of them urban Millennials.  
What are bings and why should you care?  They’re popular Chinese street food and come in two forms (that we know of).  Chun bings are northern Chinese flatbreads made of wheat.  Jian bings are flakey, eggy crepe-like affairs usually with a cracker inserted for crunch.  They’re both sold in fast-cas formats with traditional and inventive fillings … in many cases with flavors that signal Chinese “authenticity.”  Players in this quietly emerging market:   
Junzi Kitchen (perpetual lines in New Haven; three in New York before year’s end) is probably the most visible … attracting offshore and local money.  Junzi, it appears, is the only startup using house-made chun bing    a burrito-style wrapper aimed at lunch, dinner and snacking crowds.  (Others, see below, use a large eggy jian bing crepe that’s folded into a puffy square and often merchandised for breakfast). Junzi was launched by a bunch of super-smart Yale graduate students … who figured that highly fragmented Chinese mom-and-pop restaurant businesses in the US were ripe for chain domination via upgrading, contemporary styling, better service systems and superior customer relations management.
Junzi kitchen has, in essence, just two main courses:  a variety of chun bings; and bowls built around two types of noodles, the latter outselling bings … a surprise since the bings are cheaper and more portable.   Their bings are rolled around highly fillings like fragrant beef shin with  cucumbers and bean sprouts, or chicken thigh, kale, sweet shallots and roasted sesame dressing.  Then, Chipotle-style, you customize with authentic add-ons like pickled daikon, bean threads, chive ash and shrimp salt.  The flavors have not been dumbed down.
Companies selling jian bing (which, by the way, tend to be caloric and a bit greasy) include:
Mr. Bing (see video) also in New York, with a couple of popups and a busy food hall stand.  Its flavor-bomb jian bings are
large crepes of mung bean and flour coated with egg, sesame seeds, scallions, hoisin sauce, crispy chili paste, cilantro, and crunchy wontons … made in front of customers.  
Their bings are folded around such fillings as duck, barbecued pork or drunken chicken.       
Portland, Ore, has a two-cart outfit called Bing Mi with low-priced egg-filled crepes …  while Brothers Wing & Bings fills theirs with teriyaki chicken and Mongolian beef.  
There’s a Bing Bing shop in St. Louis.  Pleasant Lady Jianbing Trading Stall, in London’s Soho, offers cumin lamb, miso chicken and Iberico char siu pork as fillings … and a second is in the works.    A golden arches in China is selling bogus bings made of pancake batter … called Mc-Jianbing … with fillings like bacon, ham and hash browns.  Of course, they would.  No sign (yet) of a Badda Bing company.

            TAIWAN IN THE SPOTLIGHT:  Excitingly reinterpreted Taiwanese food is lighting up New York and LA … even parts of Texas … and therefore pretty soon everywhere else.  You’re probably familiar with bubble tea, steamed buns with barbecued pork, and molten soup dumplings.  Now make way for high-texture oyster omelets slicked with tangy tomato sauce … stinky tofu (think durian-scented gorgonzola) … three-cup drunken chicken …   beef noodles with anise … flies’ head (pork shoulder, garlic chives, birdseye chili dotted with fermented black beans).  
Global hysteria gripped Instagrammers earlier this year … swooning over a $180 Tokyo-inspired sandwich of breaded and fried wagyu beef … served with gushing publicity in London, Houston, Sydney and New York.
They missed the real trend:  The spreading fame of a pork cutlet, crunchy-panko breaded, deep fried and served between soft crustless bread, usually with cabbage slaw and a zingy sauce.  It is called the Katsu sando. 
 Katsu is Japanese shorthand for cutlet, and sando is a cutesy-poo term for sandwich.  A simple snack sold at zillions of convenience stores in Tokyo … now touching upscale sensibilities in the US.  The sando is a symphony in texture … soft and gummy bread, crunchy-juicy meat, saucily lubricated.
Find a traditional one at Adana in Seattle; slightly more toney is the Duroc pork rendition at Stonehill Matcha in San Francisco.  Sando Bar in Sydney tenderizes his pork in koji (another cheffy trendlet) then fries it twice.   A really elaborate variation comes from Abri in Paris … where the chef adds a cheese slice, kewpie mayo, mustard and a thin omelet to the standard ingredients … but only on Saturdays from noon to three p.m.   Hi Collar in New York sells only ten a day starting at noon.  
Katsu sando may remind you of a schnitzel sandwich, or a Mexican Milanese, or even a fried chicken sandwich.  That’s correct.   By today’s loosey-goosy standards, the filling can be anything fried.  At Momokoni in Atlanta, that means fried shrimp or chicken or steak … or wagyu for $58.  Pagu’s chicken katsu in Cambridge is flavored with alioli and a blitz of shallots, ginger and soy.   
Katana Kitte, New York, makes theirs with a slab of mortadella.  Someone soon will use Spam.


Tired of white box dining rooms, or woody restaurants with overpowering gloom or overdone bare brick and phony Edison bulbs?  There was a happy look this summer in trendy clothing shops’ windows … with clashing patterns on patterns on patterns … and it is (admittedly slowly) creeping into restaurant design around the world.  The idea is to be frankly decorative and joyful since there’s more than enough seriousness in the world.  
One designer we know is fixing a deafening restaurant with sound absorbing panels … covered in wild fabric, signaling to guests that the owner has been listening, throughout the clamor, to their complaints.
Of course, this being fashion, the entire notion could disappear with the next issue of Harper’s Bazaar.
 -- 12:  INVASION!  Non-food business siphoning off restaurant customers
How does a restaurant compete with a savings bank that serves coffee with lounge seating and high-speed wifi … for free!   Restaurants can’t retaliate by starting banks, so the most basic answer is … they can’t compete.  But that’s happening in 33 (and growing) Capital One bank locations …  where they’re installing cafes to reverse declining traffic in too-large bank spaces.  Here’s another:  Hoping … like banks … to offset declining ticket sales, next-wave theaters like iPic, Alamo Drafthouse and Cinepolis are selling real food (as opposed to snacky stuff) delivered to luxury seats and tables by real waiters … and sometimes adding upscale sitdown restaurants.  Booze, too.  At iPic’s Tuck restaurant in Houston you dine on brioche-crusted crab cakes and frisee-citrus salad with yuzu vinaigrette, or a turkey burger with barrel-aged goat cheese, harissa and green goddess dressing.  Note Alamo’s last name: “drafthouse” …  these are restaurants with theaters attached.  Would restaurants slither into the movie business? Improbable.
Your friendly phone company, AT&T, is piloting a 3,000 sq. ft. space in Seattle housing a café, a cellphone store and comfy lounge seating.  Put this into perspective: 3,000 sq. ft. is more than a typical TGIFriday’s … so ATT’s actually creating a nofee walk-in co-working venture.  Do restaurants … and Starbucks “third place” … compete by starting their own phone companies?
There’s more: A 90,000 sq.ft. Restoration Hardware with a barista on the second floor and a full-service restaurant/wine bar on the roof … replaced the muchadored restaurant Pastis in New York.  Much to the displeasure of nearby restaurants, RH says that restaurants in four other stores average $4-$6 million annually.  For good measure, they’re opening an RH boutique hotel just down the street.  Crate & Barrel is planning its own version of store-plus restaurant with a 100-seater outside Chicago.
There’s a Nordic face in H&M’s new upscale European chain called Arket.  And a new H&M instore café in Stockholm, called It’s Pleat, serves an “All Good Caesar” with black kale, cauliflower, chickpeas, kamut, wheatberries and duqqa spices.
A new 28,000 sq.ft. internationally trendy Como Corso lifetime store has a café with tuna carpaccio and artichokes, and ribeye with fava bean purée and spigarello  … just around the corner in New York from Restoration Hardware.
On the other hand, it appears that Barnes & Noble is throwing in its dish towel on full-service restaurants ... there were five … after chairman Len Riggio said “the bottom line is awful.